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(013) Light in the Darkness

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Christmas Eve

Light in the Darkness

December 24, 2007

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” In that song, we echo the jubilation of the angels and the shepherds on the first Christmas night over 2000 years ago.

·         But as I said yesterday, the first Christmas almost certainly did not occur on December 25th.

But even though December 25th is not accurate chronologically, it is accurate in another way. If we’re not looking at an annual calendar, but the entire scope of human history, December 25th is perfect.

·         It is the perfect day to celebrate the coming of the Messiah.

The darkest day

Q: Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?

By the 4th century, the early church, decided to celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th, which had been pagan festival called “The Feast of the Invincible Son,” one of the many midwinter festivals in the ancient world.

The reason it was held on December 25th was because in the ancient calendar, that was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Said another way, the birth of Jesus is meant to be celebrated when the world was at its darkest.  

·         And that is a very appropriate time to celebrate Christ’s birth.

In the centuries leading up to Christ’s birth the world was darker spiritually than it had ever been.

For the gentiles

The Gentiles, that’s us, lived in ignorance of the true God. We worship the creation rather than the Creator. We were trapped in futile thinking and false ideas of God.

Man lived in fear of the angry gods and sacrificed animals and humans to keep them happy.

·         Nearly every culture had a midwinter festival and ceremony meant to help the forces of light and fertility win.

God had called his people, the Jews, to spread the news of the one true God to the world, but they had failed to reach out to their neighbors. [Extinguish 1st candle]

For the Jews

And to the Jews of that day, the world was also very dark. They had never been bleaker. The Jews knew that they were God’s chosen people, but it seemed that he had abandoned them.

They had basically been subjugated to different foreign nations for the past 700 years.

·         One of the darkest days in their history was in 168 BC when a Greek emperor sacrificed a pig in the temple. [Extinguish 2nd candle]

And to make things even darker, God has not spoken to his people through prophets in 400 years. Four hundred years without hearing from God. [Extinguish 3rd candle]

So in years leading up to Christ birth, the world was very dark indeed.

·         Yet one light remained: God’s promise that a Messiah would come and bring salvation and hope to the world.

Thousands of years before, when man first fell and rebelled against God, He had promised that a son would be born who would crush Satan. God continued to speak this promise through his prophets.

·         Throughout the centuries, this promise burned bright.

After 400 years of silence, without warning, and an angel appeared to an old priest named Zechariah. The angel promised him a son that would who would prepare the way for the Messiah [light 2nd candle].

Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth did become pregnant. Six month later, the angel appeared again, this time to Elizabeth’s relative, a young virgin named Mary.

The angel promise that she would become pregnant and her baby would be the Messiah they had waited for so long [light 3rd candle].

And again, an angel appeared, this time to Joseph, Mary’s fiancée.

"Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:20-21 NIV

[light 4th candle]

After thousands of years of waiting, the Messiah would soon arrive. At just the right time, when the world was darkest, the light of God would enter the world, the lamb of God who would take away our sins.

On a plain, ordinary night, a little baby was born, God in the flesh, who dwelled with us.

[light center candle]

His coming was heralded by a multitude of angels, proclaiming:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14 

What joy, what amazement must have filled that night! Behold the light of world! No more let sorrow reign, God has come and lives among us!

And now we are like those simple shepherds. We are witnesses to this amazing thing. The light has been given to us, and now we spread this light around the world.

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