Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

+ Christ-Mass Eve +
24 December 2009
Your joy may be full John 16:24

Merry Christmas! In our family, one of the important preparations for Christmas is making and distributing your Christmas gift list. The Christmas gift list is one way of letting your family and friends know what it is you are asking for this year at Christmas. Usually, these lists are comprised of things you can buy with money. Let me hasten to add there’s nothing wrong with that. However, we would do well to remember that Gift-Giving is only one of the five basic love languages. Here are the other four. Words of Affirmation: in Letters from Dad this year nine guys from Concordia discovered how powerful personal letters of love and appreciation can be. Quality Time: When our power went out last Friday night, we lit candles and played Apples to Apples together for over three hours – what an expression of love and family closeness. Acts of Service: can you cook meals, clean house, paint walls, wash and wax cars, cut grass, sew clothes? You can give love. Physical Touch and Closeness: can you give hugs, or hold hands on a walk? You can give love. and last but not least, Gift-Giving: most likely you’ve got that one covered. When Jesus says in our text, Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I can’t help but remember that He also said, “love one another as I have loved you.” So what I’m asking Jesus for this Christmas is to learn how to love people just as God loves all of us.
Receiving and giving such a gift of love will truly make our joy full and overflowing to those who live as if God had never sent His Son to be our Savior from sin and death.

1. There is joy when the virgin bears a son: Emmanuel!
a. There is joy when The Virgin’s Son comes as the God-promised sign: For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given! Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
b. There is joy when God is with us – Visible Words!
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices; for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born. O night divine, O night, O night divine.

2. There is joy when the love of God is made manifest among us
a. We are given joy as we see how God sent his Son into the world to save his people from
their sins. In the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, the Blessed Virgin Mary says, “when I was nursing my Son, he was endowed with such great beauty that whoever looked upon him was consoled and relieved of any sorrow he may have had in his heart. And so, many people said to one another, “Let us go to see Mary’s Son, that we may be consoled.”
b. We are given joy as we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, abide in God and love one another.
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we; let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever; His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

3. There is joy as we welcome and obey the Word of God
a. Joseph’s change of plans!
b. What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?
In closing, I offer you this Christmas prayer by Ian Oliver, who serves as pastor at Yale University Church.
On that holy night
It happened.

God took a handful of humanity:
Proud, petulant, passionate;
And a handful of divinity:
Undivided, inexpressible, incomprehensible:
And enclosed them in one small body.

Somehow, the all too human
Touched the divine,
And was not vaporized.
To be human was never the same,
But forever thereafter,
Carried a hint of its close encounter with the perfect.
And forever thereafter,
God was never the same,
But carried a hint of the passion of the mortal.

If God can lie down in a cattle-trough,
Is any object safe from transformation?
If peasant girls can be mothers to God,
Is any life safe from the invasion of the eternal?
If all this could happen, o God,
What places of darkness on our earth
Are pregnant with light waiting to be born this night?

If all this could happen, O God,
Then you could be, and are, anywhere, everywhere,
Waiting to be born this night in the most
Unbelievable places;
Perhaps even in our own hearts. Amen.