My Christmas Eve reflection. Merry Christmas to all!

“This Is It!”

Well my friends. We have made it. This is the night we’ve all been waiting for. No more shopping. No more baking. No more fussing. No more endless running around. Tonight we relax and enjoy the fruits of all our busyness. We enjoy the quiet moments knowing all is in place.

I love this night. This is the night we put the final gifts under the tree. This is the night I like to just sit in the peaceful silence of the living room before crawling off into bed for a long winter’s nap.

There is also the beautiful peacefulness of the service we share tonight. The music, the candles, the faces of friends and neighbours. For many, it is a highlight in the church calendar. It’s a celebration of the life and gift given to us by God.

I didn’t grow up in the church. I did spend a couple of years at Sunday School of the local Lutheran church down the road from where I grew up. It was held outside of regular worship. Most of the kids there went to Sunday School in the hall, but very few of us actually went into the church. It was a small rural church, the hall was in it’s own tiny building, and every Sunday a bunch of us local neighbourhood kids met there. I don’t remember ever meeting the priest of that church. I certainly do not remember anyone fitting that sort of description.

My memories of the time I spent in the Sunday School are few. I remember running around the field after Sunday School in the spring on the Easter egg hunt. I have visual memories of being inside the hall, but little about what we did there. But the most vivid memories I have are when we put on our Christmas pageant.

I also remember I had the most lines to memorize in my first pageant. I was the stable boy, who happened to be the main character as we told the story through the eyes of this fictitious witness. I believe I made it through without too many slip ups.

Then next year imagine my surprise when I got my copy of the script and saw I had even more lines than the year before! I think my teacher saw the shock on my face as I saw just how much I had to learn. She calmed my fears when she reassured me that my character did not need to memorize the lines, as this character called “narrator” was not actually a physical actor in the play. I would be allowed to read my lines.

I may not remember much of my days in Sunday School growing up, but I guess something must have stuck with me that was triggered 10 years ago that led me on the path to ministry. Certainly those memories of the quiet church where we put on our Christmas pageants are one’s I remember fondly. The peacefulness, the quiet, the holiness that could be felt as we came ever closer to the special night.

I’m sure many of you have very fond memories of Christmas and the church, even if you grew up like me, not particularly attached to any church. Some of you, in passing, have shared with me your memories of this particular service, even after you told me that you don’t come in here very often.

What is it about this night that makes us feel like we need to be here? Is it simply because it’s tradition? We’ve always come on Christmas Eve so is this why we keep coming back.

Or is it something deeper?

Is there something about this story that inspires us? Maybe there’s something about hearing the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ that inspires a bit of hope within us. Does it make us feel like there’s a meaning behind the mystery of life?

What is it about the stories that are told make Christmas seem just a bit more than a day of giving presents? What is it about a pregnant teenager walking to a small village to give birth in a barn that draws us away from our homes or parties on this night?

Here’s what I think. I think we all have this deep sense of hope within us. A hope that somehow, somewhere we all want to have a deeper connection with a creator. I’m not sure we can describe for ourselves what it is we are looking for when we come here. Sure there are parts of the service we look forward to, but can’t we sing and light candles at home?

I think we long to be part of the story too.

Tonight we lit our Advent candles, our candles of hope, peace, joy and love. And we also lit our Christ candle as tonight we celebrate the one who brought light into a darkened world. But those four coloured candles… hope, peace, joy and love. Those four candles say something about why we are here tonight.

Even when we get caught up in the shopping, partying, visiting, eating, travelling… all leading up to Christmas, we need to connect to those four things. We feel the need to seek hope, peace, joy and love.

These are the things we sing about in our Christmas carols. These are the things we feel when we hear the Christmas story. The story of the one who was laid in a manger some 2000 years ago is the promised one God sent to show us the way back to God in a world that has abandoned Him. He is the one who can bring hope, peace, joy and love, in fact it’s what he spent his life doing.

Jesus, when he became an adult, he travelled the countryside offering these things to the people he met on his way. He calmed their troubled hearts, he gave them peace and joy. He gave them hope that their lives meant more than they were told they were worth. And he did it all with a deep sense of love.

The Christmas story reminds us of these things. The story reminds us that God has come into the world and showed us the way we’re supposed to be. He came to show us we’re not in this alone, but God is still with us, working with us on this journey called life.

God came to show us the how we can live as He would like us to live. And if we take what his Son has done and taught, and let Him transform us into His children, we too can be with God. We too can work to change the world into what God has planned it to be.

It begins on this night. It begins when the Christ child is born in Bethlehem. It begins when God comes into the world to offer us hope, peace, joy and love. And it has already happened, this night is a reminder of when it began. The best part is that it continues this day. Jesus lives, and he continues to show us the way back to God.

Tonight we celebrate his birth. Tonight we celebrate when the story began. As God’s people, we continue the story today. We continue to offer the hope, peace, joy and love of God for all the world to hear.

This is Christmas. Our holy night amidst the noise of the season.

May God be with you, and all who gather on this special night.