Sermon for Christmas Eve, 2011
A child changes everything.
Grace to you and peace from our newborn Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is a familiar story to most of us. We love to hear it every year on Christmas eve. In our minds we paint a beautiful picture like the children’s pageant this past Sunday with the pretty angel costumes and the cute little shepherds with their crooks walking in together and all of them standing up here and singing “Away in a Manger.”
Mary is in her beautiful blue robe smiling down on the sleeping baby. Joseph is standing by ready to help. Adoring shepherds are there with their fluffy white sheep. The angels spread their wings over the stable.
We all treasure scenes like this even though we know the reality has been photoshopped to make a nice greeting card picture. In truth, the first Christmas was not quiet and serene. Baby Jesus was a normal human infant who really did cry.
Those of us who are parents know the truth. A child changes everything. The whole focus and purpose of your life is changed forever, when a child enters the picture.
The little town of Bethlehem was so crowded that Mary and Joseph had to stay in the shed with the cows and goats. It was so crowded that they had to lay baby Jesus in the feed box. God came to earth and there was no room for him. God came anyway. God loves us that much. This child changes everything.
There are those among us who think it is a nice pretty story, but that’s all it is. They think Christmas is just a time for get-togethers with family and friends, exchanging presents, and sharing old stories.
If you fall into this category and you came to church tonight because it made someone in your family happy, you are welcome here. I want to share an old story with you.
It is a story called “The Man and the Birds.” Paul Harvey shared it on the radio a number of years ago. Perhaps you have heard it:
The man I’m going to describe was not a scrooge but a kind and decent man, a loving husband and father, upright in all his dealings. But he did not believe in the Jesus story, about Jesus’ incarnation. It did not make sense to him that God would come to earth as a man and he was too honest of a man to say otherwise.
He told his wife and family that he was truly sorry to distress them but he was not going to church this Christmas eve. “Because I would feel I would be a hypocrite.” So his wife and family went to the Christmas Eve services.
Shortly after his family drove away in their car, snow began to fall. And he went to the window to see the flurries getting heavier and heavier.
And then he went back to his chair by the fireside to read his newspaper. A moment later he was startled by a thudding sound, then another, and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the front living room window, but when he went to the front door, He found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the snow. And, trying to get to safety, they tried to fly through his large landscaped window.
Well, he could not let the poor creatures freeze. So he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter…if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat and boots and he tramped through the deepening snow to the barn– opening the doors wide and turned on the lights. But the birds did not come in. He figured that food would entice them in.
So he hurried back to the house and fetched bread crumbs spreading them on the snow, making a trail to the wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried to catch them and shooing them into the barn, running around waving his arms– instead they just scattered in every direction except to the warm lighted barn; and then he realized they were afraid of him.
The tiny little birds, to them he reasoned–that he was a strange terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they could trust me…To let them know that I’m not trying to hurt them but to help them.. But how? Because any move that he made tended to frighten them, to confuse them. They just would not follow; they would not be led. Because they feared him.
“If only I could be a bird and mingle with them………. and speak….their language ……..and tell them not to be afraid…..and show them the way to the safe warm barn……..But I would ……..have to be one of them…….so they could see and hear and understand……….”
At that moment the church bells began to ring…….and……..
The sound reached his ears……. above the sounds of the wind and he stood
there listening…….. Listening to the bells……….
ringing the glad tidings of Christmas…………
As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer:
“Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!”
The God who comes to us in this little child Jesus says to us:
“I made you. I love you.
I care enough about you to come down to earth and become one of you.
I love each of you personally and I love the whole world.
I love you enough to live in this world and walk with you and talk with you.
I love you enough to die for you.
I love you so much that I overcame sin and death itself
– so that you can live with me forever.
That’s why I came as a little child.”
This Little Child changes everything.
May he be born in your life this day and every day
– and change everything. Amen.