Intro…I’d like to begin with a confession tonight; an introduction in the tradition of a 12 step meeting; and those who know something of such meetings can help me out with your response. “My name is Brad and I’m a Christmas lover.”
I feel welcomed! And I do truly love Christmas. As I get older, it seems fewer things in life really capture my imagination the way they did in childhood. Certainly many things invite a significant level of interest but not with the sense of wonder and hope I knew as a child. Yet something begins to stir in my soul about this time every year. I can almost feel it in the wind at night. It speaks of something that has come to settle all of time…something defiantly invading and distinctly intimate. It is of course the timeless coming of Christ we call Christmas. Something about Christmas never looses its wonder. The social and secular activities may be exhausting but what lies at the core of this celebration excites my imagination no less than when first encountered. The Eternal becoming so timely, so tangible, so “touchy”. Did He have to begin in a womb like you and I? Was it essential that He share in the social functions of both the prestigious and the plain? Was it so important that He talk with a Samaritan woman about her hunger to be loved? Did he have to touch a leper?
There is a peace…a sense that for one night at least, everything is as it should be. A blessing has been bestowed on earth…peace…value…generosity…children…hope. Those sentiments are alive all over the world tonight, as millions celebrate. I wonder how we feel about these sentiments…Deep in our souls do we embrace them as just good feelings but wonder deep down if they can withstand reality? Do we wonder if they are a wishful warmth that must fade when the Christmas season is over?
> Tonight I believe God wants us to know that CHRISTMAS IS THE REAL THING…that it’s the Christmas in this world, not the cynicism that reveals the fullness of reality. The Apostle
John…who was a part of those who first encountered the child that was born in the stable offers the big picture of what was at hand…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. … In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
…  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. … Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John 1:1-2, 4-5, 10, 12-14, 18
John’s offers nothing naïve…he sees the darkness…but he sees what is equally true…darkness has be enlightened. The Word of God became flesh. It was a great day in our history when a man first walked on the moon. But John reminds us that a far greater event took place when God walked on the earth. For in it…WE SEE THE REAL THING.
John’s words capture the deeper storyline; He provides the cosmic treatment which can be laid upon the events of that timeless night.
“WORD” of God
He was preexistent…always and fully God…What has been revealed is not the exception, but the essence of God.
“Word” in Hebrew culture is not simply a powerless object in print. The Word is the very agent of creation.
Gen 1- The Lord spoke and it came into being.
Ps. 33:6 “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made.”
> So it is, just as God’s Word established the reality of creation…so again the reality of himself in the flesh is a recreating as real as creation itself.
Though our world may reflect the darkness and digression of a world gone wrong…THIS WORD IS A REVELATION OF THE REAL THING. The Word of God…entered a silent night
…yet spoke volumes and still speaks volumes.
This word was spoken in the midst of simplicity and silence…perhaps because our questions are deeper within… because God was and is speaking to the quiet places of our souls…like the pauses of the poet…he uses the quiet backdrop so that we might hear.
Christmas, John makes clear, isn’t simply about God’s visit… but God’s view. It’s the night God put the world into perspective. In the coming of Christ our sentiments are not only given place…they are filled with substance…with reality. It’s the wonderful night to end our deepest wondering. It’s the night that while the world slept, everything changed.
At Christmas, DO WE SENSE THAT OUR WORLD IS NOT FULLY LOST AND LEFT ABANDONED…DO WE SENSE THE PRESENCE OF ANOTHER SPIRIT IN OUR MIDST? A HOPE?
> John declares the reality…GOD IS WITH US. In Jesus, our planet is filled with God’s purpose and penetrating presence. Our tiny planet mattes to God….It’s filled with His purpose …as the power of God’s Spirit continues the ministry of Christ continues to fulfill that purpose. “Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men” is not just a good Christmas card…not merely a slogan or sentiment…it has substance…reality…for God blessed the earth. GOD WITH US.
At Christmas, DO WE SENSE OUR LIVES ARE GIVEN MEANING…THAT WE RISE TO A SENSE IN OURSELVES AND SEE IN OTHERS A GREATER VALUE?
