Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols

Pastor Sherry’s Christmas Eve Message

Scriptures: Gen 3:8-15; Isa 9:2-7; Isa 35:1-10; Mic 5:2-4; Lk 1:26-38; Lk 1:59-79; Titus 2:11-14

Some of us will leave here tonight to gather with family and open Christmas gifts. For others, your practice will be to wait until tomorrow, Christmas Day, to unwrap your presents. Once, when my husband was on a naval cruise to the Mediterranean, I left the tree up and presents unwrapped until he got home on Valentine’s Day! Whatever your tradition, I want to draw your attention to the fact that the original Christmas-gift-giver was God the Father. As Scripture says (Isaiah 9:6), For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son [God’s Son] is given….God sent His only begotten Son on a rescue mission to earth. The Father gifted us because of His great love for us. At the Father’s command, Jesus–the Person of the Trinity who spoke creation into existence—“clothed Himself in humanity,” took on human flesh. He arrived among us as a “wee baby,” an expression we use here in the South. Yet He was entrusted with a gigantic mission: to save us sinners from the penalty for our sins. And He completed that mission gracefully and completely, didn’t He?

Perhaps this Advent Season, you have heard played or sung a 12th century French carol called, “The Friendly Beasts.” In the song, each of several animals (that might have been found in the stable where Jesus was born), sings to the Christ child, presenting Him a gift to bring Him comfort. The lyrics are as follows:

Jesus, our Brother, strong and good…

    Was humbly born in a stable rude,

    And the friendly beasts around Him stood, 

    Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.

    “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,

    “I carried His mother up hill and down;

    I carried His mother to Bethlehem town.”

    “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

    “I,” said the cow all white and red,

    “I gave Him my manger for His bed;

    “I gave Him my hay to pillow His head.”

    “I,” said the cow all white and red.

    “I,” said the sheep with curly horn,

    “I gave him my wool for His blanket warm;

    “He wore my coat on Christmas morn.”

    “I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

    “I,” said the dove from the rafters high,

    “I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;

We cooed Him to sleep, my love and I.”

    “I,” said the dove from the rafters high.

    Thus every beast by some good spell, 

    In the stable dark was glad to tell

    Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,

    The gift he gave Emmanuel. 

The perspective is interesting, isn’t it? Like the little drummer boy in a more modern song, each friendly beast presents the only gift he/she has to set before the newborn king. The magi will show up later and present more costly gifts. But the first Christmas gifts were brought to Jesus…it was His birthday, after all. People and critters brought Him the best they had.

Some might think it’s childish or fanciful to think of animals gifting the Christ-child, but consider this:

a. In Numbers 22:28-30, the donkey belonging to Balaam, the pagan prophet, tells him a sword-carrying angel blocks their way (that donkey possessed more spiritual discernment than his master!).

b. Later, John reports that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, told the Pharisees that if He were to tell His disciples not to praise Him, the stones would cry out His name (Luke19:40).

c. Paul teaches in Romans 8:19: The whole creation [everything, hills, oceans, trees, animals] waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed [at the end of time]….Jesus Christ came to set humans free from the death penalty for sin—and He did! But animals and inanimate things are still held captive to decay.

d. Finally, Gabriel tells Mary, in Luke 1:37: For nothing is impossible with God! So, the animals who stood in the presence of the tiny King of the Universe may have truly known who He was. Giving Him gifts is improbable, perhaps, but not impossible.

If you were to present a gift to Jesus, what would it be? Can you bring Him the gift of your faith in Him? How about your willingness to obey Him? Are you ready to read Scripture regularly, to get to know Him better? How about spending more time with Him in prayer? Share what’s on your heart and mind, but also listen for His response. How about living a life-style pleasing to God? Can you give Him your obedience? Can you give Him your heart? The God of love wants our heart. The God of love wants our love.

This night, Our Savior has drawn near. Like the animals in the song, let’s remember a gift for baby Jesus. Then, come, let us adore Him.

©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Advertisement

Birth Announcements

Pastor Sherry’s Message for Christmas Eve

Scriptures: Isa 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20

I ask you to think tonight about birth announcements.

Remember when we used to get a small card in an envelope, telling us of a birth?  It would have a cute motif (bunnies, chicks, teddys, pink for a girl, blue for a boy); the baby’s name; his/her birthdate, length, birth-weight; and the tired but proud parents’ names.  Nowadays, the news appears in a more dramatic style:  Typically there is a picture of the newborn, or perhaps one of the baby and mom, or of the parents with the newborn.  My personal favorite was of a mom tenderly holding the baby’s tiny hand in her own.

