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Gospels

Christmas Eve 2020

“And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the Inn.” Those are some of the most familiar words in all of the Scriptures. They are simple, straight forward words, and the absolutely remarkable thing about them is that they seem to fill us with a profound sense of holy serenity. There is a quietness and a peace about those words that almost certainly belies what must have been the truth of the actual events of that night.

Most of us already know what baby having is all about. It is hardly quiet, peaceful or serene. It is however, always holy. And I do not doubt that the birth of Jesus the Messiah was any different. All of the normal pain and noise and frustration of baby-having was present in it’s fullness. It is very likely, though, that it was much worse. There was no modern birthing room, only a stable or a cave, there was no doctor in attendance, perhaps not even the local midwife.

And yet, when Luke tells us the story of Jesus’ birth, we hear nothing of the terrible disappointment of giving birth in a strange, unwelcoming community, far from home. We hear nothing about the unsuitability of the cave or of the stable. We are not introduced to the agonizing cries of Mary as her womb opens for the very first time. And this is all the more remarkable, because the story of Jesus’ birth is told by a physician. It is told by Doctor Luke, who, in his practice, must have tended to countless births.

And yet, when Dr. Luke tells us this story, albeit from a distance, he leaves the details of the difficulties, and the pain and the sufferings only to our imaginations. Luke presents, instead, a quiet, peaceful and serene picture of holiness to us. Luke does this, because he knows that we are perfectly capable of filling in all of the other details on our own. Baby having, while it is a miracle every time it happens, is not a new miracle. Most likely, while we are gathered here this evening, or as we watch this broadcast, somewhere, nearby, a baby is entering this world.

But really, more than all of that, Luke presents us with a quiet, serene and holy picture of our Lord’s birth, because his intent is to tell us the story of the coming into the world of the heavenly Prince of Peace. There is no question that Jesus’ birth was messy. We know that it was loud and painful. But overshadowing it all, was a deep and profound peace. That peace came that night in the form of a tiny baby, too small to be God, but fully God in every way.

We now live in a world of almost complete uncertainty. We truly do not know what tomorrow will bring. There is very little peace anywhere, whether it be in our hearts, or on the face of the planet. And so we must listen very carefully to the words of the Scriptures as we struggle to receive the presence of the Prince of Peace into our hearts.

In years past, Christmas has been a major event, both in our homes and in our church. We have come to depend upon the predictability of this season, even if a major part of that predictability involved inviting a chaos of celebrations and gatherings into our already busy lives. This year, because of the coronavirus, the chaos will have to wait for another time; a time of God’s choosing.

So here we have Dr. Luke, who chose to relate the story of that first Christmas in terms that evoke serenity and peace and holiness, even though we all know that it didn’t start out that way. Perhaps by the time that Mary wrapped Jesus in those bands of cloth and laid him in the manger, there was some peace, some heavenly peace that filled the place where they were staying. I’m thinking specifically of the peace of the reconciled and restored relationship between Mary and Joseph, after a very upsetting engagement. I’m thinking of the peace that the shepherds brought to the manger with words that confirmed anew, in Mary’s heart, what she had known all along. But I’m mostly thinking about the peace that comes about when we enter into relationship with the Lord in the manger who came to this earth to become our Savior, to forgive our sins, and to reconcile us forever with the Almighty God of the universe. That is peace. True peace. Peace that goes beyond our ability to comprehend it, and that peace must have filled that stable or that cave to overflowing, and it was probably as thick as Christmas pudding.

What remains, then, is peace for our own hearts. In the past ten months, our world has been completely transformed. We could not have predicted the changes that have come about because of the coronavirus. And so I am going to say something bold, really bold. Our world is really no different than the world of the first century. And it is no different because it is still the same world where the dear Christ enters in.

This Christmas, please invite the dear Christ to enter in to your lives. Allow serenity of the Prince of Peace to fill up your lives with genuine hope and peace. Allow the Christ of Christmas to enter in and fill up the emptyness that even carefully orchestrated chaos cannot fill. And then, the peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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