Pastor Jerry Ingalls – December 24, 2010
Why do we gather on this hallowed evening?
What is it we are singing about and celebrating?
Let’s turn to the Scriptures, and specifically to an unlikely passage to help us understand. From James 1:16-18, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
The context of this passage is the blessed person who perseveres under trial; who when found approved by God receives the crown of life which Jesus Christ promised to those who love Him. The context of this passage is an exhortation to resist temptation and to not be deceived by the circumstances of this life. We are exhorted to focus on God—the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change—rather than focus on the always changing shadows of our lives. This Christmas Eve, where is your focus? There is so much happening around us and in us that it is easy to lose focus and find ourselves distracted by the endless shopping list, the expectations, the family gatherings, the parties, the in-laws and outlaws, the cooking and preparations, or the lack of cooking, family, and preparations. With all the marketing empowered by the spirit of materialism strategically targeting your heart, mind, and soul. And with our culture pulling away from the CHRIST of Christmas, it has become easier and easier to find ourselves deceived on the true purpose of Christmas—the Nativity!
Don’t be deceived, Christmas is not about the trees, the wreaths, the lights, the candy canes or even the family gatherings and gifts. Though each of these expressions of Christmas represents a sacred truth if we can see them for what they are—pointers to the true reason for the season. The gifts of love, fellowship; the gift of Immanuel, God who is with us!
It is in the nativity that we found the true miracle of Christmas—the Incarnation. When God took on flesh. When Jesus Christ made His throne in a humble manger. When God dwelt among us His children to save each of us!
The Bible declares of this wonder in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Do not be deceived, the nativity captures the essence of why we gather! This baby is the word of truth spoken of in James 1:16-18. We learn this from the Gospel of John 1:1-5, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
And it is on Christmas Eve that we stand before the Father of the heavenly lights and we look up to Him and praise Him for the good and perfect gift of the word of truth to us in flesh so that all people (you and I) can know the unfathomable depths of God’s love. And through this great love, we can be born again so that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. So, let us gather together and approach the throne of grace which on that Christmas over 2000 years ago took the form of a manger. And in this manger, stood Mary and Joseph, animals of all sorts, and the shepherds who stood as the first witnesses of God’s salvation. All standing in awe of the Christ-child who was being praised by all God’s creation, from the beast of the field to the angelic host.
All of God’s creation stands in awe of the Christmas miracle. Hear the story of the nativity found in the Gospel of Luke 2:1-14, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. … And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
May your hearts this Christmas join with heavenly host and praise God. May we not lose focus, may we not be deceived. May we be found as people who are approved by God because we kept our eyes on the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadow. May our gaze rest upon Jesus Christ through Him we are found approved and God’s peace is freely given to all who believe.