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JESUS CHRIST OUR ETERNAL GIFT OF LOVE

A CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE AND SERMON
ORIGINALLY CELEBRATED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

24 DECEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 28:12
Isaiah 7:14
        9:6-7
        11:9
Luke 2:8-14
John 6:51
Hebrews 13:1-3

Hymn: Angels, from the Realms of Glory

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-14

8. And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;

11. for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12. "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."

13. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14. "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Introit: The Angel's Song

Homily:

Today, most people unfortunately consider angels to be in the same category as the characters in a fairy tale; but angels are real.

Angels are God's messengers, and according to the Bible, they are quite often around us.

Both Joseph and John tell us of their vision of the angels of God ascending and descending; and what they are saying is that the angels are here.

They take our prayers and ascend into heaven, and then descend back to earth with God's answer for us.

And in this season, when we speak most often of the love of God, we should remember what Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:1-3 about angels and our caring for people.

1. Let love of the brethren continue.

2. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

3. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

We may never know whether or not a stranger is an angel, but they all bring us the same message: that we are to love God, love each other, and love the rest of His creation; and most of all, that we are to put our complete faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For through the voices of His angels, He is calling all of us to come to Him.

Hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Homily:

The birth of Jesus Christ is not just an event which occurred 2,000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.

The birth of Jesus Christ is an ongoing occurrence.

Whenever someone believes in the Lord Jesus, and commits their life to Him, He is born in their heart.

And then we have what might be considered a twin birth; for we, too, are born again in a spiritual way that leads us to heaven, and it will, if we accept His gift.

There wasn't any room for Jesus to be born in the inn; thus, He was born outside in the stable.

But each of us can make room for Jesus to be born in our heart; that is, if we want to.

He doesn't have to be born somewhere else.

He wants to be born in each of us.

He wants to give each and every one of us the same love and compassion He that we see expressed in our Bibles.

He wants us to become the peacemaking children of God, who can free this world from its present corruption.

So often we look at ourselves and our troubles and our problems and the mess inside of us, and we feel too embarrassed to let the Lord see what is in us; or we don't know how to make room for Him.

But God sees us inside, as if we were made of clear glass, and He knows all about our troubles and problems and loneliness. He'll even come in and help us clean up the mess, if we're willing to make room for His Son.

Take a moment in silence, and ask God to help you clean up those things in your life that aren't quite right, for all of us need to do this.

Ask Him to help you make room for Jesus in your life, and to fill you with His love; a love that is so great, that it will let us forgive others, no matter what they did to us, just as the Lord forgives us.

And finally, ask Him to forgive you for doing those things that, unfortunately, we all do against His will; but let each of us pray for our own cleansing.

Take a moment....

Confession and Assurance:

Pastoral Prayer:

Junior Choir: Away in a Manger

Homily:

We don't know who wrote the first two verses of this hymn: Away in a Manger.

Do you think that perhaps it could have been an angel?

And have you ever considered these words?

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

Because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn, Jesus was born in a stable.

And after He was born, they wrapped Him in clothing to keep Him warm; and since there was no crib, they laid Him upon some hay in a feeding trough for the animals.

From the beginning of His life as a man, Jesus always lived a humble life, and His birth in this stable shows us just how much our God loves us: That He let His only begotten Son be born like this so that we would find it easier to relate to Him.

And at the same time, He honored the animals that were in the stable that we also would honor and protect them, and no longer exploit them.

There is also some very important spiritual symbolism here.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” and in this house of bread, He was laid in a place used to feed animals.

In John 6:51, Jesus said of Himself:

51. "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."

Jesus does not limit what He is saying to human life.

The bread, or His truth and teachings, are for humans; and we are to eat of His words, savor their flavor, and live by what we have taken into our bodies.

But the flesh which He laid down is for all life in the world.

Through Jesus' birth in this stable, and having a feeding trough as a bed, God is trying to teach us to have compassion for all of His creation; not just for human life, but for all life.

Are we willing to eat of this bread too?

God's love and compassion has no limits, and neither should ours.

Hymn: O Harken Ye

Homily:

We are to listen to and follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus and all of God's word.

The prophet Isaiah spoke for God of the coming of the birth of Jesus in 7:14; and in 9:6-7 he speaks of His station both here on earth and forever.

Then in 11:9 he tells of the future peace we will have with Him, and since we pray for heaven on earth now, it's up to us whether we will have it now, also.

Isaiah 7:14

14. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6-7

6. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

7. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 11:9

9. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

Listen to these words.

Peace on earth will only come when we truly begin living God's love and compassion.

For until each and every one of us is willing to not hurt or destroy, there can be no real peace.

For as long as we continue to hurt and kill, others will think they must do the same to protect themselves; and this is not why Jesus Christ was born.

He was born so that there would be no more hurting or destroying.

He was born to bring us everlasting peace.

Senior Choir: Slumber, Infant Jesus

Hymn: How Great Our Joy

Forming of the Circle of Love:

Youth are to pass out the candles. The lights are dimmed, and the two people nearest to the Christ candle, light their own candles and pass the light around the church.

Hymn: 147 - Silent Night

Following the hymn, the lights come on and the candles are extinguished.

Benediction:

Response: Emmanuel

Merry Christmas!

Your Comments are welcome

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