Tonight's a big night, especially for
kids, as they anticipate the arrival of the big guy in the red
suit, Santa Claus. It's also a big night for Christians as we
celebrate the birthday of the little guy, wrapped in swaddling
clothes, God's Son Jesus.
The Christmas Eve worship celebration
can sometimes be a challenge to prepare for since the same
story is read every year, and the same familiar Christmas
hymns are sung. The challenge some churches feel is how to
convey the Christmas story in a new and refreshing way?
I have to admit as I was thinking
about our Christmas Eve celebration this year; I too wondered:
- What it was we could do to make the
message of Christmas stronger and more meaningful for folks?
- What could possibly be done so more
people would take the Christmas miracle to heart, the
miracle of God coming to us as a little baby?
- Is there something special to be
said or sung that would persuade folks to be more faithful
followers of Jesus?
And as I thought about our worship
celebration for this evening I soon realized, you know what,
the message of Christmas doesn't need a great deal of help.
The Christmas story is a message of hope and joy, it's a
humanity saving story about God coming to live among us as
Jesus, to identify with us in all stages of our life. It's
God's story, its God's selfless act and message of grace.
When people leave the church, after a
Christmas Eve celebration, they shouldn't leave with the awe
of some grand production on their mind, but with the gift of
Jesus in their heart. The story and message of Christmas
doesn't need any "over-the-top" help. Really all the message
needs to be effective is receptive hearts.
So this evening I pray we've come with
receptive hearts, hearts that are open, hearts that are
seeking the gift that the miracle of Christmas offers.
I think sometimes we can get so caught
up in putting on a major production of the Christmas story,
with all the lights, cameras and special effects, we lose the
real message of the story, and we neglect to focus on the real
star of the story, Jesus.
It was on that special night many
years ago, in a far off place, a little boy was born in a
- there were no lights except perhaps
a candle and a bright star overhead,
- there were no cameras to record the
event and beam it via satellite for all the world to see,
- there weren't paparazzi lurking
about in the shadows of a red carpet leading to the stable,
- there wasn't a star-studded cast of
actors, there were just two simple people named Mary and
Joseph called by God to fulfill the role of human parents to
The location for the event wasn't an
auditorium or glorious cathedral; it was a humble stable with
no padded seats, snack bar, heat, or rest rooms. There wasn't
a big crowd on hand either. The only creatures in attendance
for the unfolding of this wonderful story were the animals
living in the stable that night.
And after Jesus was born, Mary wrapped
him up in old cloths and laid him in a feeding trough, which
served as his bed.
It was from these humble beginnings
this little boy Jesus grew into a toddler, then into a
teenager, and into a young man, a man who would change the
world for ever.
The story of Christmas is a message of
hope for an abundant and joy-filled life through a
relationship with God through his Son Jesus. And it's through
this relationship we receive the precious gift of peace. It's
this gift of peace, God's peace, that can be our gift tonight.
I've come to believe that over the
years we've heard the word peace so often, we've almost become
numb to it, perhaps not really knowing what the peace of God
really is. You see peace can seem so evasive sometimes and be
difficult to experience, yet peace is the absolute key to
living an abundant and joyful life.
No matter where you look today, peace
seems to be in very short supply.
- Each day the headlines seem to tell
of some new political crisis that threatens to plunge the
whole world into utter chaos and war.
- Our courts overflow with people
caught up in conflicts.
- Families are torn apart because of
- And millions of folks frantically
search for something - anything - that will give them peace
of heart and mind in the midst of their daily pressures.
Then as the year draws to a close, the
season of Christmas comes around and offers its wonderful and
timeless message, of Emmanuel, meaning God with us, and peace
throughout all the earth is proclaimed.
Regrettably, many folks live their
lives throughout the year on the barren plains of heartbreak,
disappointment, and loneliness, lost in thoughts of shame,
self-pity, guilt or failure, or people get so caught up in the
busyness of daily living that peace of heart and mind seems
It's because so many people find this
gift of peace so elusive, we need to hear again every year the
familiar words of the Christmas angel spoken many centuries
ago to a small band of Jewish shepherds: "Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke
2:14). But are the words of the angel really true? Can God's
peace really become a certainty in our lives and in our world?
Or was the promise of the angel just a hollow, empty message
of hope, totally unrealistic for life as it really is today?
Well I can tell you from personal
experience, and from what others have shared with me about
their lives, that true peace is possible, not because humanity
has discovered some new scheme or formula to produce instant
peace, but because God's Son has come into the world.
Peace is possible because Jesus, who
entered the world as a baby on that first Christmas, wants to
enter our lives this Christmas Eve. You see the miracle of
Christmas is that God was born in human form, but the miracle
doesn't end there, because the miracle of the Christian life
is that God is born in us. And it's in this experience of God
in us, that we encounter the peace proclaimed by the heavenly
Now receiving this gift of peace
doesn't require standing in line for hours or camping out
overnight because there's only a limited supply, and oh by the
way batteries and late night assembly are not required.
The peace of God is available 24 hours
a day, 365 days a year, and it's available to all people.
God's peace in Jesus Christ is a near as the door step to our
heart. All we have to do is open the door to receive this
As the picture above the altar
illustrates, Jesus is knocking on the door to our heart, but
notice there's no door knob for him to turn so he can open the
door. The only way the door gets open is if we take the
initiative to open it from the inside.
Just like we can't make friends with
new neighbors unless we open the door to our house invite them
in and take the time to get to know them, we can't truly know
Jesus unless we take the time to let him in and get to know
And what we find as we get to know
Jesus, as our friend and savior, is that the prophetic words
of the prophet Isaiah begin to ring true in our hearts. "And
his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
You know it's been over 2000 years
since the angel of the Lord hovered over the Judean
countryside, declaring Good News to the shepherds. Sadly
though, much of our world still knows very little of this gift
of peace, and fewer yet practice good-will toward one another.
The miracle of Christmas is that we
can be at peace with God, no matter our circumstances: past,
present, or otherwise! We can come into a personal
relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and be restored
and renewed. We can be born again spiritually by the grace of
God's peace is made real through the
miracle of that night long ago, and it becomes a reality today
whenever a man or woman turns to Christ and follows him as
Lord of their lives.
Now the gift of God's peace can be
difficult to describe. The Apostle Paul even states "the peace
of God surpasses all our understanding." I've found that words
are really inadequate when trying to explain God's peace, and
yet we observe people who are living with God's peace, and
their life seems different and more complete some how.
So let me try to describe God's peace
and this sense of a more complete life.
- It's a calm feeling in the midst of
our difficulty. (persecution, injustice, tough times, etc.)
- It's a sense that God is present
with us. (during illness, surgery, times of stress, etc.)
- It's the assurance of salvation.
(knowing that through faith, eternal life is ours no matter
what happens in this life)
- It's a feeling of contentment.
(being satisfied with what we have, trusting that God will
provide what is needed, when it's needed)
- It's a desire to grow into a deeper
relationship with Jesus, to want to know more about him,
realizing that as we do we better understand God and our own
You know we pass the peace often in
church when we greet one another, just as we did this evening,
and we do this for a good reason: we need it!
- We need it for ourselves,
- We need it for our families,
- We need it for our friends,
- We need it for our community,
- We need it for our nation,
- And we need it for our world.
The major need of humanity, over these
many years of existence, has never changed. We need peace.
So this night I pray you will receive
the gift of peace, knowing it's not a life wrapped up in a box
with a big bow, or a life wrapped up in stuff, but a life
wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Don't
allow Christmas to be an annual yuletide production, open your
hearts to Jesus, experience his peace, and come to know
firsthand the miracle of Christmas.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade