Christmas Eve 2019, SMHP
First Reading: Isaiah 9:2-3a
2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.
3You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David
and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Gospel Reading: (Please stand as you are able) Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace.”
There is no other night like this one. No other night with as much meaning, as much tradition, as much superstition.
In Finland, they leave out a sheaf of wheat for the birds to eat, then wait inside for the visit of the Christmas Goat.
In Norway—land of Anna and Elsa and Olaf the Snowman, they light a candle each night from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. They also hide their brooms, due to an ancient superstition that spirits come looking for brooms to ride on Christmas Eve.
In Brazil, they leave socks by the window. If Papai Noel finds them, he exchanges them for a present. In Estonia, they follow the same tradition, but put the socks out on the first day of Advent, then settle in for a long wait.
In Poland, no one can eat or open presents until the first star shines in the night sky.
In Sweden, they start Christmas Eve with a noontime Julbord filled with cold fish, meatballs, sausages, potatoes, and red cabbage, along with other delicacies like pickled pigs’ feet and lutefisk. Sounded good until then, didn’t it?
Then on Christmas Eve afternoon, Swedes settle down in the living room…to watch Donald Duck. At 3 pm every Christmas Eve since 1959, one of the Swedish national stations has broadcast "Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul,” Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas.” An estimated 40-50% of the country stops to watch.
You probably have your own Christmas Eve traditions. Family traditions, new traditions, old ones, silly ones, important ones like going to church on Christmas Eve. And you probably remember what this night was like when you were putting out your socks and waiting for Papa Noel, or Santa…or the Christmas Goat (!).
There is nothing like being a child on Christmas Eve. The joy, the innocence, the hope!
It’s great being an adult on Christmas Eve too…right? But while we adults enjoy Christmas Eve, we often enjoy it in the midst of things still undone, worries about whether we’ve bought the right presents and all the right food, whether the house looks okay…or we’re dressed okay…
When I was a kid, I thought it would be so cool to be a grownup and be able to do anything I wanted. To buy whatever I wanted and be in charge of stuff.
Anybody else think it was going to be cool to be in charge of stuff? To buy whatever you want, whenever you want? Yeah, it doesn’t quite work out that way, does it?
Adulting isn’t all it seems, is it? Sometimes being in charge, having all that autonomy and some authority, it’s just kind of exhausting. Anybody else feel that way?
Well good news for you! This night is all about you. There is, on this night, heaps and heaps of good news for you!
Tonight we stand on a hillside with people who had very little power, and not much authority.
But God chose them, as God has chosen us, to hear the most amazing story ever. “Good news of great joy for all people.”
Unto us has been born this day in the City a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
“A child has been born, for us,” Isaiah declares. “A son has been given to us.”
“And”…listen carefully, because this is the really important part. “Authority rests on his shoulders.”
He may look innocent and helpless, lying in that feeding trough…but no he has power none of you can imagine. And because of him, you don’t need to imagine it. You don’t need to possess it.
The best news of this night is that we don’t have to be in charge. We can let go. Try it. Just clear your mind of anything lurking there and stressing you out. Here it again:
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Here’s a new tradition we can all try out tonight, and maybe every year at this time. Let’s just spend a few minutes realizing that the one called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace has all the authority any of us will ever need resting on his shoulders.
And that is a big weight off of our shoulders. Walk with the child born this night, and you needn’t worry about your own authority. His is sufficient. Lay all of your cares on him. He can carry them.