Summary: A Christmas Eve Communion meditation. We all have within us a deep hunger, but we won't find what we're looking for at the mall, or under the tree, or in Santa's sack. The only place we can find our hunger truly satisfied is at the manger, the feeding tro
How many of you have seen the movie Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase? The movie has become a holiday favorite. It’s a parody about the false expectations that we often build up around the traditional family Christmas experience. Many of us can probably identify with the character Clark Griswold, who does everything within his control to give his family the gift of a “perfect” Christmas.
The movie starts with Clark taking his family into the wilderness in search of the “perfect Christmas tree.” After a road rage accident, that ends with the family station wagon crashing into a snow bank, the Griswolds set off into the wilderness on foot. After a long march in the snow, Clark finds the perfect tree, only to realize that he forgot to bring a saw. From wrestling with strands of Christmas lights that don’t work, to suffering extended visits from difficult relatives, the Griswolds continue to face experiences that cause many to think: “Been there, done that.”
How many of you have had the yuletide experience of trying to assemble a bicycle at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning, only to learn that you probably should have paid the assembly fee?Like Clark, our intentions to plan a “good, old-fashioned family Christmas” may not always live up to what the consumer-focused marketing companies have made it out to be. And then, after weeks of preparation, all for the purpose of creating one perfect day in an imperfect year, someone probably will be upset because they didn’t get the present they wanted, a toy is already broken, Grandpa drank too much, and Grandma got run over by a reindeer!
We want everything to be perfect at Christmas, don’t we? We want everyone to love their gifts, to have their fill of food. We want to create the most wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. But here’s the thing about our “typical” Christmas celebrations; the joy they bring is relatively shallow, it’s only temporary, and it’s all but forgotten within a few weeks’ time.
Each of us has within us a longing for something great, something to bring us overwhelming joy, something to satisfy our greatest hopes and deepest longings. Yet, I am certain that there is nothing you or your family members will open on Christmas morning that will satisfy the deepest desires of your hearts. That’s why we are gathered here tonight, though, isn’t it? We know there is more to Christmas than just giving and receiving gifts. We know that in the birth of that Christ child, there came an answer to our deepest prayers. And so we celebrate. But what is it, exactly, that we celebrate? Who is it?
We heard just a few moments ago Luke’s telling of the Christmas story. Immediately following the birth of Jesus, an angel appears not too far away from Bethlehem in the midst of some shepherds. Now, we need to keep in mind that the word translated as “angel” here means messenger. It’s very likely that, as in other angelic appearances in the Bible, this angel looked just like any other person; no wings or halo, just a messenger bringing some noteworthy news from Bethlehem. When we consider that, it’s no wonder the shepherds were afraid. How would you feel if you were approached by the stranger in the middle of the night? But that’s the way angels work sometimes, isn’t it? Strangers who appear at the most unexpected time, but just when we need them the most.
So this angel, sensing the fear of the shepherds, tells them not to be afraid, just as Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. Then the messenger proceeds to explain what has just happened in the little town of Bethlehem. The messenger says, “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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Just a few moments after Christ is born, we have the first gospel proclamation! This angel tells this shepherds that if they go to Bethlehem, they will find there a baby who is Savior, Christ, and Lord!
Indeed, there is in Christmas an answer to the great longings of our hearts because the one whose birth we celebrate is Savior, Christ, and Lord! Caesar called himself savior and lord. Herod called himself the christ. When the angel told the shepherds about the baby in the manger, they were probably expecting to find an heroic king. But how many caesars have brought true salvation? What Herod ever transformed lives or offered life in the kingdom of God? No, Jesus was not a heroic king like Caesar or Herod. He did not come with military might, just an invitation to follow him. He did not build an army or levy taxes; he had only one command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” And in the end, this King laid down his life for his subjects, so that they might have life abundant.