Summary: The Christmas story has all the elements of a worship service. God is there along with people who are coming to a special place of worship
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS WORSHIP SERVICE
When Neal Armstrong put his foot on the moon, someone from NASA said, “We should change the calendar and mark our dates from this moment.” In other words, that was more important than dating our calendars from when God walked on the earth. Looking at the first Christmas in Luke, it has all the elements of a worship service. It has:
Without God, there would be no service; no Bethlehem; no donkey for Mary to ride and no Mary. After his first year at college, a young man told his parents he had taken philosophy, and truly believed there was a God. The dad said, “We spent $5,000 for you to learn you are not a fool;” and quoted Psalm 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart--there is no God.” Hershel Hobbs said, “He said it in his heart; his head knew better.”
People who don’t believe in a God are like two fish swimming in the ocean, between here and Europe. One asks his buddy beside him, if he believes there is an Atlantic Ocean?” When his buddy said he did, he said, “I don’t. I’ve never seen the Atlantic Ocean. Show it to me and I will believe in it.” Acts 17:28 says, “In Him we live, and move and have our being.”
Churches remind us that GOD IS HERE. The place of worship was a barn in the little village of Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. We do not need a special place to worship God, but God knows it helps us. Every time God touched Abraham’s life he built an altar (Genesis 22, 26, etc.). In the forty years Israel lived in the burning desert with fierce tribes all around, God promised Moses He would travel with them, and Moses said, “Lord, if You don’t go with us, I don’t want to go”(Exodus 33:15).
God was with them every step of the way; and He made His presence known in a Tent (Tabernacle) He designed. It was set up in the center of the camp where the glory of His presence shined for all to see. When the glory came out and moved, the whole camp moved. When enemies attacked, the glory went between them and His people. God was saying, “To get to them, you have to come through Me”
Picture a little Israelite boy, in his tent getting ready to go to sleep. The night is pitch-black and he remembers the lights of the Amalakite campfires glowing in the hills. He asks his daddy if they want to come and kill us to take what we have. When his dad said yes, he said, “Daddy I’m scared.” The dad motions for him to come over; opens the flap of their tent; points to the glow in the middle of the camp and says, “Son, look who’s here.” (The darker the night, the brighter is the light of God’s presence.)
Churches remind us that God is here to help. In the shock wave of “911” people flooded into the churches, like they hadn’t done in years. It didn’t last long, but they came. When we see a church building, we are reminded that God will be “our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46: 1) if we ask Him.
Churches! Thank God for the sight of them,
The beauty, dreams and right of them.
That make us think, every time we look,
Of God and right and the Holy Book.
Churches also give us HOPE IN HORRIBLE TIMES. There is the hope of heaven. Steeples and crosses remind us of the hope of heaven. The Christmas story takes place in a terrible time. It has the bloody scene of baby boys in Bethlehem, being killed with Roman swords. This bothers me, but I find comfort in knowing those little boys and their families were the first people to suffer for Jesus and they are in heaven right now singing His praises. (And we all know where Herod is.)
In World War II, the Germans bombed England day and night. A Lutheran church took a direct hit and all that was left standing was the front of the building. All behind it was rubble. The Pastor stood in front, Bible opened, trying to comfort a small group of people. A man walking by said, “Put the Book up preacher. You preachers talk about hell; hell is right here. Look around you! This is hell.” The pastor said, sir, this isn’t hell. Here is a church and there are no churches in hell; here is a Bible and there are no Bibles in hell; and here is someone inviting you to come to Christ, and there is no one, who will do that in hell”.
Some find HOPELESSNESS in horrible times. They see things like the horrors of war; crimes against children; cancer wards; people dying of Covid-19; and lose their faith in God. In the 1950’s, guards in a prison at the Buford, Georgia rock quarry were so cruel, that a group of prisoners broke their own legs, to get the attention of outsiders. When the prison was investigated, they found written on one cell wall, “They ain’t no God.”