Christmas, Advent 4 C, Luke 2: 1-14, “Christmas is Here”

“Christmas is Here” is a sermon interpretation of Luke 2: 1-14. 

As we approach this bewitching hour of midnight on Christmas Eve, people are being drawn to houses of worship throughout the whole world. Softly and gently, they come. It is as if the sanctuaries are like gigantic magnets, stretching their magnetic powers into all the world. People from all over the world are being drawn to sanctuaries tonight. Silhouettes steal across the streets of Jakarta. Shadows walk by streetlights in Hong Kong. Soldiers kneel in bunkers outside of Beirut. Princes and paupers, in castles and cottages, in Norway and Nigeria, in Burma and Bangladesh, everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

And we too are drawn to the splendor of this midnight hour. We too have come the sanctuary as millions of others are coming this night. We too come to see the candles gently push away the darkness. We too come to listen to the calm and hushed silence. We too have joined that magnetic processional of Christians where…everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

But, why have you come tonight? Why are you drawn here? Why have you been pulled out of your home tonight and been drawn to this magnetic hour?

Have you come because it is a dark, dark world in your life and you feel the darkness around you and within you? Have you come because you feel the numbness of depression, that you are really drawn to the darkness rather than the light? Is that why you have come?

It’s a dark world out there, a very dark world. This past year, you may have experienced the death of a son or a daughter, a husband or a wife. You personally have felt the prolonged darkness of death. I know me and I know you and I know it is a dark world, and that is why many of you have come…because in many of your lives, it is dark, dark, dark.

Why have you come tonight? Why have you drawn by a powerful magnetic field which is centuries old? Some of you have come tonight because you want to hear the good news that in Jesus Christ, there is light, and in Christ, there is no darkness at all. You have come to hear once again that the eternal light is much stronger than the darkness, which is not eternal. You have come tonight because you want to be filled with light and led by the light of Christ within you. I know why you have come, why you have been drawn to this place.

Why? Why have you come? Some of you have come because you are afraid. Deep down inside, you are afraid that you are going to die this year. You sense it. You know it. You have talked quietly with your doctor. You know that this is going to be your last Christmas. This is going to be your last Christmas with your son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father, and you want to make this Christmas special without drawing too much attention to yourself. You know and I know for a fact that there are many people here tonight because this is their last Christmas, and they come to hear the word from the angels: “Do not be afraid. There is no need to be afraid, for to you is born this night a savior,” and to go from this life to the next life, you can’t do it by yourself. You need a savior save you from death and take you over to the other side.

Why? Why have you been drawn by this invisible magnet, pulling you to this place of worship. I know that some of you have come tonight because you have lost the faith that you had once when you were much younger or even a child. A long time ago, way back when you were a young child, you loved God and God lived in your heart, and you felt God’s presence in you and you were at peace with God and you felt right about God. But since that time, since that time when you lost the Presence of God within, there is an emptiness deep inside. And you have come wishing; how you wish that God could be alive in your again. I know that is why some of you have come tonight.

Why? Why are you here? Still others of you are here tonight because you are on the verge of a new beginning. You are sitting next to a person, and she may not know it yet, but you are going to give her a ring for Christmas and maybe you just gave her a ring. It is really your first Christmas together, and you want God to be part of your new found togetherness. You are in love with each other and in love with love, and if you are in love with love, you find yourself drawn to the source of love.

Why? Why are you drawn this evening? Perhaps you have had an awful time in your marriage this past year. It has been awful at your house and you are here because you want a new beginning. I know why some of you are here. You want to have God help you with the new beginning of love; and if God is the source of all love, you want to have God help you to begin to love again. You want to turn over a new leaf with your partner. You want to do it right with your spouse and to do it right, God has to be a crucial part of it, and so you are here.

And still others of you are here tonight because you are like Scrooge. Yes, some of you are like Scrooge and you have to be here tonight because your wife dragged you here. You would just as soon be at home tonight with your eggnog and your fireplace going, with your feet up on that footstool, and you would be just relaxing in your favorite robe. I mean, one of the last places in the world you want to be is at church tonight. You just may be a spiritual Scrooge, a religious tightwad, and you would just rather not be here at all. But…underneath all of that, I know why you are here, because deep down there is an inner unhappiness in your life and you don’t like being a spiritual Scrooge. Down, down deep, when the kidding and humor stops, you know there is an emptiness that you wish could be filled…with the love of God.

And still others of you are here tonight and have come tonight because tonight is home. It is Christmas Eve, and you always come home on Christmas Eve. Here in this sanctuary or in other sanctuaries of the world, you find your home. On Christmas night, you have been coming to sanctuaries all of your life. For years, you have come on Christmas Eve because you know that this is where you belong. You belong here on Christmas Eve because inside, you know that you belong to God.

