Merry Christmas my friends!
I hope to see you tonight as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.
Our 4 p.m. service will include favorite Christmas Carols, special music, and a skit that is sure to delight the young and old.
At 7 and 9 p.m. we will gather for a Candlelight Christmas Celebration that will end with Holy Communion and a sanctuary illuminated by 300 candles as we sing Silent Night.
I will be there; I hope to see you too. The first Christmas 2,000 years ago took place just a few miles from the holy city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the home of the most magnificent Temple in the world. Religious people lived close to the Temple and pilgrims travelled great distances to offer sacrifices and prayer there.
The first Christmas — who was there? A pregnant teenager arrived on the back of a donkey, accompanied by a small-town blue-collar man from Nazareth. An unwed mother and a carpenter, unlikely participants in salvation history.
Who was there? The innkeeper’s wife would help with the birth, she remains nameless like so many of the quiet but faithful servants of history.
Who was there? The bright stars of heaven, the cows and chickens of the stable were there.
Who was there? Shepherds and sheep. Shepherds were mostly poor, unclean, not valued members of society. They kept watch over other people’s sheep, living in the hills above Bethlehem, detached from everyday life in the village. Angels were there. Mysterious, heavenly beings who had been asked to deliver the birth announcement.
Who was there? Arab stargazers, unclean foreigners who worshiped strange gods and ate strange food, they traveled at great risk as they crossed the desert following a star to a stable in Bethlehem.
The guest list was a little odd on that first Christmas. It was a most remarkable and diverse group who celebrated with Mary and Joseph while welcoming the baby Jesus to the world. Even more remarkable is the fact that there was not a religious person present on that starry, starry night. Were they busy, not invited, or simply blinded by religious practice and traditions that kept Jesus hidden from them? As his life unfolded, the story would not change much.
On this Christmas Eve I want to encourage you to follow Jesus. Resist the temptation of becoming a grumpy, religious person and share the joy of Christmas with every foreigner, cow, chicken, immigrant, stranger, and friend. Don’t miss the party, let the joy of Christmas inform your life every day of the year.