Monday, December 24, 2018
And the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
Is there any night more beautiful than Christmas Eve? Boys and girls are waiting expectantly on a visit from St. Nick. We adults love the joy we see in their eyes. Which give us our own kind of joy. Those who are parents love giving their children nice things. That’s when we truly learn that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. And most of us remember the joy we felt as children at Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Even more important is the knowledge that as the songwriter wrote, “Love came down at Christmas.” This is the true meaning of Christmas. The God whose nature and whose name is Love came into our world to redeem us from the powers of sin and death. Joy to the world the Lord is come!
I would like to begin our meditation for this Christmas Eve with a strange little story of a boy who tried to sabotage a nativity pageant. Can you imagine that? Who would want to spoil a nativity pageant?
It seems that eleven-year-old Erwin was bitterly disappointed at not being cast as Joseph in the school Nativity play. He was given the minor role of the innkeeper instead. This wasn’t what he wanted and throughout the weeks of rehearsal he brooded on how he could wreak avenge on the classmate who was chosen for the part that he so wanted.
When the day of the big performance came, Erwin was prepared. Joseph and Mary made their entrance and knocked on the door of the inn. Erwin, the innkeeper, opened it a fraction and eyed them coldly. Can you give us board and lodging for the night? Joseph pleaded. Joseph, of course, expected the innkeeper to follow the script and answer gruffly that he had no room for them in the inn. Instead young Erwin grandly flung the door wide open, beamed genially and announced, come in, come in. You shall have the best room in the hotel.
There was a pause. The young man playing Joseph didn’t expected this and didn’t know exactly what to do. But then, young Joseph turned to Mary and said, Hold on. I’ll take a look inside first. He peered past the innkeeper, shook his head firmly and announced sharply, I’m not taking my wife into a place like this. Come on, Mary, we’ll sleep in the stable. And the plot was back on course.
Well, as you and I know, that’s not exactly how the story of the first Christmas unfolded. In the original there was no room in the inn. Mary and Joseph had no choice but to sleep in a stable.
It wasn’t by choice but by necessity that Mary and Joseph’s baby was born in such lowly circumstances. For you see, that was the plan of God.
The holy couple wasn’t among the cultural elite of their time. They couldn’t have afforded a room at the Hilton even if it had been available. They were strangers with few resources at their disposal.
In Luke’s story, the first visitors were shepherds. The guardians to a bunch of smelly sheep. I doubt that any special training was required, just some common sense and a degree of courage. Only God would have so glorified such a lowly occupation by having them present for this, the holiest of events.
What a night it must have been for those lowly shepherds. How they marveled at the host of angels spread across the sky and the angels’ message of peace on earth and good will to all people. Can’t you imagine one of them later sitting in a crowd of people who are world travelers?
One man boasts, I have seen the pyramids of Egypt. Another says, I saw Caesar ride through the streets of Rome in all his splendor. I wonder if that humble shepherd would dare speak up and say, I beheld the King of Kings, the mighty God Incarnate, Savior of the World, in the manger of Bethlehem.
That’s the way God works. He takes the lowliest of people and glorifies them. In so doing God teaches us that we should never look down on any other human being. Everyone IS beautiful in his or her own way. Even the humblest of lives can be touched with the divine hand. You never know when the person you shut out might be one person you most would want to know. Learn a lesson from the innkeeper at that first nativity. Be careful whom you turn away from your door. Be careful whom you snub at school, or at work, or in your neighborhood.
Christmas teaches us that God’s love is available to all people. This is the light that shines through all the ages, the light of God’s love. This is the light that shown brightest that first Christmas.
How encouraging this truth is to the people of the world. We sometimes forget how privileged we are. The Scriptures teach us that when we reach out to one of the least of these, we’re reaching out to Christ. The Christmas story teaches us that even the lowliest of persons has a place in His kingdom.
The youth group at a certain church was performing a manger scene. Joseph and Mary and all the other characters were in place and ready. They did their parts with seriousness and commitment, looking as pious as they possibly could. And then it came time for the shepherds to enter.
Dressed in flannel bathrobes and toweled head gear, the shepherds proceeded to the altar steps where Mary and Joseph looked earnestly at the straw which contained a single naked light bulb that was playing the part of the glowing newborn Jesus.
Then came an unexpected twist to the play: With his back to the congregation, one of the shepherds said to the person playing Joseph, in a very loud whisper for all the cast to hear, well, Joe, when you gonna pass out cigars?
The solemn spell of that occasion was broken by this simple remark: The cast particularly exploded. It became impossible for them to hold back the bursts of laughter.
The chief angel, standing on a chair behind Mary and Joseph was the worst of all. She shook so hard in laughter that she fell off her chair and took the curtained back drop and all the rest of the props down with her. She just kept rolling around on the floor holding her stomach because she was laughing so hard. The whole set was in shambles. The scene turned into utter chaos.
But do you know what? The only thing that didn't go to pieces that night was the light bulb in the manger. It never stopped shining. And that, of course, is the ultimate meaning of Christmas. God’s light never stops shining, the light of God’s love for all people, no matter who we may be or what we have done.
It is the essential meaning of this sacred night. Through the babe of Bethlehem God has made Himself available to us all. We no longer have to worship God from a distance. He’s available to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
The song I Wonder as I Wander contains the joy and wonder of Christmas. It was introduced just before the beginning of World War II. The author has never been found, but it delivers a message of the wonder of Christ’s birth. The words of this song go like this:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor on’ry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.
If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause He was the King.
He is the King. He is our King. Even the humblest place and the humblest people take on a new significance when touched by the hand of God. He is available to us. But not if we stand at a distance and merely tip our hats. We must welcome His Spirit into our lives. He must become part of our very being.
Have you taken that step in your life? If you would take it this evening, welcome the Savior into your life, you’ll never forget Christmas Eve 2018. It will be the definitive moment in your life. Let the light of Christ shine in your life.