Christmas Eve

Good morning and Merry Christmas to you all.  It’s a joy to be able to worship with you this morning.  Thanks to the Shavers and the Haeckers for reading the Christmas story this morning.  And to the children for singing so beautifully this morning.  I hope you have a wonderful day and evening with your family.

If you haven’t done so yet, you still have a few hours this afternoon to get ready for Christmas.  Get that last minute shopping finished.  And if you haven’t done so yet – it’s not too late to get your lights up on your house.  That’s right!   Plant your ladder firmly on the snowy driveway and get your lights up.

Some might remember that last year I drove around to the houses of our journey staff to see how they did putting their lights.  So I decided to do the same this year.  And I am here to report on their ‘efforts’.

I went to Wendy and Joe Lopp’s house – Wendy is our children’s ministry director.  Wendy loves Christmas and each year she tries to get a bigger Christmas tree than the one before.  Well, that sounds great but Wendy and Joe have been married for 16 years – so their tree was getting too big for the house – but that didn’t deter Wendy – She just went up on the roof and used an ice fishing drill to get er done.

Next I went over to Neil, and I must admit – He surprised me – Even I was surprised by just how nerdy.  He out-nerded himself this year! What’s the called?  That was a nerd test – if you knew the answer you are a nerd.  Merry Christmas, nerd!  Just kidding, everyone knows that’s an AT-AT.  Rudolph the Red noses AT-AT.  And if you don’t let him play your AT-AT games he will blast you to smithereens with lasers.  Shoots from the nose.

Our administrative Assistant Joanna Chamberlain, she made all of these decorations you see on the stage today – she’s got a real flair for this kind of thing.  Which was why I was surprised when I drove by her house.  It kind of feels like maybe not her best work.  Maybe she was worn out from all this work – and she was like – zippy do!

You’re probably wondering about my house.  Well, this year, I decided to do something a little different.  Many of you know that I drive a school bus from time to time for Gretna – so I thought it would be fun to decorate my school bus.  Here it is…  And for the record – the kid on the bike there was NOT lit up when I hit him.  I lit him up real good though at impact.

Two more.  Kyle Short – our youth pastor was in Haiti last week and so the house decorations fell to his lovely bride, Rachel.  And I think Rachel did a really nice job.  That’s classy.  Although, I kind of wonder if maybe we’re not paying Kyle too much.

But then again, I went by Jim Warren’s house, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe we aren’t paying Jim enough.  We are actually paying him in inflatable toys – his request not mine.  So, Merry Christmas Jim!

Well, of course, none of these pictures are of our actual houses.  I’m just having some fun – while introducing for us our thought this morning as we celebrate Christmas.

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Christmas is an unusual holiday in that it’s celebrated with equal enthusiasm by people who observe it for religious reasons or not.

You might even be here this morning and it’s the only time you ever come to church and you’re here because you really love your family, but you haven’t been able to come around to believing that Jesus really was God in the flesh.

We get that and we think it’s great that you came today anyway.  We understand here at Journey that there’s many genuine reasons for doubting and we promise that you are still welcome here anytime you are ready to investigate these claims about Jesus we’d love for you to be part of this deal.

That said, whether or not you celebrate Christmas for the same reason I do, the virtues of the Christmas season – family, generosity, kindness, and joy make Christmas a special time of year.

And it’s interesting that whether or not we celebrate Christmas for religious or secular reasons, we’re probably going to celebrate it in many of the same ways.

This morning I want to look at how three characteristics of Christmas really are wonderful symbols of Jesus himself.  These three attributes of Christmas will most likely be included in your own celebrations today and tomorrow – and I want to show you how beautifully they point to Jesus – God with us.

So three characteristics of Christmas that perfectly point to Jesus.

And the first Christmas tradition that points to Jesus is…  Christmas lights.  I’d venture to guess that everyone in here has some kind of special Christmas lights going on in their home tonight.  Decorating your house with lights makes perfect sense to me during Christmas.

Consider how many times light shows up in the Christmas story.

The wise men – see what?  A light in the heavenlies – they follow a shining star to Bethlehem.

Consider the shepherds – tending their flock at night when an angel of the Lord appeared and who’s glory shone around them.

Consider this prophecy made by an old testament prophet named Isaiah – made 700 years before Jesus was born.  Isaiah 9:2,

The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.

Light shows up all over the Christmas story, which is why it makes sense for us to put up lights as we celebrate.  But there’s an even better reason to hang lights at Christmas.

Did you know that Jesus claimed to the light of the world?   Check it out.

John 8:12 –

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

What an incredible statement!  Clearly it makes Jesus different than all the other religious leaders in our world.  Islam says the Light of Allah shone most brightly on his prophet Mohammed.  Buddhist’s claim that there is a light inside you and sets you on a journey to find inner enlightenment.  Siddhartha himself though never claimed though to be the light of the world.

