Advent Encouragement "How the Christmas Story Changes Lives"

Luke 2:1-20

I invite you to read Luke 2:1-20.

I have been thinking about this story and how it has changed the world.  How it has changed my life and I believe it has changed many others as well.

This story made a difference in Call to Ministry.  When I was growing up, we would travel to Cincinnati for dinner and presents with my grandparents.  About 8:30 I began asking my parents to leave the party and drive 100 miles back home so we could go to our churches Candlelight service.  That desire increased year after year. That night began to make a difference in all of my days.  I didn’t understand it then, but I know now that was one of the ways God was working to change my life, to bring me into a relationship with Him; and it was part of my call to ministry.  God was using that night to make a difference in me.

When I was in preaching class in seminary each of us were assigned a passage to memorize, exegete, and preach on.   I wanted this passage from Luke 2, so badly.  Instead I assigned the passage from Luke 24 about the Walk to Emmaus.   I was upset I did not get the Christmas passage but God used the Emmaus story to lead me to my own Walk to Emmaus as a pilgrim and many times as a Spiritual Director.

The guy who was assigned the Christmas story was awful!!  He started off very slowly, reading it word for word, no energy, mis-pronouncing names.  I was getting angry.  I thought this is such a great passage and this guy is messing it up bad.  That's not it is!

Then he abruptly stopped and said what I was thinking, 'No.  This  is not how it goes!  Come with me - We followed him out of the chapel, down a narrow set of stairs to the men's restroom - one light bulb  hanging from the ceiling, musty, moldy, stinky.  A stall for me!

Here he began again - powerfully, passionately, moving us - because it happened in a place like that -  a stall for animals.  The King of Glory came to be born in a stall filled with animals - Why?  Because of Love.

I remember again how thirty years ago in a mens bathroom this story changed my life.

This night has always been special to me.  I love preaching on Christmas Eve.  It is my favorite service of the year. 

This story changes TIME  -   we no longer do we keep time by BC, Before Christ, but AD, which really  mean ‘'anno Domini', Latin for ‘The year of our Lord.’  Every time you write a check, send an email, give birth to a baby, or someone dies the date reminds us of this night.  Even non-believers and athiests remember Christmas if they like it or not!

This story tells us that  in ministry or life we are Never Alone.  We are guaranteed a partner here on earth.    No matter how tough the church God is with us.   The angel instructed Jesus would be named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.  

This night is about our Sharing the Good News.  Those shepherds - dirty, outcast by society, thought to be un-holy and un-worthy are the first to get the news about Messiah's birth.  They go and see and marvel at this baby and probably shed tears of joy.  Then they left to go and tell others what they had seen and heard and how the Lord had appeared to them.

Last week I met two men in Columbus - a pastor and his son.  They are in America under religious asylum for persecution in Pakistan.  The charge?  Preaching the Gospel.  He has been beaten - his arm broken, his teeth knocked out.  Terrible things. Christians martyred and burned.  All because of preaching the Gospel.  But the church continues to grow in Pakistan because pastors continue to preach the Gospel. They do it not alone -  Emmanuel – God is with them.

What a time we have to share this great story with those in our church and those outside the church.   Christmas is probably the best time, even more than Easter, when hearts are open to the Gospel and this gift of love God has given to all the world. 

I encourage you to share it boldly and lovingly as you preach this season.

This night is different because we can have PEACE.  Isn’t that what the world needs tonight?  Peace in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, France,  California - peace in our inner cities, our hospitals and hospices? Peace in our world.

I don't know about you but I don't know how to make peace happen.  We have been trying for peace for thousands of years but we can't make it happen.  The Scripture tells us Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He comes to bring peace to our inner selves and to our world.

You may know this story - 27 years ago this Christmas Communism ended in the country of Romania.  I’ve never been to Romania or to its capitol, but I know there is a court square and on the square is a Christian church and a beautiful monument.  

For 26 years ago Nicolae Ceausescu (chou shess koo) was the dictator of Romania and ruled with an iron fist.  As a devout atheist his goal was to eradicate every hint of Christianity from his country.  

But despite his threats and power the Spirit of Christ still moved in the hearts of many Romanians.  

One night, shortly before Christmas, twelve young people gathered on that square. They each held a lit candle and sang Christmas carols and praises to Jesus. The Romanian police came armed with their Russian weapons and ordered them to stop. Gathering for Christian purposes was expressly outlawed by Ceausescu. They told them they must stop and go home.

Those twelve young people refused. They continued to hold their candles and continued to sing praises to God and the police did not know what to do. So they called Ceausescu on the phone.   Ceausescu gave a direct order; ‘If they do not stop singing to God, if they do not leave that place, they are to be shot on sight.’  So the police went back and the young people were still there. They pleaded with them, ‘You must go, you must leave.’  They refused; they continued to hold their candles, they continued to sing praises to Jesus.  And those police raised their weapons and murdered them in cold blood. 

Four days later there were not twelve young people standing in that square with candles; there were a quarter of a million men, women and children standing in that square with candles raised, singing praises to Jesus.  Four days after that Ceausescu was ousted from power, tried and put to death.  From that day to this the Christian church in Romania has continued to grow and thrive.

That’s Christmas.  That’s why this time is different than all other times.  The star shines, the angels sing, a baby cries, Christ is born.  People come together like no other time.  He is with us, the Prince of Peace.

Hold on to that and tell His story and yours.  His story changes people for all the ages. 

Merry Christmas. 

Read previous submission: Advent Encouragement "Luke 3:1-6"