Isaiah 9:2 – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness– on them light has shined.
Luke 2:1-7 – In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
At the risk of sounding political you could call Jesus a Syrian refugee. “All the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
Jesus was not from Syria, but events in this world beyond the control of Mary or Joseph led to a regional upheaval, not at all unlike what is happening today in that same part of the world. The holy family would continue to deal with upheavals. Not so long after his birth they would then flee to Egypt, before finally settling in Nazareth.
Is there anything going on in your world that is beyond your control and turning things upside down for you? This is the time of year where pain and disappointment is felt more acutely. I look over the pages of Facebook and alongside the good looking pictures of smiling families and exquisitely decorated homes, I hear confessions of discouragement and suffering.
This side of Bethlehem will always have its share of turmoil.
Still we gather here and light a candle against the darkness. We listen to the prophets who remind us “a light has shined.”
When the world was reeling and turned on its head, a couple quietly entered a stable where a baby boy would soon be born.
That is why I like Christmas Eve services. Along with many of you it is one of my favorite church services of the year. On Christmas Eve it is not about production. It is not about how well the choir sounds, or the power of an orchestra or the majesty of the pipe organ and grand piano. Sermons do not amount to much on this night.
We just gather together, around the table, and take in the mystery of God’s presence symbolized in bread and cup; we light our candles and sing the familiar notes of Silent Night, and enter back in the world.
The world will not be changed because of tonight. But you and I can be changed. We can leave a little bit different than when we entered. The hope, peace, joy and love of Advent can be our Christmas to a world that needs hope, peace, joy and love.
I like the reflective nature of Christmas Eve. It can feel intimate, even subdued, as if we are ready for something to happen and so like we are holding vigil together. We know that Jesus was born, but what we do here tonight is wait together of God’s next move.
In this waiting we eat a meal together called communion. Goodness knows most of us are just plain tired of eating. All the cookies and fudge and rich, savory dishes are enough to drive anyone to cut back when the New year rolls around.
This meal tonight is a bit different. It is a meal remembering that this birth of Jesus is not so much to be commemorated, like so many other seasonal festivals and such. Rather the Communion Meal, the Eucharist feast, The Lord’s Supper is where we acknowledge that just as God was present in a baby in a manger, so God is present to us when our world turns upside down.
Christ is present, in mangers and in festivities and in silence and around tables of bread and cups that remember sacrifice.
We remember the song of the angels, the amazement of the shepherds, the ponderings of Mary and the birth of Jesus we now gather out of joy for what is and what will be.
May his Light shine behind you, giving you courage for your tomorrow.
May His Light shine beside you giving you comfort in the journey.
May his Light shine before you, that no darkness overcome you.
May His Light shine within you, that your days be marked with His eternal Peace.