1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—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. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Please pray with me tonight, church:
Through the birth of a child,
You show us what Love looks like.
Let that Love be born in us again tonight,
So that we might be Love for the world.
Merry Christmas, church!
Oh goodness… How my heart has longed to hear you say that back.
Can we do it again, just for good measure?
Merry Christmas, church!
It is a merry Christmas. It even actually feels a little bit like Christmas outside. What a joy to be gathered here, with you, rejoicing, celebrating, praying, singing…
This feels like Christmas to me.
And it’s something I don’t think I’ve really felt…fully…in 3 years or so. It’s been a long time since you’ve made me feel like I just felt. We’ve come a long way. And we still have some ways to go. But we’re on our way.
Christmas is one of the big ones for the church, right? Christmas and Easter. They’re the big wonderful worship services that we get to go all out. Special music, soaring choirs, big pomp, all the circumstance… It’s a worship that makes our heart sing.
But aside from being one of the big ones for the church, Christmas is special to me because it’s one of the few times where I actually feel worshipful, too. Christmas, in particular…it’s like my soul knows its way around this liturgy, I can just rest back in this worship service and marvel at its beauty.
Truly my heart has longed for this Christmas worship.
As soon as we hit that first note of O Come, All Ye Faithful my heart soared and my spirit relaxed. We’ve arrived. Thank you…for doing what you’ve done, for being part of this extraordinary and marvelous worship this evening.
My heart has longed for this worship, and my heart has longed to see you here tonight, church.
Welcome. And thank you.
In the season of Advent, over the 4 weeks leading up to tonight, we gathered under the theme Making Space. Making space for Advent, making space in our hearts and our homes to welcome Christ once again, as we do every year, into the world anew. We talked about making space for the possible, making space for new voices, making space for the unexpected, and finally, making space for Jesus. This Advent we’ve talked about our hopes and our expectations, our dreams, our anxieties, the longings of our hearts…and our fears.
And we talked about making space for all of that.
But once you’ve got all that, once you’ve gathered all that together…then what do you do with it?
If you tried to carry all that around, you’d stumble. No way it all fits in a backpack or a bag. No way your head can hold all onto of that, plus all the other gajillion things you’ve got on your to-do list…presents to wrap, turkeys and hams to roast, cookies to bake, potatoes to mash, family to welcome…plus, in just a couple of weeks, we’ll all be back at it again with school schedules, work schedules, sports and activity schedules, volunteer opportunities, service organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, FFA, whatever else…plus all those brand new resolutions you just made…
How do you make space for it all?
Church, I want to invite you to do something with me tonight. Maybe something radical for you. I want to invite you to set it down. If only for a moment…just set it down and let go of it. Be here tonight. Lighten your load and let your heart soar. Set your worries, your cares, your concerns…your fears…here. Lay them in the manger.
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…”
Whatever you’re carrying tonight, I invite you to set it down. Set it aside and just rest back into the wonder and beauty of this evening. Of this incredible gift of love. God’s gift of love. Given for you.
Because this familiar story is our story. It’s a story of wonder and beauty, messiness and imperfection, hopes and fears.
It’s a story about God who was born as a child into a very human family…about God loving this family so much, that God chose to be born into our human family.
It’s a story about God who came into the world through the very human and very messy act of a young woman giving birth, born among the dirt and grit of feeding troughs, animals, shepherds, sheep, angels, and everything else…about God who enters into our mess, in order to redeem our mess.
The Christmas story is a story about rough years and difficult seasons and the times we feel like giving up. It’s a story about God who chooses to enter into our human experience at its deepest…about God who would go through full expansiveness of the human condition to let you know that you are never alone in any of your circumstances.
It is into such a world as this that God chooses to be born.
God chooses to be part of it, so that you would know, beyond all doubt, that wherever you are, whatever you’re carrying, that God is there with you.
This is the wonderful good news of Christmas, church: Immanuel—that God is with you.
So what does your heart long for, church? What makes your heart soar?
As we rejoice in and celebrate God’s incredible gift of love, given to and for the world, I invite you to bring your fears and worries…and your hopes and dreams. Bring all of it. Let God hold all of it.
And know that whatever you’re holding onto, whatever your carrying, this gift of love is for you.
Your dreams…your longings…your hopes…your fears…it matters to God.
You matter to God.
You make God’s heart soar.
Merry Christmas, church.