Summary: The baby Christ overturned any expectations the world could have about how God works in His creation.
It’s great to be here with you tonight. Christmas Eve has always been one of my favorite nights of the year … and all the more as it’s become a night in which I get to share it with the “extended family” that come and gather together in this service.
It’s a particularly provocative time to celebrate the coming of Christ into this world. For in 7 days we will enter the year 2000… a date based on calculating his birth. While that may be off a few years, it is no less amazing that the one whose birth we celebrate still fills this world with wonder.
No other figure has entered our world that defines and divides human history as Christ has.
As the recent cover story of Time magazine says…
“It would require much exotic calculation to deny that the single most powerful figure – not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history – has been Jesus of Nazareth.” (Time, Dec. 6, 1999)
> And so tonight, over a billion people, from every continent, will stop at the wonder of the birth of the Jesus… called Emanuel… which means “God with us.”
When Isaiah the prophet of God wrote down these words he was given,
“...the Lord … will give you a sign (of the Messiah who will save you).. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Could Isaiah have imagined how enduring and extensive the reality of “God with us” would become?
That 2000 years later human hearts would still need to hear the good news…. As gather in a season marked by our desire to be connected… longings we may fill only in part by gathering with family… or may feel even more deeply when we can’t.
Could Joseph have imagined what all this meant? He must have wondered.
This name “Emanuel, God with us,” wasn’t written within a Christmas card with sentimental greetings. It didn’t come with soft pictures but in the stark reality of human life.
As he reflected upon the reality behind the name “Immanuel”… God with us, there is so much he must have wondered about. He must have wondered about….
Bethlehem… the most unlikely CITY…. the last place. Rome, Ephesus, Alexandria. It was “nowhere” . Most people left this little lost town to go somewhere. Shouldn’t surprise us that there was no room at the only Inn in town that night…. because when the census the Gospels refer to demanded that everyone return to their hometowns …. Bethlehem had a lot of “get out of this nowhere town” returnees.
Why such a city? What was God trying to communicate?
> That because it was a city so common, no city could be forgotten or far from God.
- No one would ever have to think their city was too little or too lost for God.
..After all, this was Emanuel, God with us.
But what of the PLACE… a barn. Joseph must have wondered.
Nativity scenes today, with their European influence, don’t depict just how dark and cold this place really was. Many suggest it was actually a small cave.. one of many insets into the hillside that allowed a little protection for the animals. The trough simply an indentation carved out in the rock for the animals to eat out of. It was stone cold and saliva stained.