Sycamore Creek Church
Christmas Eve, 2012
Merry Christmas Eve Friends!
Tonight we’re going to walk through four different classic Christmas carols and unpack them and explore them to help you hear them and the Christmas story in a way you’ve never heard before. We begin with the carol, O Holy Night.
O Holy Night
There’s a beautiful couple of lines in this carol:
The thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks,
The new and glorious morn.
Here’s the problem about Christmas. You’re supposed to be celebrating and cheerful, but really you’re just weary and tired. We are a weary world. Several weeks ago I invited those in our worship service to write on paper snowflakes what is causing them weariness. I looked over the snowflakes later and read about hurt families, no money, no friends, no job.
We’re a weary people, but you’re not alone. The Bible tells many stories of people seeking God amidst great weariness. One such book in the Bible is the book of Lamentations. Tradition says that the prophet Jeremiah wrote it after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah and many others were carted off in exile to Babylon. He writes:
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19-23 NRSV
Christmas is a new morning. It is a new beginning in the midst of the weariness that you feel. When you give your entire life to Jesus in adoration, you experience that new morning and it brings with it three things:
1. Exactly what you need.
2. The hope to keep going.
3. The help you’re waiting for.
This is the Holy Night before the new morning of hope in Jesus. Here’s a moment to contemplate those truths through the song, O Holy Night:
O Come All Ye Faithful
I’m guessing that when we think of the carol, O Come All Ye Faithful, that some of us, maybe even most of us don’t feel very faithful. In fact, the rest of that line includes the joyful, and triumphant and I know that many of us don’t feel very joyful or triumphant right now. Here’s the good news. Jesus doesn’t call the faithful, joyful, and triumphant. So who does Jesus call?
First, Jesus calls the sinners.
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:12-13 NIV
Second, Jesus calls the weary and burdened.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NIV
So maybe we should rework the carol to sing: O come all ye sinners, weak and overburdened! If that’s who Jesus calls to follow him, why do we feel like we have to have our lives all together to belong to a church? If you’re a guest here tonight at Christmas Eve, I want you to know that we try to be a curious, creative, and compassionate community. We’re curious about God – your questions are welcome. You don’t have to have all this God stuff figured out to belong here. We’re creative in all we do – we imagine, experiment, and make things happen. That means that we’re not going to get everything right all the time. And we’re compassionate to everyone – no matter who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, when you come here you’ll experience God’s compassion. You don’t have to have your life all together to belong here, because Jesus doesn’t call the have-it-all-togethers to follow him.
And yet Jesus does help us become more faithful, joyful, & triumphant.
Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. His Spirit gives us joy which is different than happiness. Happiness has to do with what happens while joy has to do with Jesus. And the prophet Isaiah tells us that Jesus will triumph:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV
Prince of Peace.
That’s not the kind of triumph like a great general on the battle field, but it’s the kind of triumph that reconciles broken relationships, binds up wounded hearts, convicts of sinful attitudes, and gives strength to love one’s enemies. Jesus calls the sick and sinful, the weary and overburdened, that is all of us, and helps us become faithful, joyful and triumphant. Contemplate those truths through the song: O Come All Ye Faithful.
Away in a Manger
Away in a manger,
No crib for his bed,
The little Lord Jesus,
Lay down his sweet head.
I want to zero in on that phrase: little Lord Jesus. What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord? When the shepherds were visited by angels this is what the angels said:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 NIV
Lord means controller, supreme authority. Is the little Lord Jesus Lord of a little of your life or all of your life? We say “little”, and I think at times that means to us that he is Lord of only a little of our lives. You can surrender partially or fully. Here’s what the partially surrendered life looks like from a verse in the partially surrendered Bible:
Trust in the Lord with some of your heart, lean on your own understanding, in some of your ways, acknowledge him, and you can make your own paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 PSV (Partially Surrendered Version)
But that’s not what it means to call him Lord. Lord means he’s Lord’s of all of your life. Here’s what the fully surrendered life looks like:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge [yada] him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
When we say that Jesus is “little” it means that he does not coerce you into receiving him as Lord. He gives you the wonderful and terrible freedom to choose to receive his love and his lordship or to reject it. Actually, he already is Lord of everything. This is just a matter of you acknowledging it and living into it and then beginning to live like you mean it. So, is the little Lord Jesus Lord of a little of your life or all of your life? Contemplate that question through the song, Away in a Manger.
O come, o come, Emmanuel.
An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and says to him about Mary, his fiancée:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23
Emmanuel means God with us. Here’s the point of Christmas: God is, was, and will be with you!
Have you ever prayed, “God be with so and so.” The truth is that God is already with so and so. The trick is realizing it. God is with you. If you are alone, God is with you as your companion. If you are sick, God is with you healing you. If you are lost, God is with you as your guide. If you are hurt, God is with you as your hope. If you are weak, God is with you as your strength. If you are sinning, well, God is with you as your conviction and as your savior.
Which brings us to an interesting point. Sometimes God being with us means that God convicts us. Sometimes the comfort comes only after the surgery. As our doctor said to us while Sarah was giving birth, “I love you, and I have to hurt you.” And yet in each of these ways God is with you right now.
God was with you. Sometimes it is only clear how God was with you in hindsight. In the midst of the struggle it sometimes feels like God has abandoned you. You don’t get those tingles any more. You don’t get those warm feelings. Sometimes we get attached even addicted to the feeling of God’s love and God removes that feeling so we’re not loving the feeling of loving God but actually loving God. All this become clear only in hindsight.
God will be with you. What did Mary have yet to go through? Conception – God will be with her. Joseph’s acceptance – God will be with her. Her son getting lost in the temple – God will be with her. Her son leaving a perfectly good family carpentry business and going off to become a wandering homeless preacher – God will be with her. Her son’s unjust trial and execution – God will be with her. Day 1 in the grave – God will be with her. Day 2 in the grave – God will be with her. Day 3 resurrection – God will be with her.
What is in store for you this year? Graduation? Marriage? A child? Divorce? A new job? A lost job? Death of a loved one? God will be with you. Can any of these things separate you from God’s love? No!
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
So God is, was, and will be with you. There’s no question about that. The question is: are you with God? Here’s what it means to be with God. It’s like a wedding ring. I hunted around our families and found several rings that Sarah and I then used to create her engagement ring and our wedding bands. Even though those rings were of great cost to someone else, they didn’t cost us anything. And yet when we received them, they cost us everything, our entire lives. That’s what it means to be with God. So are you with God?
Contemplate that question through the song, Emmanuel.Share on Facebook