Sermon Christmas Eve
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our newborn Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Everyone loves babies. They are so cute. They are so adorable and cuddly. Most of the time they smell sweet like baby powder or baby shampoo. Look at how many times we see people smelling their hair.
We even love to see baby animals, even the ugly and funny looking ones. We see a picture of a baby monkey or a baby turtle or a baby bird and we all just want to say, “Awe, how cute!”
It doesn’t even have to be a real baby for us to love it. I even love baby dolls like this one. I always think of Christmas when I see a baby doll. I think I got a new doll just about every Christmas when I was a little girl. Dolls bring back all the nice, sweet, nostalgic, memories of childhood Christmases for me.
Christmas is a time of sweet memories for many of us, or at least we want it to be. We want that sentimental feeling we get when the children sing “Away in a Manger” or when we light the candles and we all sing “Silent Night.” You know what I mean, that time when you say to yourself, “Now it’s really Christmas.”
There are good things about those sentimental feelings. For some of you, they are the reason you came to church tonight. Those feelings, along with the need to please your grandma.
That’s OK, though. Grandmas have been some of the best evangelists since Bible times.
Christmas is that time of year when we remember that Jesus came to us as a baby.
Baby Jesus was as vulnerable and as needy as any human baby. That is one of the reasons we can identify with him so easily. We know we were all once little babies too. Even though we can't remember ourselves as infants, we still know how needy we all were back then.
Babies are so cute and sweet.
But they grow up. Jesus grew up, too. He didn’t stay a little baby any longer than any other human child. He grew into a man.
Faith in a little baby is a sentimental faith. Everyone loves the little baby Jesus asleep on the hay. Everyone loves the story of the shepherds and the angels singing. We like to hear of the magi bringing gifts and remember that is the reason we share gifts with those we love this time of year.
But Jesus grew up. We wouldn’t celebrate Christmas as his birthday if he had stayed in the manger, stayed little and cute.
Put doll back
We need the adult Jesus to have a genuine faith, a real relationship with God. We need the adult Jesus for our faith to have any substance.
We need the Jesus who grew into a man. The adult Jesus wasn’t cute or adorable. That’s what happens when we grow up. We stop being adorable and cute. We start being recognized by what we say and do.
The adult Jesus was well know for what he said and did. He spent his time teaching and preaching and healing the sick.
He taught his disciples many important things. Some of those things were harder to learn than others. First of all, he taught us to love our neighbors. Most of us have nice neighbors, so it isn’t too hard to love them.
But Jesus didn’t just say to love the nice neighbors, the ones who shovel their sidewalks and keep their lawns nice. He said to love all our neighbors - the nice ones, the annoying ones, the rich ones, the poor ones, the disagreeable ones, the ones who are very different from us, the ones who come from other places, even the ones who live in other places and believe very different things about God.
But, Jesus didn't just say to love all our neighbors. He taught his disciples to love their enemies, too. Anyone can love their friends. Loving your enemies is a lot more work.
We have to remind ourselves that Jesus taught us to want what is best for our enemies, and not rejoice when they get what we think they deserve. We have to keep reminding ourselves that Jesus loves our enemies, as much as he loves us.
And finally, at the end of his short life, he taught us how to love our enemies by his own example. He was betrayed by his friend, given over into the hands of his enemies, and suffered a terrible death on the cross. As he died, he prayed for God to forgive us all.
Then he surprised everyone by becoming the God who conquered death itself, not just for his friends, but for his enemies as well.
Tonight, we especially remember that Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to become the God we could see and touch and hear. He came to earth as a child to show us just how much God loves us. He did all this to help us learn to love the God we cannot see.
He comes to us tonight in this meal we share, in a way we can see and touch and taste, reminding us again of God's great love for us all.
My prayer for each of us, is that, tonight as we proclaim our love for the God we see in little baby Jesus, that we may grow in love for the God whom we cannot see and for all those people Jesus showed us how to love.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.