So, for whatever reasons we each experience, we have been drawn here this night. We have all come to the good news that at one magnificent moment in history, God became a human being. God became a real human being. God became one of us. That means that God has our feelings. That means that God knows what it feels like to cry at night because Jesus wept at night. We know that God knows what it feels like to love someone deeply and then lose them to death, just as Jesus loved and lost Lazarus. Because of God becoming human, we know that God knows our feelings of fear, our feelings of failure, our feelings of elation, our feelings of sheer joy and ecstasy…because God is like us. God is one with us. Jesus is human being; Jesus is the man of God in human form.

Jesus, the voice of God, wants to say one brief word to you tonight. Listen. Listen. You have come to hear the following word from God. The Lord says to you and to your open heart: “I love you. You are mine. I want to live in you. I want to fill your heart with my love. Why? Because I love you.”

Why have I personally come tonight. Why? Why me? Why here? Because I love Christ. I love Christmas Eve. I love the message of Christmas, the traditions of Christmas, the memories of Christmas. I love peace and I want to hear the Bible passages about peace from the book of Isaiah. In the old days, when I was a young pastor here at Grace Lutheran, I loved hearing Bert Welliver read the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, the Old Testament vision of turning swords into plowshares, the vision of turning bombs into blessings, the vision of turning tanks into treasures. Year after year, every year, Bert, the leader and thinker of the military industrial complex at Boeing, Bert the head of all technology at Boeing, who knew the future of military weaponry as well as any man on earth, how I loved hearing him read the Christmas lessons about peace. It was as if Bert was a part of a divine joke. I was here and Bert was here because of our mutual commitment to peace. I have come tonight because I am a person of peace and want to find peace in all human relationships, to solve problems with peace rather than war and conflict. The Christmas Eve service symbolizes my commitment to peace.

Why am I here tonight? Because I love the Christmas music. Only God could have thought of Christmas, so a friend once said to me, and only the inspiration of God could have touched so many composers of the world’s most beautiful music. No other religion in the world has anything as comparable and as beautiful as our Christmas music. If God is pure Beauty, then God’s beauty is revealed in Christmas music. The Christmas music touches my soul so very deeply. When I come, I pray that the Word of God will be spoken, but I am keenly aware that my own spirit is touched, not so much by the spoken Word, but by God’s Spirit through music. Why? I don’t know. I am not a musician but it is through music that I am touched deeply by God. I come for my soul and inner spirit to be inspired and it is often through music, that my heart is gently moved.

Why am I here? A commitment to peace? The beauty of Christmas music? Also, because deep down inside, I am afraid. To be honest, I am no longer afraid of failure, although I once was. No longer am I afraid of rejection, although I once was. No longer am I afraid that when you get to know me, you will realize how shallow I really am, although I once was. No, I am afraid of something else. I am afraid that the message of Christmas and the message of Easter and the message of Pentecost and all the other Sundays is a lie, and that I am part of a big lie and so are you. We are people fooling ourselves with manmade traditions. I am afraid that there is nothing beyond the grave than death and more death and more death. Just death. So I come on Christmas Eve to be confounded with the Visible Beauty of God and the Voice of God who is mysteriously here in this sacred place, whispering in my ears that my doubts are really depression and my fears are really foolish and my questions are merely quibblings of my little mind. So I come tonight because, for some strange reason, my heart is open to the eternal verities of God, and I hear and am assured of Peace and Beauty and the Invisible Eternal Presence of God. And for some mysterious reason, I am ready to believe.

Why am I hear? Because my teacher, Dr. Morris Wee, once told me that God, on Christmas Eve, came down the stairway of the stars with a baby in his arms, and that the summation of the Christian religion was and is to be found in this man, this human, this person. I come to hear about the audacity of God, who comes down to earth as one of us, fully human, fully man, fully us. I like that. My mind likes that. It makes sense to my mind that if God would want to communicate with us human beings, God would come down to earth as a human being, in our form, and thereby God would understand us much better and we would understand God much better. 

I like the story of freezing winter snowstorm, blasting its freezing powers against a farm in North Dakota. A man looks out the window of his farmhouse and says, “Those little sparrows are freezing out there in that snowstorm. I wish they would fly into the barn and stay where it is warm. They are freezing their little feathers out there in the cold. If only I were a sparrow, I would tell them what to do and they would escape the cold and fly into the barn.” The key line is this: “If only I were a sparrow.” And the truth is this: God wanted to communicate with the human race, and to get through to us about Peace, and Beauty and Love and Eternity, God became one of us, Jesus of Nazareth, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, spirit of our spirit, mind of our mind. God became one of us, in Jesus, so we would listen to Jesus, the mind and spirit of God, and finally understand. We would finally get it, just like a sparrow would finally get it if another sparrow talked to the freezing sparrow about the warmth of the barn. Yes, I am here this night because I want to hear the truth about Jesus, the human, who can communicate to us humans, about God.

Why have you come tonight? Why have I come tonight? Why have hundreds of millions come tonight? Because of the magic. Because of the mystery. Because of a powerful force that draws us to God and the things of God. That is why we are here.

Sermon by Rev. Edward Markquart