It is almost here. You can feel it in the air. The clock has begun to wind down to Christmas. By now you have done almost everything you can do to be ready for your Christmas celebrations. And now, if you believe the National Weather Service and local weather personalities, it looks like we are in for a white Christmas. Tonight we join millions of others that come to rejoice in the good news of great joy for all peoples, the birth of a Savior who is Christ the Lord. These words sing from our lips in familiar carols and we quietly find ourselves mouthing almost mouth word for word the grand Christmas passages. Tonight we come and celebrate the story of the babe born in a manger in Bethlehem. For some it is just a part of the holiday season, where this story lies along a host of other holiday stories. But for most of us gathered in this room it is more than just a story, it is our story. This Jesus is more than someone to sing about and is much more than a babe in a manger. His story rises from the depths of our own story of faith and defines our walk with God.
In Philippians we hear Paul embrace the words of an early Christian hymn and makes it his own. He begins with a challenge. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. He then sings out the hymn that tells the story of the heart and attitude of Jesus. 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. John 1 calls out: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God understood that our simple hearts and simple minds could not begin to wrap themselves around what it meant to be stand face to face with God. No matter how much we reached out; no matter how much we might struggle we could never find our way to the feet of God on our own. Something had to happen for us to be able to develop a real and authentic relationship with God. God took on nothingness, the very nature of a servant; he became one of us so he might teach us, love us, heal us, and make the way for redemption for us. God came and pitched his tent among us – moved in on our block – showed up in our midst. This is why the story of a babe born in a manger matters so deeply. There were countless babies born in third world setting, but this was different. In the face of this little one we catch a glimpse of the face of God.
You would think that God would claim the halls of a palace rather than a simple cave as His first earthly home. You would think that God would want all to see Him in His Glory and for his power and presence to be on display. But, God came in the midst of the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Instead of expecting to be treated like a King, he chose to come as a servant of all. In the coming to our world he turned everything upside down. The hymn sings out: 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
The reign of God did not begin with a military parade, but in a walk of degradation that carried the very Son of God to the cross of Calvary. God did what we could never do for ourselves. God made the way. Rather than being cherished and worshipped, Jesus took the path of rejection so that our sins might be forgiven and that we might be made the Children of God. The story of this babe born in the manger, the story of the birth of Jesus is the beginning of the gospel story – the song sings out the good news for us that God loved us, came for us, lived for us, died for us, and rose again. The Christmas story is the beginning of the story of God breaking into history to destroy every boundary that stood between us.
Our celebrations here tonight join the grand heavenly celebrations. On the hillside on the outskirts of Bethlehem the angels sang; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” This great early Christian hymn echoes out in response; 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So what will you do with this babe born in the manger? Will you go through the holiday motions or will you embrace this Jesus as yours? Tonight we light the Christ candle and celebrate God's victory over evil, in the birth of Jesus as well as His coming at the end of the age. We ask him to accomplish that same victory in our own lives today: to be born anew in us. So join us as we rejoice in the Christmas gospel. Join us as rejoice and remember the birth of the Christ-child. Join us as we rejoice in the great gift of a Christmas. Rejoice! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Rejoice!!!