Again, we are given all of the pertinent info, and we celebrate with the family who has brought a new little one into the world.

Now, contrast this with Jesus’ day, when they lacked cell phones that could take pictures, Shutterfly to reproduce them as cards, or even other kinds of cameras with which to capture a birth.  Scripture has only words with which to mark for us the sacred and phenomenally important event of Jesus’ birth—and yet, we get the point and are moved, aren’t we?

All of our Scripture passages tonight either foretell or describe Jesus’ Coming/Advent; but I am going to focus on two:  Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20.

Isa 9:2-7 was written between 700-750 years before Jesus’ actual birth.  In it, the prophet predicts who Jesus will be/what He will accomplish.  Notice, he doesn’t mention anything about his weight or length.  Our Luke passage tells us His earthly parents are young, poor, and homeless.  Since Joseph was taking them to his place of birth, Bethlehem, we might assume he had some kinfolk there.  But apparently he did not (Perhaps they had died or moved away).  Not one family member was present to provide shelter for them in a guest room.  They had to make do in a shed/stable.

Isaiah focuses instead on the fact that Jesus (later known as the “Light of the World”) will bring light to a spiritually dark region, Galilee of the Gentiles.  The area around Nazareth was known for belief in a large variety of pagan gods.  As J. Vernon McGee (my favorite Bible commentator) says, “They had a lot of religion, but they never had Christ” (Luke, p.94).

Then Isaiah jumps ahead to Christ’s Second Coming, telling us the characteristics and the roles Jesus will demonstrate when He comes again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords: 

(Verse 6), and the government will be on His shoulders.  This tells us that Jesus will be strong.  He will have the strength, intelligence, and leadership ability to rule/govern the whole earth.  Wow!

He will be called Wonderful…We will call Him Wonderful because, like His heavenly Father, He performs wonders.  He healed the sick and the broken-hearted.  He paid the penalty for our sins.  He restored  (reconciled) us to a good and an intimate relationship with His Father.  These are all significant because we could not have accomplished these things on our own.

(He will be called) Counselor….  He never said to His guys, “Fellows, what do you think I should do now?”  He did not need the counsel of another, because He was/is exceedingly wise.

(He will be called) Mighty God….  Like the Father, He is known as El Gibbor.  This means He is omnipotent, all powerful.

(He will be called) Everlasting Father….  He did not give birth to children from His own flesh.  But, again, like the Father, He is known as Avi adàthe Father of Eternity.  He is the creator of all things, even time, and events far off.  The Apostle John tells us in John 1:3, Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. AndPaul adds in Colossians 1:16, For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities. All things were created by Him and for Him.  Like a Father, He loves, provides, protects, and disciplines us.

(He will be called) Prince of Peace….In the Hebrew, He is called Sar-Shalohim. He will initiate peace and He will sustain peace.  Truly, there can be no peace, no lasting peace, until Jesus rules the earth.  When Jesus comes again, He will accomplish extraordinary things!

Luke’s passage (2:1-20) then records the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth event.  While we celebrate Jesus’ birth in toasty, comfortable homes, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph huddled in humble, uninsulated animalhousing.  While the future King of Kings and Lord of Lords should havehad the comforts of an opulent and warm palace, his quiet, humble arrival was nevertheless celebrated in a most spectacular way!  First one angel appeared to provide a spectacular birth announcement!  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.  Next, the angel invited the shepherds to come and see the One who would become Our Great Shepherd.  Then suddenly, loads more angels show up!  They form a heavenly chorus and proceed to praise God and sing…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men [and women] on who His favor rests.

What a birthday celebration!  The shepherds do trek off to see the newborn Christ.  They are delighted with His birth!  After worshipping Him, they go tell everyone they know (quicker than a mailed announcement)–spreading the word that Messiah had come.

Tonight (Christmas Eve) and tomorrow (Christmas Day), let’s be aware of what we are celebrating–the birth of Jesus, our Messiah.  Over and over, God had his prophets foretell His coming.  Then, finally, (drum roll, please!) He arrives in the wee dark hours of Christmas morning.  Christ is the reason for the season.  Come, let us adore Him!

©Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams 2020