Summary: I’m really glad you came, Lord Jesus.
Some months ago Carrie Williams called and asked me to visit a neighbor she was close to, now living in a nursing home and having some health problems. The
neighbor had attended our church a few times in years past but I could not remember who she was. I told Carrie the next time I was on the West side I would stop in and see her. A week or two later I found the nursing home, went to the neighbor’s room, and found it empty only to find out she had been taken to Fairview Hospital down the road. So I drove to the hospital, was given her room number, and when I entered we immediately recognized each other. She took my hand, her face lit up, and she said: “I’m really glad to see you!”
There was no hesitation or doubt, no holding back or reserve, but through her voice and mannerisms came an outpouring of thanks and joy. It’s not often we are that glad to see someone, especially a minister.
The visit made me think afterwards- when have I been that happy to see someone? On the TV news we see such gladness when a son comes home from Iraq on leave and is reunited with his family; or a dear friend or family member living a long way off surprises us with an unexpected visit during the holidays; suddenly in our heart is that feeling of overwhelming joy that says: “I’m really glad you came.”
Christmas Eve is a celebration of that joy coming this time from the arrival not of a friend or family member, but the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. You heard it again expressed in the reading tonight:
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen as it had been told to them.”
The angel had appeared with the good news; they went immediately to Bethlehem- it says with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and sure enough the babe lying in a manger. They knew then without any question that God’s Son had come, the Messiah, -- the world would never be the same again- hope was born anew, salvation had come as
promised by the prophets of old; God is in our very midst in flesh and blood. Mary was to ponder it all in her heart; but the shepherds overwhelmed by the message and the music of the heavenly host and face to face with the arrival of Jesus couldn’t contain
their excitement and joy—I’m really glad to see you; and I’m telling everyone.
There were others too just as happy and excited. They are talked about in the same chapter. One was Simeon described as a righteous and devout man-looking for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him. There he was in the temple doing his daily priestly duties having waited for years and years for the moment that was about to greet him when Mary and Joseph came into the Temple with the child Jesus. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon. took the baby Jesus into his arms saying:
Lord now let your servant depart in peace according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation whom You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.
Like the shepherds Simeon knew by the power of the Holy Spirit of God in his life that
the Savior of the World had come and in his heart of hearts far greater than the message he spoke was the feeling of gladness- I’m really glad to see you.
In the following verse, we are told about the prophetess, Anna, 84 years old, who did not depart from the Temple, worshipping God with fasting and prayer night and day. And seeing the baby Jesus, she gave thanks to God and spoke of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Of course, there were those who were not glad at all that a heavenly King had come. We know about jealous Herod and how he tried to trick the wisemen into telling him where this new king was to be born—giving orders to kill all the newborn boys in the region. And later on when Jesus was grown and fulfilled His divine mission, it was the high priest and the Sanhedrin council that was to condemn Jesus to death.
Such extreme reactions – one great joy, the other great hatred—can cause us to consider where do we stand this special night in regards to Jesus who has come and is coming again. So many people today don’t want to be seen as intolerant or narrow-minded;