Christmas Eve

December 24, 2018

Summary

Merry Christmas everyone!  We gather this evening to worship our Lord Jesus Christ whose birth we now celebrate.  We celebrate by gathering together in church to sing carols of praise, hear God’s word read and preached and to give thanks for the baby born in Bethlehem so many years ago.

We also celebrate by; gathering with family and friends to eat special meals, to share conversation and joy, part of which is created by the giving and receiving of gifts.  I know that is what many of you children and perhaps slightly older people are waiting for, the opening of gifts.  Though sometimes we do not want to admit it, it is quite special to receive a gift, especially if it is a surprise, on Christmas, isn’t it?  I know, I enjoy such gifts!

I have been asked, “Why do we give gifts to each other at Christmas?”

We give gifts at Christmas because it is a way, perhaps a primary way of showing another person that you care for them, and that you love them. We give gifts on birthdays, confirmations, wedding anniversaries, and, of course, Christmas.

At its foundation, the giving of gifts to another at Christmas is a mimicry of God giving his great gift to the world, the gift of the Christ child.

We wrap our gifts to one another in shiny, beautiful paper, and place them under the Christmas tree.  God’s gift to the world was wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in the manger.

Like the gifts that we give one another, which are carefully picked out and joyously given, Jesus is also the perfectly chosen gift for humanity and was joyously given to the world in love.

You see, love is what God is all about, correct?

Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God…gave.  Jesus is a gift, or rather, the gift, the gift in the life of the world.

Once, a man asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?”

Do you know what he said?  Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it; Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”

You see, Jesus is all about love, in fact loving is a commandment.  You will notice that first, Jesus points to God’s love for the world, and secondly our love for humanity, including ourselves.

Love starts with God.  God first loved us. He lovingly created us.  Then when sin was overwhelming us, God made the loving decision to save us, and give us life forever with him.  Our salvation is given us, in faith, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so, Jesus the Christ child, born in Bethlehem, is the greatest gift in the history of the world. He is a gift given to, and for us, in love.

So, our love of God is a response to God loving us first.  This is good, for as humans we need a love to model our love upon.  Thus, we try to love God in response to his love for us.

It is then, when we are learning how to love God back that we reach out with our love to our neighbors in the world; our family, our friends, our church, our co-workers, our schools, and beyond them…the world.

Yet, in order to be able to love others properly, we also need to learn to love ourselves properly.  And again, we have God’s love for us, upon which to model our love for ourselves and for our neighbor, meaning, a selfless and forgiving love.  Ah, it is so simple, and yet, so hard.

Thankfully God gives us day-after-day to learn, to try and love, and to try again.  Jesus’ love is active love.  This love is not simply words, but rather actions, it is love alive and active in relationships, for love does not exist unless it is shared.

And so we have the Christ child, born in Bethlehem, who showed us what God’s love looks like, sounds like, and feels like within human relationship.  In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we come to understand what love can be; selfless, forgiving, and freely given.

This is why we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

This is why we remember his mother Mary, and father Joseph, the shepherds and the angels, and the star twinkling in the night sky.  This is why we bring evergreen trees into our homes, light advent candles, and search carefully for the perfect gifts for our loved ones.  This is why we sing songs, eat good food, and gather as family and friends.

We do all of these special things to celebrate the advent of true, selfless love into the world, the love that truly only God can give…and we receive.

In faith, I declare to you God’s love given to you, this night, and every day.  May you know this love and find certain hope in God’s gift of love in the baby Jesus.

I wish to you all a blessed and merry Christmas!

Amen.

Bible References

  • Isaiah 9:2 - 7
  • Hebrews 1:1 - 2
  • Luke 2:1 - 14
  • Luke 2:15 - 20
  • John 1:1 - 14

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