Lights, Camera, Oh Yea, Jesus Too!

 (Luke 2:1-20)

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 stable,

  • 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 his Son.

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 disagreements.
  • 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 impossible.

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 angel.

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 gift.

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 him.

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.

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 lives.

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