Let us pray: Dear Savior, what a joy it is to come and worship You this night! How grateful we are that You have come to honor us by taking on our flesh along with our sins and weaknesses. Yes, You have come to reach out Your hand in order to personally lead us to a life without fear, culminating in heaven. May nothing ever get in the way of our contemplation of Your love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GOD WITH US!
TEXT: Matthew 1: 18-25
Fellow Redeemed Worshippers of the Christ Child:
What event in your life has given you the most joy? What singular event stands out which has flooded your heart with pure happiness? For some of you it would be the birth of a child. With others it would be your wedding day. Or, maybe it was a special honor like graduating from college after long years of labor. If I were to ask the children present, I would receive a host of difference answers: winning a sports trophy, taking a special trip, or maybe opening presents on Christmas!
We humans always seem to rank or compare one event to another. We rank or compare the people we meet in order to better grasp the significance of their friendship and impact upon our lives. Unfortunately, the same has been and is being done by our American culture when it comes to Christmas. Christ Mass, or the worship of the Christ-child, has become “Happy Holidays.” Why? Because a celebration of Black cultural awareness called: Kwanzaa, the celebration of Jewish independence called: “Hannukah” and the denigration of Christian holy days has become the hallmark of political correctness.
But, we know better, don’t we? That’s why we’re here tonight. We know that nothing in all creation, nothing in the history of the universe can be even remotely compared to the miracle of God becoming a human being. Nothing can be compared to God taking on our flesh and blood. Nothing can be compared to God deciding to shoulder our sins and our own mortality—all in order to save our souls and thereby give us eternal joy! So, tonight we have joined together to celebrate the fact that:
CHRISTMAS JOY IS BEYOND COMPARE!
St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth parallels Luke’s more familiar account. And it keys in on a few different points. First, we see emotionally torn Joseph and his very kind heart. Once he discovers that Mary is pregnant (no doubt she told him along with the story of the angel and Jesus’ immaculate conception) Joseph is heart-broken. It must have seemed surreal to him. Yet, his kind heart shows itself even here. For he didn’t want to disgrace her publicly. So, he had decided to issue divorce proceedings without giving any reason why.—This would have been in keeping with the standards of the time. However, God could not let this happen! For to do so, Christ would have been illegitimate. He would not be considered a legal heir of David’s line. And so, all those Old Testament passages built on that truth would have been rendered null and void.
God intervenes. “An angel of the Lord (perhaps Gabriel, we don’t know for sure) appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”—Recall that “Jesus” literally means: “God saves.”
Well, you know the rest. Joseph obeyed. He listened to the voice of God. He put aside his inner doubts and looked past the wagging tongues of the local gossips. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Joseph was an intelligent man. He also knew his bible. From little on he had been taught the many passages that foretold the birth of the Messiah. So, Joseph would have been well-aware of Isaiah 7:14: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” which means, “God with us.”
That mind-boggling truth: God with us, God with Mary and Joseph, with the shepherds and the whole world was fully revealed on that first Christmas night. It was revealed by a special star in the heavens and by angel choirs announcing, shouting forth, heavenly joy at His human birth. Any parent here tonight needs only to think back on the birth of your own children. Think of the joy and wonder you felt? And then think of the awe that both Mary and Joseph must have experienced?—God with us! Tonight. Right here in a manger!
God is bigger than heaven. The universe cannot contain Him. Rather the universe is contained in Him. He’s bigger, stronger, and more powerful than all the stars and galaxies combined. He stands outside of time. He straddles space. And yet, the miracle of Christmas is encapsulated in those few words: “God with us.” God has come to earth to share our humanity. He has come to feel our pain. He has come to experience our lives and our deaths. But most importantly, He has come to save us. To free us from the confines of mortal flesh and to fill our souls with joy beyond all compare.—We’re at peace with Him because He came to make peace with us.
Tonight we celebrate God with us. We celebrate the greatest single event that has ever occurred in all of history. And tonight isn’t just a commemoration of some ancient event, it is living, active, alive, and real. For God is with us! He lives with us right now! He comforts us and uplifts us right now! Your heart and my heart is His manger.
Next time you look at a crèche and wonder at what those present must have felt, wonder no more! For we are the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph all rolled into one. Our eternal souls are right there with them. That is what “God with us” means! And that, my friends is why Christmas Joy Is Beyond Compare! Amen