Sermon for Christmas Eve 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7                         Psalm 96                                              Titus 2:11-14                                       Luke 2:1-14

“The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; Those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined,” Isaiah says.  We all live in darkness at times in our lives.   And when we do, we need a light to show us the way.  Even the light of a single candle can relieve our anxiety.  It can orient us and make it possible to move forward.

In Matthew, we have the story of the wise men coming to see the Christ Child.  Matthew writes, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage (2:1-2).’”  The wise men from the East find Jesus by following the light of a star to where he is.

Yet, too much light can be disorienting and frightening.  We just heard the story from Luke of the angel appearing to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.  Luke writes, “An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”

The angel tells them not to be afraid, but I imagine that did little to put them at ease, especially when suddenly “a multiple of the heavenly host” appear saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”  It is not until the angels leave that the shepherds talk and decide to go “see this thing that has taken place.”

All three of these scriptures, from Isaiah, from Matthew, and from Luke use the image of light to represent God, Jesus, whom Isaiah says will be named, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The fact that light brings hope and fear is understandable.  Somethings look better in the dark – in fact, there are things that we don’t want to see and things we certainly don’t want others to see – parts in our lives that we would prefer to keep hidden.

Those of us who have secrets, who want to keep secrets, avoid shining a light on our past – or maybe even present activities.  We may do so because we are ashamed, or because we are afraid of being judged.  I’ve been told by police officers, “nothing good happens after midnight.  A book on evil noted that most of our sins occur at night and in dimly lit rooms.  Evil does not like to be exposed.

The author of that book, M. Scot Peck, talked about fighting evil by shining a light on it.  It is not my intent to talk about sin and fighting evil, but I do feel it is important to acknowledge that the light Christ offers can be frightening when it shows us what we don’t want to see about ourselves.

What is the purpose of this light each of these scriptures mention?  Is it to expose evil?  Remember what Isaiah says, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rest upon his shoulders; and he is named, ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE.’”

The answer is found in what, Jesus is called.   He is our counselor and the prince of peace, not our judge.  The light Jesus shines on our lives in not for us to examine our blemishes and focus our attention on our sins, it is to show us the way to peace and joy.  On this night, we celebrate his birth, his coming into this world, and his coming into our lives.  And, in just a few minutes we will remember his life, his teachings, his death, and his resurrection in the celebration of the Eucharist.

This is indeed a holy night, a night when we remember God coming into the world, just as we did, and living with us to show us the way.  Light not only makes it possible to follow the right path, it makes it possible for us to see the truth – and the truth is that God’s love knows no bounds for us.  Jesus willingly suffered on the cross, and not even death could contain his love.

With each new life comes hope. Tonight, we celebrate the new life that brings us hope AND offers us a new life.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, on this night we sing your praise for the gift of your Son.  Help us, we pray, to make space in our lives for his love to grow within us.  We also pray that his light might guide us to live our lives in truth and love.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.