Christmas Eve

How did this message impact you? Share your testimony

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Introduction:

Good evening, I would like to echo the welcome extended by Joanne Stevens at the beginning of our gathering. I am so thankful that each of you has joined us tonight on this Christmas Eve. My name is Phil and I am the Lead Pastor here at GracePoint and if you are a guest tonight, thank you especially for being here. I would invite you to fill out a communication card that’s in front of you and a donation to a non-profit will be made in your honor.

Over the past 4 weeks, we have been participating in Advent – the period of four weeks leading up to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as we affirmed that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. It is a time of anticipation and great expectancy as we awaited the birth of Jesus.

A couple years ago during this time, there was an exploding news story about a red cup (picture) and a coffee chain. It is unlikely that anyone could have anticipated the controversy that would ensue about a business not having a Christian symbol on their cups during the holiday season.

While the name Jesus is known and claims are made that he healed the sick and died to redeem humankind, little is known on His view of the peppermint mocha.

Trivial issues like these and others that are in fact more important in our day beg the question: What is the true meaning of Christmas? It is a perennial question. It is a question heard often during the Christmas season year after year, from houses of worship, TV personalities, newspaper writers, and just regular people bewildered by the hectic pace of the season. It seems a little strange that as popular as this season seems to be, we should continually have to ask that question. The meaning of Christmas seems to be forever in danger of being obscured by all the commotion and promotion of the season. Perhaps we continue to ask the question for fear that the answer will be lost, or already is lost, in the shuffle.

Apart from all the traditions that we have heaped around Christmas to maybe make it more entertaining and more coherent to modern ways of thinking, imaginably, for an answer, we need to return to the biblical stories.

Movement 1:

Tonight, there are many of us in the room. Some of us are intrigued by this message of Jesus and have a lot of questions. Others of us have been wounded by those who claim Jesus. And yet there are others who embrace this Jesus and have put their hope and faith in Him. And everywhere in between.

So, who is Jesus? At the heart of the nativity narratives in both Matthew and Luke, is a simple fact: amid the struggle of a people who had longed for 500 years for God to act in the world in new ways, God came to be with them in a way that totally identified himself with us, as human beings. Amid the most unlikely of circumstances, to the most unlikely of people, God became a human being to reconcile all peoples to himself.

The true meaning of Christmas is more than a red cup. It is about possibility in the midst of the impossible. It is not the kind of possibility that comes from a confidence in our own skill, knowledge, ability, or a positive mental attitude. It is possibility that comes solely from the fact that God is God, and that he is the kind of God who comes into our own human existence to reveal himself and call us to himself.

It is a possibility that is so surprising at its birth that we are caught unaware, and so are left with wonder at the simplicity of its expression in this infant child. It is a possibility that is easily symbolized by a helpless infant that has nothing of its own by which to survive; yet an infant that, because he is Immanuel, God with us, will forever change the world and all humanity. It is this same God who has promised to be with us, with his people, with the church and with us individually, as we live in the world.

And it is not just hope, as if it were wishful thinking that things will get better when they cannot. It is hope incarnated into flesh, a hope that can be held in a mother’s arms, a hope that expresses a reality that will live beyond endings and death itself. It is the hope, the possibility, that springs from impossible and insignificant beginnings, infused with the power of God through the Holy Spirit, that will blossom into a light to the nations.

It is this possibility, this God, that we celebrate at Christmas. And we do so with a confidence born, not of our own desire for it to be so, but from the birth of a child over 2,000 years ago, a child who is the Son of God!

Movement 2:

So, this Jesus is one of love, grace, hope, life, and joy. We could debate to the end of time on history, what can be proven, verified, etc. but this is not an exercise in proof, it is an exercise in faith.

The gospel that the Bible proclaims has a lot of historical corroboration, and it can be broken down into some type of moral code to live by. But that misses the true nature of it.

Jesus came to this earth to fulfill the law – he became the gospel and turned mere religiosity into relationship. A relationship with Christ Himself.

John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)
1 In the beginning, the Word already existed. The Word was with God,
2 and the Word was God.
3 He existed in the beginning with God.
4 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The Word is Jesus Christ – the one true God in human form. There are 4 relationships to “the Word” that are described in these verses.

1.To the world:
a.Verse 3 – 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
b. The world is because Jesus is. c. Colossians 1:15-17 (NLT)

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

2. To life and light:
a.Verse 4 – The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

b.It is in Jesus that we can have life and have it abundantly. We try and to fill our lives with many other things but Jesus is the only One that can truly give us fulfillment in this life and eternal life in the next.

c. Christ is the light of the world – bridging the divide between creation and Creator. We now can have direct access to God the Father through Jesus the Son.

3. To Everyone:
a.Verse 4 – … and his life brought light to everyone. b.Jesus came and broke down the barriers. His love and grace is for each and every person.

4. To Darkness:

a.Verse 5 – The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

b.Many of us have been in dark places – perhaps you are in a dark place right now in your life. Imagine that you are in a room that is bright and lit with sunlight. Even in that room, there are pockets of darkness or shadows but they are hardly noticeable. However, in a room that is completely dark, the light of a pinhole will be noticeable for all to see and we will be drawn to it.

c. Just as light dispels darkness, so does Christ, the light of the world. There is no darkness that He is not present in. There is nowhere we can go, nothing we can do. His love and His grace is there, is with us as a beacon of hope.

Conclusion:

Tonight, we gather because Christ is the hope of the world. It is Christ who brings life and light to everyone and penetrates the deepest darkness.

Tonight, you may not sense this hope in how things have been going in your life. My wife and I have been struggling with feeling this hope as well.

But “God is infinitely wise; even when we cannot trace His ways, we can trust His wisdom.”

We are invited to step out in faith, one small step at a time and trust Him. Embrace the love and grace of Jesus and take the next step toward Him.

Response:

I would invite everyone to just take a moment and close your eyes and contemplate the words that have been spoken tonight.

I wonder if there would be someone tonight who would say, “that’s me!” I want to take the next step toward Christ.

If that’s you, would you be so bold to raise your hand tonight so I can remember you in prayer?

Pray.

So tonight, we celebrate the birth of Christ, the light of the world. And so, as we have been journeying through Advent and lighting a candle each week, tonight we celebrate by the lighting of the Christ candle, symbolizing that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Light the Christ Candle/communal lighting Carols
Benediction:

We rejoice in God’s steadfast presence in our lives, and in God’s unique presence in the life of Jesus of Nazareth—
born of Mary, growing through childhood into an adult ministry, in all his life manifesting the peace, love, and justice of God; his voice undimmed by the centuries his call and his promise as clear to us as it was to his disciples so long ago.

Come to us, Lord Jesus,
Be born in us this night, in our hearts, our minds, our lives. May the light of your life be kindled in us,
And lead us to the shining truth,
of God with us, God for us, God in us. Amen.

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