Christmas Eve – December 24 2021

Posted on December 28, 2021, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 


December 24, 2021

Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas Eve 

Luke 2:1-20

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Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The familiarity of the Christmas story comforts us in a way that few other things do. When we hear it, and imagine what it must have been like, we tend to imagine that all was well in the world, and that the night Jesus was born was a peaceful one.

But the truth is that, in those days, for the majority of people in that region there was no peace at all – because that area was occupied by the Roman government.

The Roman emperors and the local rulers were notorious for their tyrannical style of leadership so, for many people it was a time of genuine fear. And they longed for the peace that we imagine they had.

But on that first Christmas night when the angels sang to the shepherds, they brought a message of true peace – a peace that was more than just an absence of conflict. The prophecies of the promise of a savior that God’s people had heard for centuries were fulfilled that night.

And in Jesus, God embodied a message of peace that the world needed on that first Christmas night and still needs today. Jesus taught people a new way to live, a way that’s rooted in us not only as we celebrate Christmas but also in our day-to-day lives.

[1]The hymn we’ll sing in a few minutes, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, is an American carol written by Edmund Hamilton Sears. It was first published in 1849, and like most hymns, it reflects the time in which it was written.

For Sears, the ancient story of angels singing to the shepherds gave voice to the events of his own time – which was right at the end of the Mexican-American war, and as the U.S. was deeply divided over racism and slavery.

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word “angel” means messenger. This carol is the song of God’s messengers who were sent not to kings and queens, or to presidents and congresses, or even to Lutherans and whatever other denomination.

That night, God’s messengers were sent to a bunch of guys keeping the night watch over a flock of sheep. And those messengers arrived with a message of true peace for the whole world.

Centuries before Sears wrote this carol, the Scottish Celts taught that a “thin place” is a space where heaven and earth come very close. Here, we often feel it when we’re out in nature. Thin places are spaces where connections are made between the spiritual and the physical, even if those connections seem out of sync with the rest of the world.

Sears felt that his world was in need of such a place, where the angelic message of peace could have some effect. Because the “babel” that he describes was loud voices all saying different things, with political rhetoric, extreme racism, and division threatening to split the nation.

God’s messengers still bring us a message of true peace. It was the message that was needed on that first Christmas night when the world was weary from the domination of a cruel empire. It was the message that was needed in 1849 in the U.S. when we were a few years away from a war against ourselves.

And it’s the message that is needed now as we and every other country in the world still need to find a path to economic and social justice. But this message isn’t only for nations and the big historical picture.

It’s also for families and individual people: when our load is heavy, when our steps are painful and slow, when our heart struggles underneath the crushing load, we stop and listen for the angel song. We stop and listen for words of peace – peace for the people of the world, and peace for our own lives.

But the time of peace being flung over all the earth will only come to pass when we echo back the song of God’s messengers. When we are willing to be people who do more than hope for peace, and instead be people who make peace. In other words, it will come to pass when we not only celebrate Christmas, but when we understand that God embodies God’s message of peace in us beyond tonight.

[2]It takes shape when we do things like seek out a forgotten friend, replace suspicion with trust, encourage youth, forego a grudge, keep a promise, forgive an enemy, apologize, seek understanding, express gratitude, welcome a stranger, and speak love.

Making peace, building peace, fostering peace – it’s all hard work, and it’s constant work. But as people of God, it’s the work we’re called to do. And it’s the work that God does in us.

On that first Christmas, God’s message of peace was embodied in a human baby. It was message that the world needed then and still needs today. A true peace – more than just an absence of conflict. It was a peace and a way of being that’s rooted in God’s love for all people, and that God embodies in us.

Peace on earth. Peace to you. Amen.

[1] Section on It Came Upon the Midnight Clear taken from: https://melissabanesevier.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/the-midnight-clear/

[2] List excerpted from a quote by Howard W. Hunter