ARE WE HERE JUST TO CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OF JESUS IN A STABLE SOME 2,000 YEARS AGO, OR ARE WE ALSO HERE TO CELEBRATE SOMETHING VERY PERSONAL?
A CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE OF MUSIC AND WORD
ORIGINALLY CELEBRATED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 DECEMBER 1995
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
PREPARATION VERSE: (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.
HYMN: O Come, O Come Immanuel
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING: (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:1-7)
Approximately 700 years before Jesus Christ was born into this world, the prophet Isaiah foretold of His coming.
In our preparation verse 7:14, Isaiah told us how Jesus would come to us, as a babe born of a virgin.
Now, here in 9:6-7, Isaiah tells us more specifically about Him.
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.
Not only would this Child grow up to be King, but His reign will last forever.
In other words, He will live forever, for He is Almighty God and Eternal Father.
But whose Father?
We can't say Jesus', for we're talking about Jesus.
In fact, the Son is the Father, because they are one and the same being, except for the fact that Jesus is also in a human body.
Then whose Father are we talking about?
We're talking about the believers' Father.
For unless we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we cannot understand what it means to adopt God as our Father.
In a similar way, some of the children here have adopted Ray and Roberta as their grandfather and grandmother.
They did this because of their love.
But with God it is more.
And if we have not established this relationship with the Father in heaven, we cannot be adopted as sons and daughters, and become joint heirs with Jesus, and live with Him forever.
This is the very personal reason that we should be here to celebrate.
With this thought in mind, let's go back these 2,000 years and listen to Luke's description of Jesus' birth (2:1-7).
1. Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
5. in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
6. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
HYMN: Once In Royal David’s City
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING: (Luke 2:8-14)
There was no room in the inn.
It wasn't because people were mean and wouldn't let them stay in the inn; it was because it was full.
But someone must have allowed them to stay in the stable.
And God accepted this situation, to allow His Son to be born into this world in the presence of the animals.
Mary and Jesus were not attended by doctors and nurses in clean white or green clothes.
Jesus was not placed in a clean cradle with new clothing.
Mary and Jesus were attended by the animals, and Jesus was wrapped in used clothes and placed on the hay in their feeding trough.
Jesus didn't come just for a select few. He came for the whole world. He came for the poorest and least accepted of society, as symbolized by His humble birth.
Jesus came in a way that should be touching each and every one of us in our heart, in a way that we all should be able to relate to Him in a very personal way.
And who were the first that God chose to tell of the birth of His Son?
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."
HYMN: Angels We Have Heard On High
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING: (Luke 2:15-20)
There isn't one of us in this room tonight who hasn't had God speak to them in some personal way.
It may not have been as dramatically as with these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to your soul and spirit.
Whether or not we chose to respond to His voice is more to the issue, for most of the time, we chose not to listen.
Have you ever had an argument with a member of your family, and heard that inner voice deep down within you telling you to stop, and you knew you should stop?
Have you ever had that same inner sense of knowing you were to do something?
That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you.
Whether or not you chose to listen really isn't the point.
The point is that God has indeed spoken to you.
Just as He is speaking to you right now.
How are you going to respond?
As did the Shepherds?
15. And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
16. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
18. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
I hope and pray that each and every one of us is treasuring up all of these things in our own heart, as did Mary.
20. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
HYMN: O Little Child of Bethlehem
Is there a familiar or even a strange burning feeling in your heart and soul?
Is it encouraging you to believe even more strongly?
Have you been longing for greater peace in your life?
Have you been troubled about something, and can't seem to shake it?
Are you longing for a deeper and more meaningful love in your life?
If any of these things are in your heart, then the answer is also there.
The answer is in God above, brought to you in a very personal way through Jesus, who desires His birth and life to be in the stable of your life.
And like any stable that must be cleaned out regularly, so we must clean out the “manure” from our own lives.
I know that if we are truly seeking, then we also know what must be cleaned up in our own lives.
Take a moment in silence and contemplate these things in your mind, and then ask God to help you remove the "manure piles" from your life and fill you with His sweet smelling love and peace.
HYMN: O Harken Ye
Have you made room in your heart for Jesus?
I pray so!
For if you have, your life will never be the same again and you will never feel alone any more, for the Spirit of God has come to dwell in you and give you peace.
HYMN: What Child Is This?
Some people think they have to bring something expensive to Jesus Christ in order to honor Him.
But that isn't the case.
All Jesus wants, or has ever desired, is for you to give yourself to Him.
In fact, if we really think about it, it's not all the presents that we desire, either.
What we really want is to be truly loved and cared for, and to have someone to love in return.
And that's the relationship that our loving Father is offering us through Jesus His Son.
SCRIPTURE READING: Titus 2:11-14
11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12. instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
14. who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
What more could anyone want?
What greater Christmas gift could we give or receive?
Jesus Christ came to pay the price of all of our sins, and to forgive us and give us joy in our hearts.
Allow the Holy Spirit into your life, to give you this everlasting joy.
HYMN: How Great Our Joy
Tonight is a night to focus upon our own lives, as much as it is to focus upon the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
For tonight, much as it was then, Jesus is seeking a spiritual place to be born and to mature in.
You have such a place; offer it to the Father for the birth of His Son.
He has no money to pay for it, and it will cost you nothing, either.
But you will receive much more than all the money in the whole world could buy.
HYMN: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne
HOMILY AND SCRIPTURE READING: (Psalm 96:1-13)
Is there room in your heart for Jesus?
Have you invited Him in?
Then like the psalmist of old, your soul should be singing forth.
1. Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2. Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
3. Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
This is how we should be giving Christmas gifts to each other.
If we eliminated, or cut way back, on all the commercialism and just gave the love of God to each other, wouldn't it be better?
Things break and wear out, but true love can last forever.
Most people in this world don't understand, or don't want to understand, this simple fact.
4. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared [or reverenced] above all gods.
5. For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
6. Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Many people think about making a New Year's resolution.
Many make them, but few keep them.
We need to begin making Christmas resolutions.
We need to stop holding back the truth and love that we are capable of sharing with each other and the whole world around us, including every person and every animal.
It is time to stop being timid about the things of God.
7. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
And remember what the greatest offering is; it’s the gift of ourselves.
9. Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Consider carefully what holy attire really is.
Remember that all the attire of those shepherds in the field, and those in the stable, was considered holy.
Holy attire comes from cleansing our inner being, and allowing the glory of God to shine forth from us.
10. Say among the nations, "The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity."
11. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
12. Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
13. Before the Lord, for He is coming;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
Let go of what is really unimportant.
Receive the Christmas gift of your new life in Jesus Christ.
Become one of the faithful.
And if you already are, then continue to grow in the midst of all His glory.
Give your life to Him, as He gave His life for you.
HYMN: O Come, All Ye Faithful
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