/I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
On this holy night, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who, according to Luke, was born in Bethlehem, in a stable, because the town was full of out-of-town visitors who had come to pay their taxes.
But if you look around, you will see that we’ve made much more of this celebration than the observance of a simple birth story.
This time of year carries with it many-layered meanings;
Family traditions; economic success for merchants;
And our year-end tendency to want to evaluate this year before embarking on another.
All these things, along with a group of stories like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, find their way into our consciousness, our decorations, our gift-buying habits, our parties, and into our expectations.
Our culture treats Christmas with massively sentimental attention.
We watch specials on TV, we resurrect “A Christmas Carol” with its ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future;
And we long for our families to match these sentimental visions.
*None* of this is bad.
Traditions instruct us, delight us, and remind us of our values.
We often regard the sweet scene of the 1st nativity through a Hallmark-special fuzzy lens, as though it were only about another sweet baby.
But this nativity scene, isn’t just the end of Mary’s pregnancy and the start of a new family.
The baby in the manger is none other than Emmanuel, God with us.
The people who walked in darkness have, indeed, seen a great light
The light emanating from this sleepy domestic scene is the light of God, come to be with us, come to dwell in us, come to transform us.
Some of you children who are here tonight, do you remember your first tricycle?
Or how about when you grew a little older and you were given our first bike, Your own bike?
Not your neighbors.
Not your friends.
Not your brother’s or sister’s but your very own bicycle?
Do you remember the thrill, the glow that you felt about that?
Or for those a little older, do you remember your first car?
Do you remember the feeling inside when you drove that first car?
Although not exciting when I tell the story to others, because it was a Saturn station wagon… however when I remember the emotions of getting my first car,
I can still see it and smell it from so many years ago,
because it was my first, very own car.
Or, how about that first apartment, with the crumby furniture,
Where you could do what *you* wanted to do
There was an inner glow, a glowing satisfaction.
Or how about your first home?
For those of you who have a home, do you remember that first little spot you had that you called a home?
The old bathroom of your first home?
Do you remember that glowing satisfaction of having your first home.
Or do you remember your first child?
That first child that was born or adopted your very own, and the glow that was inside of you?
How can you forget the inner glow that accompanied your first child?
Yes, we all remember the inner satisfaction and inner glow from our first tricycle, bicycle, car, apartment, home, and child, when these became our very own.
It is enough to make you want to sing out
And yet it is a mere glimpse of the greatest of all glories
It is this glow that, even though we heard them hundreds of times we still enjoy singing the familiar Christmas carols
It is this glory that God gives to His people – the glory of a newborn baby
For all humanity – for ever more
In any child, there is the glow of hope and promise
In this child there is the glow of hope and promise for all humanity for all time
It's not only John’s gospel, as I mentioned before, that gives witness to this glorious promise,
But Luke, as well… who through his depiction of the nativity and the song of the angels makes plain the importance of this night.
As Martin Luther once observed in a Christmas sermon, /'Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.'/
In these words, Luther writes, you see clearly that Christ is born *for us*.
The angel does not simply say, "Christ is born," but "*to you* he is born,"
Neither does he say, "I bring glad tidings, but *to you* I bring glad
tidings of great joy....
We see here, how Christ, as it were, takes our birth from us and absorbs it in his birth, and grants us his,
That in it, we might become pure and holy, as if it were our own,
So that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ's birth as much as if he had himself been born of Mary as was Christ."
Do you see? Do you understand?
Do you realize that the Christ child… is for you, …
that the gift of eternal life… is for you, …
that the gift of God’s healing… is for you …
that the gift of God’s forgiveness… is for you …
that the gift of a new birth of love… is for you.
The response of faithful people to this new reality is to learn from Jesus, to emulate Jesus, to become bringers of God’s light ourselves.
We celebrate the gift that God has given to us in Jesus especially in the life-affirming ways that Jesus employed – by teaching, healing, giving voice and vision to those who have been in darkness.
The work of Christmas begins, but does not end, tonight.
Christmas doesn’t end tomorrow.
Christmas doesn’t end with Epiphany, or Lent, or Easter;
Christmas is God’s continuing gift of God’s presence with us, and Christmas is our challenge to prepare room in our hearts, and in our lives.
When you came in tonight, maybe you were coming to experience the wonderful glow that celebrating a holy Christmas provides
Did you know that you would leave with the knowledge that it is your birthday too
That God’s glow is more than baby Jesus – but you too
That we came to celebrate, beyond the distractions of the season, that God came into this world… for your healing…, your eternal life…, your forgiveness
That the truly special gift is the new life in each and every one of us
/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.
/To all who receive him, [Jesus] gave [*us* the] power to become children of God/
Thanks be to God…
and all God’s children said – Alleluia Amen
* Alleluia Amen*