ES016 Christmas Eve with Communion Service 2017 - Well, that was unexpected!
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Collection/Notices: King of the manger
Collection/Notices: King of the manger
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Introduction: Do you think that it might have made a difference if Jesus had been born today when Elizabeth II is Queen or Trump is President of the United States and Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in Israel, rather than when Caesar Augustus was Emperor in Rome? One thing is sure—it still would not have made headlines. News reports are for world events, and our Lord’s birth was practically anonymous. The first people to hear about the birth other than Mary and Joseph and the animals in the stable were shepherds. There were senators in Rome, princes in Jerusalem, and philosophers in Athens. But instead there were shepherds living out in the fields, and to them the wonderful news was given. It is just like God works even today.
Let’s see three things in this story: it was unexpected, it was unusual and it was unbelievable.
1. An Unexpected Surprise (v. 8). They were minding their own business, or rather, their own sheep—just another day in their lives, another night shepherding. Probably the most exciting thing that happened was a visit from a wolf or possibly a bear, which is why they kept watch. Suddenly an angel appeared, and a bright light, the glory of the Lord, filled the sky. The creation story in Genesis begins in a similar way, with God speaking in the darkness. Throughout history, God brings light into human darkness.
The prophets looked forward to the day when the people walking in darkness would see a great light. But for these shepherds it was an unexpected surprise. God still breaks into human history in unexpected ways to bring light into our darkness. He comes to those not expecting or even seeking Him. He comes to those going about the ordinary busyness of living. Shepherds were not highly esteemed in those days. The very nature of their work didn’t allow them to be regular attendees at the temple, their Church. Their honesty was not rated highly (they weren’t allowed to stand as witnesses in court). God still surprises people like that today. Who would have dreamt that God would meet you and bring you into His family? He longs to break into our lives. He wants to do something unexpected. He also wants to do the unexpected here in this Church. God is still the same then as now.
2. An Unusual Sign (v. 12). The identifying sign would be a baby lying in a manger. Bethlehem may have been a “little town,” but finding the baby wasn’t that easy. This baby was in an animal feeding-trough, His first bed. The New Testament word “sign” means not just an identifying mark, but something that has in itself significance. So what is the “significance” of the manger? It indicates the depths to which the Son of God was willing to stoop in love:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
He became the Son of Man. It marks the beginning of the life of one who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was born a Saviour in a manger, and He died a Saviour on a cross. The manger also meant the shepherds could visit Him freely. Spurgeon said: “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger.” And today God makes Himself available:
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
3. An Unbelievable Story (vv. 17–18). These shepherds were the first witnesses. They had seen the Christ, and they told everyone what had happened to them. The good news about Jesus is something to be shared, and the best people to share it are ordinary folk who have had a personal experience with Him. We may not know everything, but if God has unexpectedly broken into your life, you have something to share. We have someone to share—a baby in the manager, a man on the Cross, a returning King!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
It is now left to us as to whether we believe the story. If so it will have a radical effect upon our lives if we are willing to follow Him. For if it is true then He came for you and for me - He came born as a baby with the purpose of dying on a cross. Today, ask Him in to your life. There is no time like the present.
O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.
Today we are coming to the table because our God, whose Son was given, who came as a baby, came to give His life on the cross to save us from our sins:
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Today is good news because He achieved His life’s goal: To bring us near to God so that we can approach Him as freely as the shepherds approaching the manger.
19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
ONE SOLITARY LIFE
ONE SOLITARY LIFE
He was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village,
where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He never set foot inside a big city.
He never travelled two hundred miles from the place He was born.
He never wrote a book, or held an office.
He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While He was still a young man,
the tide of popular opinion turned against Him.
His friends deserted Him.
He was turned over to His enemies,
and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, His executioners
gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat.
When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Over two thousand years have passed,
and today He is the central figure for much of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
all the navies that ever sailed,
all the parliaments that ever sat,
all the kings that ever reigned,
put together, have not affected the life
of man upon this earth as powerfully as this
“One Solitary Life”
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
By the tender mercy of our God love has broken upon us! Light is given where once there was darkness and hope where there was only death. We go into this season knowing that God will guide our feet into the way of peace.
Morgan, R. J. (2002). Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook (2003 Edition). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.