December 24, 2002: Christmas Eve

Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight as we celebrate You becoming our Brother, fill us with awe and wonder. As we recall Your glorious birth, fill us with joy and gladness. As we listen anew to the Divine record of Your nativity, fill us with love and peace. And as You hold out Your hand to us, fill us with faith and compassion. Amen

TEXT: Luke 2: 11: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.”

Fellow Redeemed Wise Men Who Have Come To Worship The King of Kings:

Are you having a memorable Christmas? I hope so. And I pray that tonight may enrich and enhance your Christmas joy! Tonight I want to share with you the recollections of a memorable guest who attended service here at Pinewood last Christmas Eve. His name is Benjamin. And God permitted him to travel into our time to see what Christmas means to the average American. Ben, as he likes to be called, is the perfect candidate to provide us with insight into our Christmas celebrations, too, since he was one of those original shepherds who heard and saw the angel choirs outside of Bethlehem, and who later ran to the stable to worship Christ. I dare say, Ben probably had the most memorable Christmas ever for a mere mortal. Mary and Joseph kind of knew what to expect. But Ben and his fellow shepherds were given a glimpse of Divine splendor out-of-the-blue! Between the angel’s message and actually seeing the Baby Jesus, Ben’s Christmas joy is unsurpassed.

Ben arrived in the Boston area a couple of weeks before December 24th 2001. God gave him the ability to quietly blend in at the mall, at those various parties, at some family celebrations around the tree, and later here at church. Listening to him recount his journeys, he kept repeating one phrase: IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
Ben has astounded by the amount of food we Americans consume—and waste. He was flabbergasted by the opulence of the Burlington Mall and the presents people buy. The decorated houses intrigued him and made him smile. He thought the idea of a Christmas tree, recalling that Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah about a “shoot springing up from the stump of Jesse” was terrific symbolism. He observed families traveling hundreds of miles to be with each other. He saw the happiness at their getting together and sharing love. But, after seeing all these modern trappings of Christmas, Ben gave a wry smile, shook his head and told me: “Is that all there is?

I asked him what he meant. He told me: “Everything seems so superficial. You Americans celebrate Christ’s birth, which is wonderful, but you seem to leave out the reason behind it all. You worship the idea of the day without worshipping the very reason for it all—the Baby Jesus! I’ve seen the hours and hours you folks spend on making Christmas special such as the food, decorations, presents, and parties. But very few seem to talk about Christ. Very few take time to ponder God becoming a human being, taking on our flesh and blood, and coming to save us from eternal death.”

Ben went on: “I was there that first Christmas. We shepherds were stunned, speechless, when the angel appeared to us. First it was pitch black, cold, and the night was quiet. Then suddenly a brilliant light enveloped us and an angel appeared right in front of my friend Avi. We all fell to the ground. We were terrified. But the angel spoke to us in a soothing voice and said: “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good tidings of great joy. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.” Then the angel told us exactly where and how to find Jesus. After that an even brighter light filled the sky and legions of angels appeared singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” That experience changed my life forever! It was a mind-blowing. Then we hurried off to Bethlehem, found the Christ-child in the manger, and talked to His parents. All I remember is the perfect joy on the Baby’s face and His little hand reaching out to me! To me, Benjamin the shepherd! I knew what all this meant. I knew this was God’s Messiah, the promised One Who had left heaven and come to earth to buy our souls back from doubt and despair with His very life. It was the best Christmas present imaginable. Nothing else could ever compare.”

I was mesmerized by Ben’s account. And his commentary of the average American Christmas: “Is That All There Is?” seemed to sum up the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern celebration of God’s birth. For without Jesus being the heart and soul of Christmas among us, all the rest is really nothing at all….

Well, I invited Ben to come to church here last Christmas Eve. He quietly listened in the balconey and quietly left after the service. Later, I caught up with him. Do you know what he said? He told me: “Hallelujah! At last a celebration worthy of the King! Hallelujah! At last the truth! Hallelujah! At last someone in America got it right! A Savior has been born to you!” Just before Ben left to go back to heaven, he told me one more thing. “All we had that first Christmas was Christ. And through Him God made us richer than anyone else on the earth! And now I know that we shepherds are not alone. So always remember not to let the trappings of the holiday get in the way of holding in your heart God’s gift of forgiving love! Always remember: worshipping the King is what Christmas is all about! He is all there is!” Amen