Christmas Day

December 25, 2018

Summary

Welcome everyone and I wish you all a merry Christmas!

This morning we gather together in the midst of beautiful greenery and poinsettias, are bathed in the glow of lighted candles and inspired by melodious music.  We look around and see families gathered together.  We see friends wishing one another a merry Christmas.  This morning we see, we feel and we hear the joy of Christmas!

Yet what might someone think who has never encountered Christmas before?  Might they ask what does all of this beauty and fellowship mean?  What impact does the Christmas celebration have upon the common person, not to mention the world?

Some would say that just coming together as family, as a community, as a church has meaning enough.  But of course we know there is greater meaning to this day, for we hear again the words of the Christmas text from Luke of the birth of the tiny babe Jesus.  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

But the newcomer might ask, “A baby, as the Savior?  What impact could a baby have on the world, especially, a baby born 2,000 years ago?”

That question is answered in the chorus of a song about Jesus’ birth that was written and sung by my favorite artist, Bruce Cockburn.  He sums up the impact of Christmas on the world best, with these words.

“Like a stone on the surface of a still river, driving the ripples on forever.  Redemption rips through the surface of time, in the cry of a tiny babe.”

The news of the birth of the Savior, as told by the angels to those sleepy shepherds up in the hills outside of Bethlehem that night, has impacted and continues to impact the world.  And it impacts the world in ways and manners which are unimaginable to humanity most of the time, until we experience that loving impact in our own lives.

“How is that?” one might ask?  Well for starters let’s think of someone from this very season who has impacted others because of Christ’s impact in his own life.  Think of Santa Claus.  He is a figure very closely associated with Christmas today.  A figure that we assume has no basis in reality, and for sure no connection to the real reason for Christmas, that is the birth of Christ.  Sure, Santa, the Julenissen, communicates to the world the idea and spirit of giving during the season.  A noble thought this time of year, but one that pales when held in comparison tto the true gift of Christmas, the “tiny babe” Jesus.  And yet, this sentiment of giving has its origin in a real person, St. Nicholas.  Yes, there truly was a Saint Nick!  He was bishop of Myra, a city in present day Turkey, way back in the 4th century.  He was known for the way that he lived out the gift that was given to him by that “tiny babe.”

Bishop Nicholas was what we call, “A giver.”  There’s a story told of the father of three girls who could not pay his daughters’ dowries.  A dowry was the amount paid to the family of the groom on the day of the wedding by the bride, a kind of matrimonial sale price if you will.  Because of the lack of funds the marriage could not take place, and so the father was about to sell his oldest daughter into slavery so that she would have a roof over her head, and be provided for like he was unable to do.

Bishop Nicholas heard of this and the night before the sale he went by the house late in the night and tossed through the window a small bag of gold so as to save this family the terrible grief of selling off their own daughter.

As the father arose the next morning he found the small bag of gold and realized that it not only covered the price of the dowry, but also helped the family to survive the coming year.

The family again received a similar gift when it was time for the second daughter’s wedding.  And when it came time for the third, the bag of gold was tossed down the chimney landing in a stocking that was hung in the fireplace to dry.  That one kind of reminds me of something…hmmm.

And it was not just these acts that spoke of Nicholas’s spirit of giving.  As Bishop he was concerned that families had enough to eat, a good place to live and that the children would get ahead in life and all could live lives of dignity and respect.

Nicholas lived out the love that he had received from the “tiny babe” by giving of his life, time, and love to others.  As he knew salvation through Christ, he helped others to experience it in their own lives.  And as we know, he is not the only one impacted by the “tiny babe” Jesus who has lived to impact others with the good news that they themselves experienced.  Another figure attached to Christmas but in a much lesser way through only a single Christmas carol, is “Good King Wencelas.”

Wencelas was inspired to live his life, even as King of Bohemia, as the servant of his people.  The song was written about King Wencelas’ compassion for a peasant one wintry night.  He helped this man to carry wood to his cottage in the midst of a blizzard.  Wencelas did this so that the man and his family could be fed and stay warm through the cold night.  Imagine that, a king carrying firewood!

What we do not learn of in the song are the other acts of King Wencelas for the people.  Wencelas bought children out of slavery and gave them their freedom.  He provided for orphans and brought priests to Bohemia to teach and lead the people in their faith.

The impact that the tiny Savior born in that humble stable had upon King Wencelas was carried through his life to the people of his land.  His people experienced the love that came from his beliefs in action.

And yet as so often happens, the givers of God’s compassion and love are persecuted.  The world has a hard time accepting selfless love, forgiveness and the realities of lives lived in new ways.  Both men suffered for their beliefs.

Bishop Nicholas spent five years in a prison cell because he refused to worship the Roman emperor Diocletian as a god, and King Wencelas “The Good” was assassinated at the door of his church by his political opponents.  His love for the peasant, the orphan and the common person had gone too far, it was upsetting the balance of power and the status quo of rule in the kingdom.  His Godly love was too much for the ruling class.

And yet, in spite of their persecutions, we in some way still feel the impact of these two Christians to this day.  These two individuals came to understand the limitless and unending gift given to each of us, by the “tiny babe” born in Bethlehem.

Jesus birth is a gift of redemption!  The redemption found in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Jesus saves us from death by giving us simple, but unfathomable forgiveness, so that we may know new life and unconditional love for all time!

For behold to us has been born a Savior.  He was born in the lowliest of places, to the most common of people.  And yet that “tiny babe” was born for each of us, so that we might live in true forgiveness and love.  He was born so that we may live out the world’s greatest gift of Godly love each day in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

So, let us rejoice!  Celebrate!  Sing songs of worship and good cheer!  Give gifts, eat, revel in the love of family and friends, and most of all, the love of our God!  Rejoice, for to us has been born a “tiny babe” our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord!

Amen, and again, Merry Christmas!

Bible References

  • Isaiah 52:7 - 10

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