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Christmas Eve 2019

Christmas Eve

It is Christmas Eve. What a beautifully meaningful evening as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior.

This evening, we will think about four of the gifts represented in the birth of Jesus - the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. Let’s have open hearts, minds, and souls so we can be assured of receiving the gifts of Jesus. Receiving that will continue beyond this special night.

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Hope is the first gift to be celebrated this evening. Hope referring to the privilege of fitting into God’s hopes for us, even when His hopes do not match our plans.

Two examples of people who did that are Mary and Joseph. Their plans were to be married, have some children of their own, and live a quiet but comfortable life in the small town of Nazareth. That was about all they hoped for themselves.

But God had different hopes for them. God’s plans were for Mary to become pregnant before she and Joseph were married, for the conceiving to happen supernaturally so the baby would be known as holy, for the baby to be named Jesus to indicate His role of growing up to be the Savior, and for Joseph, even though he would not be Jesus’ father, to stay with the family to provide stability for the early years of Jesus’ physical growth.

Mary and Joseph both agreed to God’s plans for them. Doing so changed their hopes, but they were willing to change, which allowed them to be important parts of God’s hope of giving our world the Savior from sin.

This evening, may we have that same willingness. In fact, let’s make the promise to pray so we will know God’s wishes for us so we also can fit into God’s hope to have the Savior known and accepted by more and more people. Even if we have to change our plans, may we promote God’s hope in our world.

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God offers hope. Another gift He offers is peace. In fact, Jesus, God’s Son, on the night of His birth, was announced as the giver of peace, the announcement made to some shepherds by a multitude of angels.

At least in my mind, the peace referred to is not peace between nations or peace with other people. It cannot refer to those two things because throughout history there have been international and interpersonal conflicts, which means what was announced about Jesus would be a lie if either of those types of peace was meant.

We know God’s word is not a lie, so there must be another kind of peace that was announced concerning Jesus. That is the way it is as the peace we celebrate this time of year is peace with God so we can have a good relationship with Him.

That peace comes from knowing that Jesus, whose birth we celebrate this evening, grew up to be the Savior from sins. Sins separate us from God, so we need a Savior. The peace represented in Christmas comes from not only knowing Jesus is the Savior, but letting Him into our lives, accepting Him as the Savior. Knowing, accepting, and then living accordingly will give us peace.

Sometimes - hopefully - peace with God, as it spreads, will bring international and interpersonal peace, but the first step for us is to have peace with God, which starts with Jesus.

This evening, may each of us make sure we know and have accepted Jesus. If not, accept Jesus now as your Savior. You can do that simply by inviting Him into your life. Together we can celebrate the gift of peace with God.

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God offers hope and peace. Both those gifts are represented in Jesus’ coming - in Jesus’ birth. He also offers the gift of joy. Not happiness, which is dependent on things around us going well, but joy, which is based on having a good relationship with God. A relationship based on obedience to God.

Mary and Joseph are again examples for us. Though God’s plans were different from their hopes, they obeyed what God called them to do, which gave them the joy of being part of God’s work on earth.

Other examples of obedience are some shepherds the night Jesus was born. They were on duty that night near the birthplace of Jesus, which was Bethlehem, watching over the sheep under their care, when they were interrupted by a single angel and then a multitude of the Heavenly host, all of whom had some interesting news. The single angel announced Jesus’ birth and described the newborn as the one who had come to be the Savior and Ruler of the world. The multitude announced that Jesus’ birth gave glory to God. The multitude also proclaimed that Jesus was to be the source of peace. Again, peace with God.

The angel and the multitude each appeared to the shepherds suddenly. The words they spoke were confusing. The shepherds could have thought of it all as nothing but a dream or some kind of hallucination. They could have ignored what God had seen fit to let them know.

Instead, they decided to go see the one announced. They did go. They did see Jesus, which made them joyful. So joyful that when they returned to their sheep, they glorified and praised God, doing so, not only to God, but also to anyone and everyone along the way. There was no one in that area that night who did not learn of the birth of Jesus.

The life of shepherds was a daily mix of boredom and danger. Two extremes. Does that describe your life on one end of the scale or the other? More likely, you fit somewhere in the middle. But wherever you are, the hope of God is to give you joy. Spiritual joy that can affect every part of your life. Joy we, too, can share with others.

The only way to have such joy is to do what the shepherds did. They went to Jesus and met Him. For us, we need to take the next step and accept Jesus as the Savior. Doing so will allow you, me, us to have joy.

This evening, may each of us make sure we have accepted Jesus so we can celebrate the gift of joy.

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With the birth of Jesus, God offered us the gifts of hope, peace, and joy. He also offered us the gift of love.

Love displayed in the fact God sent Jesus to us to be our Savior, doing so while we were yet sinners. 

How interesting God did not withhold Jesus until all the people of the world were perfect. How good it is that was not the case because no one, using his or her own will, can ever be perfect.

Jesus came while the world was still embroiled in sin. In His love, God gave people a way out of sin. A way to eventually be perfect.

That is still true for us today. Love is still being shown by Jesus, which brings us to the point that not only did Jesus willingly leave Heaven to come be with the world. He went on, 33 years later, to die as the sacrifice for sins.

That, of course, is not the end of it. On the third day after His death, Jesus came back to life and rose from the tomb.

And even that is not the end of it because Jesus is now back in Heaven, where - listen to this - He is serving as our advocate with God so that if or when we sin, “we” referring to those who have accepted Jesus. He will be our defender before God, which means we will be forgiven

Love is shown to us by God. Love is shown to us by Jesus. Love is also shown to us by the Holy Spirit, who not only reminds us of God’s teachings, including His offers of hope, peace, joy, and love, but has the role of interpreting our prayers so that even if we do not know what or how to pray, God will understand what is on our hearts and minds.

How can you have God’s love? Accept Jesus as the Savior He grew up to be.

This evening, make sure you have accepted Jesus so together we can celebrate the gift of God’s love for us.

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Before Jesus, the world did not have much hope, peace, joy, or love. That is of course not to suggest there was total unhappiness everywhere with everyone. But spiritually things were very bleak.

What was needed was a Savior. On the night Jesus was born, the Savior came. It would be 33 years before Jesus would complete His mission of being the Savior, that coming with His death and His resurrection, but the Savior arrived the night of Jesus’ birth.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to be with us. Thank You being the source of all the wonderful gifts offered with Your birth - the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. Thank You for allowing us to receive those gifts. And thank You for calling us to share You with others so they, too, will receive what You offer. 

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Merry Christmas, Lord. Amen.

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