1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Here’s a couple questions to consider as you go into the Christmas Eve activities:
What is Christmas about?
What is your favorite thing about Christmas?
Does your family have any special traditions they do?
The most important question… what kind of cookies are you leaving for Santa tonight?
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. Doesn’t everybody say that at Christmas though?
Let me tell you why I like it so much… presents! We get presents every year. I am like a 7 year old boy when it comes to presents. I just love them. I love getting them, I love unwrapping them, I love the suspense and the thrill.
As a dad, Christmas begins to change and be a little different than before i had kids. I still get presents and i love getting them… but the presents at Christmas aren’t about me anymore.
It is about our boys… it is about family.
There is different kind of joy I will feel tomorrow morning as the boys wake up and open their presents on Christmas morning. I will feel a greater joy than when I open my own presents… at least thats what I tell myself.
No, seriously. I have learned as a dad, one of the greatest experiences in life is watching your kids do stuff for the first time. To experience things first hand. To watch them in that moment when they have a new experience. Nothing in the world beats it.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for God?
I mean really, think about it.
That first Christmas night when Jesus was born… when God himself entered into humanity, to be a human, as C.S. Lewis said, The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.
Think of the joy we experience as our children, our family, our friends open the gifts we so thoughtfully got them and we see the look of excitement on their faces… God must have had that same kind of look on his face when Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, later the wise men, and throughout history as we have opened the gift of Jesus.
This is one of the things i like the most about Christmas… gifts. Giving loved ones something they couldn’t or didn’t get for themselves. As humans we were created in the likeness of God and the joy we feel as we give gifts reminds us of our father and creator who gave us the ultimate gift. Not just the little 8 lb 7 oz baby Jesus, not just the grown man Jesus who died on the cross in our place for our sins, but the Jesus who defeated death offering us eternal life… life everlasting… life that never ends in Heaven with him.
I have said often my favorite birth story of Jesus is the one we find in John 1:1-5.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NIV)
Jesus didn’t start when he was born a human. Jesus was there at the beginning of everything. It was through him all things were created. This Jesus whose birth we celebrate tonight & tomorrow is the eternal God who loved us to death. Ronda’s grandma sometimes says she loves us so much she could just die. Jesus loves us so much he did die. On the cross for us. In our place. Instead of us.
Christmas marks the beginning of the chapter in the story of humanity’s history where God entered into his own creation to repair what we had broken and bring us home to him.
I want to close with an Irish Christmas blessing –
“The light of the Christmas star to you,
The warmth of home and hearth to you,
The cheer and good will of friends to you,
The hope of a childlike heart to you,
The joy of a thousand angels to you,
The love of the Son,
And God’s peace to you.”