Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Out of all the nights of the year, Christmas Eve is probably the most emotional and nostalgic. Outside is dark and cold, but inside is bright and warm. You have come to a cozy sanctuary that many of you have been attending for years.
Some of you have been right here, in this sanctuary (maybe even in the same seat), every December 24thof your life. You will probably leave here and have a nice meal and an enjoyable time with family and friends. You will spend the rest of your evening opening well-wrapped presents set under a tree filled with decorations you have had for longer than you can remember.
Everything about this evening feels cozy, quaint, and sentimental.
But, what happens if all the things that you have come to appreciate about this night were gone? What if there are no candles, no lights? What if the furnace here had stopped working and the sanctuary was 40 degrees?
What if, instead of lutefisk, meatballs, and lefse, you went home to peanut butter, jelly, and stale bread? What happens if there is no tree, no ornaments, no tinsel, no wrapping paper? How would this evening feel if your gifts were handed to you in a plastic grocery bag, or – heaven forbid – you had no presents at all?
If everything you associate with a perfect Christmas Eve was gone, would there still be reason to celebrate this night?
Yes. Yes, there would. None of the things we add to this night change the fact that Jesus was born. The fact of Christ’s birth, the fact that God has come in the flesh, is not based upon a mood or emotional feeling we get from the things we normally associate with this night.
Jesus was born at a real time in history, and that night was notfilled with the warmth and ambiance we associate with this evening.
David’s royal line had nearly vanished. The priests were barely more than puppets of the Roman empire. And most people had lost hope in God’s promises.
Mary and Joseph were away from the comforts of their home. An occupying military force was demanding more taxes, and the small-town carpenter had to travel a long distance to pay. Joseph’s extended family didn’t have room for him and his extremely pregnant wife in their homes.
That time in history was filled with uncertainty in the government, uncertainty in economy, uncertainty in health and safety, and even uncertainty in religion.
But there was no uncertainty with God. The time was perfect for Him. In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, born in the flesh to be Emmanuel – God with us, God with you. God with you to redeem you. God with you to forgive you. God with you to give His everlasting love mercy to you.
For some of you, this will be the most memorable Christmas you have ever had, and you will cherish the memories of this night for the rest of your life. For that, praise God.
For some of you, however, this year the Christmas lights won’t be as bright, and the feelings will be less warm. Things have changed. Loved ones have died. Relationships have broken up. Kids have moved away and aren’t coming home for the holidays. For some of you, the absence of someone tonight will leave an emptiness.
But whether tonight is your best or most difficult Christmas, the fact doesn’t change – Jesus was born. Your Savior now lives as true God and true man forever.
Jesus’ birth was not the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies. It was the beginning. Jesus was born not to remain a baby, but to rescue all people from their sins by His sacrifice for you on the cross.
Jesus was never meant to stay in a manger, and you are not meant to stay in this world. The Light that dawns on you in Christ’s birth will be brought to perfect completion when you know the fullness of His forgiveness and joy in heaven.
Because Jesus was born, because He grew up, suffered, died, and rose again, it doesn’t matter what emotions you have or don’t have tonight. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t have to adorn your celebrations.
Nothing matters except that you have a Savior. Unto you He is born. For you, He lived. For you, He died. For you, He rose again. For you, He lives evermore and evermore. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.