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Mon, Dec 24, 2018

Christmas Eve Service - 2018

Duration:34 mins 54 secs

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Almost everyone loves traditional Christmas songs and hymns. I know that some of us lament that they start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, but without White Christmas, Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad playing nonstop on the radio, it wouldn’t quite be Christmas, would it? Many of you who have worshipped with us over the last month have commented on how much you appreciated singing so many Christmas carols this year during Advent. I cannot promise you we will do that every year, but this year it was great, wasn’t it?

Now we have arrived at Christmas Eve and the singing continues. It would not be a real Christmas Eve service if we didn’t sing O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, and Silent Night, would it? All the favorites are here and even this homily draws inspiration from a classic, What Child is This?

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

I was drawn to this carol this evening because it begins with a question. What child is this? It takes the ancient story of Jesus’ birth and makes it a present question for you and for me. Not “who was?” but who is this “babe, the Son of Mary,” whose birth we celebrate tonight? That might be the only question that matters tonight.

Asking that question, led me to a Christmas song written by Mark Lowry, a humorist, songwriter, and singer with the Bill Gaither Vocal Band. Lowry composed the original poem in 1984 as he imagined interviewing Mary on her thoughts of being a mother to Jesus. However, finding the right music for the song proved a challenge. It was several years before Lowry gave the words to a new musician with the Gaither Band, Buddy Green. Green’s simple and touching melody fit perfectly and the finished song made an immediate impact. Today more than thirty artists have recorded this new Christmas favorite: Mary, Did You Know.

Even without the powerful music, the words of Mary, Did You Know are inspiring. Listen to the first and second stanzas of the song:

Mary, did you know, that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know, that your baby boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know, that your baby boy
Would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know, that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
you’ve kissed the face of God?

Oh, Mary, did you know?

Powerful words, aren’t they? Placed alongside our scripture texts for this evening, the words of Mary, Did You Know transport us back to Mary gazing at her child in a manger just after his birth. I am convinced that yes, Mary did know. After all, Gabriel declared that her son, “will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” She and Joseph named their son Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” Yes, they knew this child was to be special.

And yet on this night, walking on water, saving sons and daughters, making things new, and delivering even his mother are all in the future. Giving sight to a blind man and calming storms will be regular occurrences, but not yet. “He will be” the one promised by God and hoped for throughout the generations.

So, the questions of this night are both present and future ones – What child is this? Who will this child be? If that is the case, then I wonder if we have spent too much time looking backward at what “Christ has been” and not enough time looking at who Christ is and who Christ will be.

My friends, let me suggest to you this evening that our prayer should not only be, “Thank you God for sending Jesus so many years ago,” but “Come, Lord Jesus.” We celebrate not just the fact that the Son of God was born in Bethlehem, but that he will be born in our hearts today and that he can change our life in this New Year ahead. Yes, in today and in the New Year,

• perhaps he will be the one walks above the waters that swirl around you and calms your storms;

• or maybe he will be the one who saves your son or daughter from the trouble that plagues them;

• perhaps he will be the one who brings new life to your faith as it barely flickers amid the challenges of work and home;

• Or maybe he will be the one who opens your eyes to see the blessings you have and the talents and gifts he wants you to give?

What child is this and who will Christ be for you and for me this year? For Christ is coming. It will be the same old song, and yet also entirely new. Are you ready to sing along?

Thanks be to God. Merry Christmas.

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