Christmas Eve 24 December 2019
(Isaiah 9:2-7 Psalm 96 Titus 2:11-14 Luke 2:1-20)
“Let Christmas Find You!”
Christmas comes to each of us in very different ways from one year to the next!
Sometimes we don’t even want it to come at all. Christmas can sometimes be a reminder of relationships that have ended, of a person who is no longer laughing with us when we are opening our Christmas stockings. Sometimes Christmas is just too painful.
Sometimes this holiday turns into one big obligation, one big list of things we check off as quickly as possible: gifts we need to buy; parties we need to attend; cards we need to send; flowers we need to order; bulletins we need to print; worship services we need to plan. Sometimes Christmas can feel like one big bucket list to complete before December 25.
To be honest, that’s sort of where I was a month ago. My sister was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of multiple myeloma and has pretty much been in the hospital since then. There’s been the ongoing divisions of peoples, both in our country, throughout the world, and right within our families that continue to batter my heart. Then I took the names of the 34 individuals whose funerals we’ve had here in this church since last Christmas and I held them close to me and remembered the lives of those loved ones and how their deaths have affected so many of you here in this congregation.
So that’s where I was a month ago—not too excited about Christmas. Not a very uplifting way to begin a Christmas sermon, huh?
Then something took place that seized my heart—our three-year-old granddaughter came to help us decorate our Christmas tree.
A year ago she would put all the Christmas ornaments in one tiny place that she could reach, a one-foot-by-one-foot space near the bottom with ornaments literally stacked on top of each other. This year she discovered that if she sat on my shoulders or on my head she could reach to the very top of the tree.
Guess what? This year she wanted to put all the ornaments up high “where no one could reach them.” There we were, “up and down, up and down” because she wanted to choose which ornaments she was putting on the tree. Then she found the star, and she knew it went at the very top. She had it in her hand.
I said, “Oh, Mackenzie, I always put the star on last,” and she said, “No, Grandpa, I want to put it on now.” And I said, “Mackenzie, why, why do you want to put the star on the tree right now?” And she said, “Grandpa, so everyone can see the light!”
“Grandpa, so everyone can see the light!”
“Grandpa I want to put the star on now so everyone can see the light!”
At that moment, Christmas found me. Christmas found me on that day with that little girl sitting high on my head stretching as far as she knew she could stretch, wanting that star to be up there as far as possible so it could be seen by all!
“There were shepherds living in the fields, and the glory of the Lord shone around the angels; the glory of the Lord shone around them…” [Lk. 2:8-9].
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” [Is. 9:2].
This evening, I do not know for sure what some of you may be struggling with at this time of Christmas. I don’t know where there is darkness for many of you. Maybe these past weeks have been only a check-off list to get everything done in order to fill the expectations of others, so much that you haven’t had time even to think much about Jesus. I guess, if I am really being honest, I do not know for sure what brings most of you here this evening—but I suspect it is your faith—faith that with this Baby born in Bethlehem comes a deep sense of hopefulness beyond anything else in our lives.
And what I also do know is that on this night, as on that first Christmas, hope is to be found! Because with the Child—born in a manger, wrapped in bands of cloth—is the Hope, the Light of the world!
Wherever you are wavering with uncertainty or fear this evening, if you are yet struggling truly to feel connected with Christmas this year, let Christmas find you, as Christmas found me.
On this night, even if you don’t feel much like singing…..let the hope of Christmas find you!
On this night, even if you are gripped by an illness or that of a loved one…..let the hope of Christmas find you!
On this night, if our fractured world and our fractured families burden heavy upon you….. let the hope of Christmas find you!
On this night, if you have a loved one serving abroad; if you are weighed down by caring for a parent or a difficult child…..let the hope of Christmas find you!
Christmas is never a denial of reality. Christmas is never some kind of spiritual placebo infused once a year into our lives to keep us going. The gift of Christmas is the very Life of God come to us on that sacred night that transforms darkness into light.
Our “hopes and fears of all the years—do, indeed— meet in God on this night!” As the angels found the shepherds, and as the shepherds found the Baby in the Manger, may Christmas find you on this night!
“Grandpa, I want to put the star on the tree right now, so everyone can see the light!”
My good friends, this night and every night and every day, may the Light of Christmas, the Light of Christ, continue to find you, even and most especially, in the darkest moments of your lives! Sing at the top of your lungs this evening!
“For a child has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and that Child is called “God is with us!” ” [Is. 9:6].
Merry Christmas! Thanks be to God! Amen!