Summary: A sermon preached for Christmas Eve Candlelight services in 2003, 2005, and 2006 at Forest City LCMS Mission, Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, and North Prairie Lutheran Church.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. "Characters & Images of Christmas" Luke 2:1-20
Tonight’s the night! The last few weeks, during the season of Advent, we’ve heard a lot about preparation, and the time leading up to Christmas is indeed a time of preparation. That’s really the theme of Advent, preparing for the coming of the promised savior. I think for those of you who worship here regularly, and heard me preach during Advent, you are probably ready to start throwing stuff at me or asking for a new preacher for Christmas if you hear me preach one more sermon about preparation for a while. But, as if you couldn’t tell by the decorations, the hymns we’ve sung, the music you’re hearing on the radio this time of the year, the lights all around town and out in the country, we’ve finally come to the night were the countdown is over, and we lit all 4 candles on the Advent wreath and tonight, the Christ candle in the center is lit, telling us Christmas is here! Christ is born! That’s plenty reason to celebrate! So now that the time of preparation is over, let me ask you. How did your preparations for Christmas go this year? Did your parties come off as you planned them? Did you get all your shopping done and your Christmas gifts wrapped? Did you get all your Christmas cards made out and sent in the mail? Did you get your decorating done, the Christmas goodies baked, or your lights hung? Are you ready for the Christmas dinners, family gatherings, and all the special traditions that make Christmas what it is in your homes and your lives? I don’t think there is another time of the year that gets so much hype, so much preparation, so much fuss made over it, so much stress involved, than Christmas. (Unless you’re a pastor, then maybe you might want to say the Lent/Easter time of the year is pretty stressful too, but enough of trying to win a sympathy vote for myself and back to the task at hand.) This time of the year brings a lot of demands on our time, on our finances, and retailers bombard us with the latest lists of popular gifts that we absolutely must get for those special people in our lives this year. So, in all this, let me ask you this question, where in all of your Christmas preparations, and celebration, is Christ?
I thought originally giving my sermon tonight the title “the Images of Christmas”. Christmas is very much, at least in our society, about images. We really have to fight to keep Christ in Christmas anymore. When I mention Christmas, no matter what time of the year, it seems we think of Christmas trees, presents, Christmas light displays, warm fuzzy Christmas carols, Christmas parties, Christmas goodies, Christmas cards, you name it. I was even frustrated with the Hallmark Christian Card Studio CD-ROM I have at home when I sat down to make bulletin covers for tonight’s service late last week. Would you believe the image I chose and that appears on your bulletin covers was the only one related to Christ and Christmas on the entire CD? Even this image has the Christ child and Mary and Joseph as a background image, and not the main focus of the artwork. It seems we tend to leave Christ out of the picture entirely, or just think of the baby in the manger as a cute little tradition anymore. The world wants us to do that, because in having to speak of a savior, it speaks of our need for a savior, and that takes away the world’s ideas of joy at Christmas. To the world, Christmas is about joy, peace, and goodwill to each other. Talking about this sin stuff doesn’t fit in with that, so the world has some characters and images of its own to get us to lose focus on what Christmas is all about. Tonight, I’d like to look at some of these images and preparations that we’ve made for Christmas as we explore the Christmas story I read moments ago.