Text: Luke 2:1-20
King James Version (KJV)
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
In the Name of God: The Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.
Creator of the stars of night,
your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all,
we pray you hear us when we call.
In sorrow that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
you came, O Savior, to set free
your own in glorious liberty.
When this old world drew on toward night,
you came; but not in splendor bright,
not as a monarch, but the child
of Mary, blameless mother mild.
At your great Name, O Jesus, now
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow:
all things on earth with one accord,
like those in heaven, shall call you Lord.
Come in your holy might, we pray,
redeem us for eternal day;
defend us while we dwell below
from all assaults of our dread foe.
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honor, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.
That is a chant called “Creator of the stars of night,” and was written back in the 9th century. I shared it with you last year on Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t resist sharing it tonight. What a beautiful way to state God’s loving act toward us.
Tonight is the night. Jesus, our Savior, will soon be born!
Like probably all of you, we have a manger scene. When our son was very little, he created his own Christmas tradition. He took a little figurine of Santa Claus and placed it in the manger scene, so that Santa could be part of the story. At other times, he would take another of his favorite little figures – Donald Duck, one or another of the Seven Dwarves, or another cherished toy. In his two-year-old mind, his little friends needed to be part of Christmas, too. Several times each day, he would come over to me or his mother and say, “I see Baby Jee-osh!” (he couldn’t yet pronounce “Jesus”) and we would pick him up and carry him over to the mantle, or wherever the crèche was so he could look. After he’d seen enough, he’d ask to be put down, and he’d walk away happy.
Tonight is the night when we, too, run to the manger to see “Baby Jee-osh.”
It was a night like no other before or since. The whole of human history changed for the better. God himself appeared in human form to finally and for all time bridge the gap between us and him. That yawning chasm was instantly erased. But God chose to appear in the most unbelievable form imaginable: A baby, the most vulnerable of all creatures! And God to appeared, not to kings, not to the powerful, not to the wise, not to anyone who could even remotely be considered the “movers and shakers” of their day but to shepherds, people who were pretty much nobodies. His mother was a teenager. His (earthly) father was a carpenter, a tradesman, not a prince.
But we know all that. Tonight, we just want to hear again that story we love so well, that story that has been part of the woodwork of our lives since we can remember. We want to stand once again at the manger and greet our Savior, our Baby King. We want to hear the lowing of the cattle, the baaing of the sheep, the cooing of the doves, the low, hushed tones of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.
Above all, we love that story because it tells us the one thing we most want to hear – that God loved and loves us, that God will not leave us alone, stumbling through the world, making our way as best we can: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, KJV). It tells us that we are God’s own beloved children. The Christmas story assures us of that love of God for us that has no limit, assures us of God’s love and presence.
We want, in short, to “see Baby Jee-osh.” We want to feel him in our hearts.
So, tonight let’s allow the Mystery wash over us like a warm, gentle rain. Let us unlock the portals of your hearts and let that Child in.
And as the Irish carol “I Sing of a Night in Bethlehem” concludes, we affirm:
“Glory now to the Father.
In all the heavens high;
And peace to His friends on Earth below,
Is all the angels cry.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. AMEN