> John declares the reality…GOD VALUES US. In Jesus, God reveals the reality of human dignity…a worth beyond our merits. Not the super powers…nor to those who did “power lunches” but a small nation…a peculiar people…a displaced couple…shepherds. IN JESUS GOD DECLARES DIGNITY UPON THE OVERWORKED, OUT OF WORK… to the CEO and those vulnerable to finding merit…homeless…helpless.
“The story is told in Eastern lands of the great Shah Abbas, who delighted in mingling in disguise with the common folk of his realm. “Once, dressed in wretched rags, he descended to the lowest level of the palace, where one of his humblest servants sat tending the furnace. Each enjoyed the other’s company, and by and by the furnace tender shared his lunch of black bread and water with his companion. This led to many other visits, and a deepening friendship, though the servant had no idea of his new friend’s identity. “At last, the shah revealed his identity and waited, ready to grant whatever petition the servant might make. But the other sat silent, gazing on him with love and wonder haven’t you understood?” asked the shah. “I can make you rich and famous. I can give you a city. I can appoint you as a great ruler. Have you nothing to ask?” “Yes, my lord, I understand,” the furnace tender replied. “But what is this you have done, to leave your glorious surroundings, to sit with me in this dark place, to partake of my coarse fare, others you may bestow rich presents, but to me you have given yourself. It only remains to ask that you never withdraw this gift of your friendship.” (Pulpit Helps, Oct. 1994. Page 12.)
AT CHRISTMAS, DO WE SENSE A SPECIAL PLACE FOR CHILDREN? THAT THE DISPOSITION OF A CHILD IS A GIFT…THAT WE ALL FEEL…OR WANT TO FEEL MORE CHILDLIKE?
> John declares the reality. GOD WANTS US AS HIS CHILDREN. Ever want to be a child again …unburdened…able to be dependent on someone bigger? God says great!…that’s the kind of love he has for us.
Stephen Covey tells the story of a friend whose son developed an avid interest in baseball. As he describes, “My friend wasn’t interested in baseball at all. But one summer, he took his son to see every major league team play one game. The trip took over six weeks and cost a great deal of money, but it became a powerful bonding experience in their relationship. My friend was asked on his return, “Do you like baseball that much?” “No,” he replied, “but I like my son that much.”
So it is that Christmas reveals the reality of a Fathers Love at the heart of the universe.
…Is. 9:6 “Everlasting Father”
At Christmas, DO WE NOT SENSE WE CAN SEE MORE CLEARLY IN A DARK WORLD…THAT THERE”S A LIGHT WITHIN THE DARKNESS?
> John declares God’s reality: GOD HAS COME TO GUIDE US through the light of Christ, for “IN HIM WAS LIFE…LIGHT OF MEN.
C.S. Lewis- “I believe in Christ as I believe in the sun. For I not only see it, but by it I see everything else.”
The reality of light and darkness is one of contrast…there is a choice between the two…our choice. Christmas is a choice… for embracing reality… embracing light in the midst of darkness.
Closing story: Ann along with her two small sons, went to live with her parents in Texas for the duration of World War II, while her Air Force husband was busy in Europe. It was Christmas time and mother and grandparents were making great plans for the boys. The tree was up and decorated. Gifts were bought and hidden away. The excitement, the gaiety, the beauty of the season seemed to push the sorrows and separation of war aside for a time. But only for a time, for just a week before Christmas Day, word came that Daddy would not only be away for this Christmas, but for all the Christmases that were to come…he had been killed in action. Ann went away to her room and closed the door. Grandpa and Grandma talked quietly and wondered. Finally they decided to set the tree out and take down the decorations. Since sorrow had replace their joy. Ann came out of her room after a while and saw th empy space where the tree had been. “Why, Mother?” she questioned. “What have you done with the tree” “Daddy and I set it out. It seemed out of place with you so broken-hearted.” “Oh, but Mother, let’s bring it back in. Christmas was made for such times as these!” “There is a darkness in the earth this Christmas. Deep, thick, black, darkness that would destroy all that is bright and beautiful if given full release. But the light that blazed forth from Bethlehem still shines from the lives of those who believe everywhere, and the only thing that can put it out is rejection. Surely, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness! Shall we keep Christmas this year? Yes, we must keep Christmas this year, for Christ was born for such times as these. (A story told by Jessie Scaggs, submitted by Sany Wylie.)