Of all the founders of religions in the world,  Jesus stands apart – he didn’t claim to be a light, or to shine a light upon a path – he claimed that He was the light of the world.

Which is an audacious statement.  But Jesus never shied away from making such polarizing statements declaring himself to be God – I am the way, I am the truth, I am the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

People may want to shuffle Jesus into this category of a teacher, or founder of a religion.  But he doesn’t allow that option.  He tosses “I am the light of the world” out on the table and just makes us ask ourselves if it could possibly be true.

Now those of us who have decided to believe him – we can easily see how light is a good metaphor for Jesus.  What does light do for us?

Let me ask you – how many of you have a night light of some kind in your room?  Well, what does that light do for you?

  1. It makes the room less scary! Be honest, it’s kind of scary, right? Darkness can be kind of scary.  But as soon as you flick the light on you realize – oh, it’s nothing.  I’m safe.  I see now.

Well Jesus takes the scaredyness out of life itself.  If God is for us, what shall we be afraid of?  Nothing.  We aren’t afraid of nothing with God by our side.  Psalm 23 says, I fear no evil because Thou art with me.

  1. Light helps us navigate safely. Right now I have gifts and presents all over the floor – when I woke up in the dark this morning I was able to safely navigate my way around the room without tripping, light gives us confidence to move forward.

Well with Jesus walking near us, we can safely move forward in life knowing that our Good Shepherd will safely navigate us through even the most difficult of valleys.

So when you go home and you turn on your Christmas lights –  remember why it’s a a perfect pointer to Jesus – the Light of the world.

Here’s a second characteristic of Christmas that perfectly points to Jesus.  Gifts!   Giving gifts!  Yeah!  Christmas presents!

Now if I’m honest, I have to admit that the gift thing can be kind of stressful.  It’s difficult to find just the right gift.  Anyone else struggle to know what to get people?  But it’s worth the effort.

And when you find the ‘perfect gift’?  Man does that feel great!  It feels good to be able to watch them open a gift you know they will love!   Kids, how many of you can’t wait to see the look on your parents face when they open your gift tomorrow?  Right?

Because you love your folks and giving a gift is one way to demonstrate that you love them.

Well, in Jesus – God has found the perfect gift to demonstrate to you just how much he loves you.   We don’t give gifts at Christmas to celebrate the generosity of the wise men!  We celebrate the generosity of God!

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Question:  Is a gift really a gift if you try to pay the person giving it to you?  Can you imagine your grandma giving you a gift – you open – it’s socks!  Thanks Grandma!  I needed new socks!  Then you reach for your wallet and pull out a ten dollar bill and give it to her.  You’d offend your grandma.  Don’t offend grandma!  Just humbly receive the gift with gratitude.

Well this verse teaches us that through Jesus there is an abundant, eternal kind of life that awaits anyone who wants it.  Our sins have earned for us only trouble.  But through Jesus, God came to deliver to us a free gift of an abundant and significant life.  And it’s available to all who will receive it through faith in Jesus.

Lights, gift giving – perfect symbols for what Christmas is all about.  Jesus – God with us.

What else?  Well to be truthful I struggled to limit myself to only three characteristics of Christmas.

We could talk about generosity.  Many of you have reached out to help people in need this Christmas spirit.  That’s very Jesus of you, isn’t it?  That’s acting very much like our God who generously provides for our needs.

We could talk about family.  And that makes sense, because through faith in Jesus we have fellowship with God and are brought into the family of God.

We could talk about Food!  Jesus tells us he is the bread of life.

We could even talk about – for us here in our world – snow!  How fun was it to see snow on the ground this morning?  Well Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.

But I think we should talk about something different than all of these things. Let’s talk about Joy!

Did you know the word Merry means, among other things like lively and spirited and cheerful – it means joyful?  Happy?

When we declare Merry Christmas, we are speaking a blessing upon another – we are wishing them – peace – merriment!, happiness – Joy!

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!

When the Magi saw the star?  Matthew tells us they were filled with joy!  What did the angel tell the shepherds?  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all the people!”

And all the people, includes you and me!

So I’ll end this morning my speaking that same blessing to you.

Merry Christmas!  God is with you.

Merry Christmas – God is for you.

Merry Christmas!  Jesus has thrown open the doors to the kingdom of light.

It’s ridiculously available to anyone who wishes to step into it through faith in Jesus.

Merry Christmas!  God loves you!

Merry Christmas!  God will take care of you.

Merry Christmas – there’s hope for a fresh start, a new beginning, a second chance.

Merry Christmas!  A new kind of you awaits.

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!   Let earth receive her king!

 

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