Here are my thoughts for this Christmas Day, 2013. This completes the series of readings and thoughts for Advent (“A Single Light – The Light of Hope”, 1 December 2013, “A Single Light – The Light of Love”, 8 December 2013, “A Single Light – The Light of Joy, 15 December 2013, and “A Single Light – The Light of Peace, 22 December 2013).
The Scripture readings for this morning are Isaiah 52: 7 – 10, Hebrews 1: 1 – 4, 5 – 12, and John 1: 1 – 14.
We begin the light of the candles by again reading the story of Christ’s birth from Matthew 1: 18 – 25:
The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
On this day, we re-light the candles of hope, love, joy, and peace. Surrounded by the light of hope, love, joy, and peace, the Christ Candle lights all the world to see the birth of Christ.
We honor Messiah with the Christ-Candle’s flame;
Our Christmas Eve candles glad tidings proclaim.
O come, all ye faithful, rejoice on this night
As God comes among us, the Christian’s true Light.
Our prayer this morning –
On this morning, when the soul is often chilled, the Birth of Jesus warms us as the light of a small fire warms our bodies. Let us rejoice this morning as we celebrate and helps us to bring the light of Christ into the world for all to see. AMEN
In all the time that I have been a lay speaker/servant or written pieces for my blog, Christmas has only come on a Sunday twice (in 2005 – “So This Is Christmas” and in 2011 – “The True Gift of Christmas”). So 2013 is the norm and not the exception I suppose.
In one sense that’s a good thing because it gets people to think of Christmas outside the boundaries of normal routine. If Christmas were a Sunday “thing” I don’t think it would have the impact that it does because it would be just another Sunday at church.
Now some will point out that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th and that the early church authorities picked that date to co-opt some pagan celebrations. And it is true that Jesus was more likely born sometime in the spring but if we were to celebrate his birth then, we might find ourselves celebrate Easter and Christmas in the same week (and I would hate to think what might happen if the happened to occur on the same day).
But to some extent, what difference does it make what day on the calendar Jesus was born? What matters most is that He was born and that His birth changes our lives! Right now, they are celebrating Christmas in Australia and New Zealand and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere. While we are in the midst of winter, they are in the midst of summer. And how can you sing about snow on Christmas Day when the temperatures may very well be in the low to mid 80s?
It isn’t about the day but what happened on that day and what it means to us. It should be more important in our thinking that Jesus was born, that He came to this world to be a part of our lives and to grow up as we grew up, understanding all that we have to deal with.
It would be a different story all together if Jesus were to have just appeared one day, out of nothing, already in his thirties, telling us of the Good News. I don’t think that there is a person today who would accept that as the truth.
But that we have a birth and that we know that Jesus grew up a part of this world means that there is something to what He says to us and what His presence in this world means something to us today.
The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus has been a part of this world from the very beginning and that He is a part of this world today. That, in one sense, could not have happened if He had not been born.
And how much joy and celebration could there be if He were not here. Oh, we could easily find some excuse for celebrating and exchanging presents on this day; after all, there were already parties in place when the decision was made to make Christmas and December 25th one and the same. But such parties would have no meaning and it would quickly become something of a status thing as to who got the most stuff this year.
For some, that’s all Christmas is, how much stuff one got. But when you stop and pause and think about what happened two thousand years ago and what was given to us, then the amount of stuff one gets becomes meaningless. We have been given the greatest opportunity ever known to mankind, the opportunity to be free from sin and death, the opportunity to go beyond the boundaries imposed by sin. It is a gift that we share and need to share with others this day.
Four weeks ago, we began preparing for this moment. Each week, as the days grew shorter and the darkness became greater, we lit a candle. And perhaps the effect of one or two candles was not enough to overcome the darkness. But today, on one of the shortest days in the year, when the darkness can be said to be at its maximum, the lighting of the Christ Candle in the center of a circle of light of hope, joy, love, and peace brings forth a brightness that no amount of darkness can deny.
We celebrate the birth of Christ because we have been given the greatest present of all, the promise and hope of salvation, of a life not limited. And what better gift can there be than that?