Fear Not, God is With Us, Christmas Eve
CHRISTMAS EVE LUKE 2:1-20
Sometimes it feels like church is really out of touch with the rest of the world. Here we are just beginning to sing our Christmas Carols and prepare for a Christmas season…when the rest of the world who’s been inundated with Christmas since October…Quite frankly many people are relieved that tomorrow is Christmas, it’s practically here, because it means that life can get back to normal, and all these extra hooplas and hullaballoos will go away. Over the past few weeks I’ve been excitedly asking people what their Christmas plans were…Only to be shocked to hear from many of them…Well I just don’t feel like celebrating this year. It’s just me for the first time. Or just me and my spouse, our kids are grown, and all that fuss with a tree and a fancy meal…well it just is too much work. And what do we have to celebrate anyway, the world is going to hell in a handbasket…I was shocked…here were these fabulous volunteers who’ve donated their time to bring joy and Christmas cheer to others…and now that Christmas is almost here. They had none left for themselves…
I wanted to be like Charlie Brown and yell, “Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
So it was perhaps fitting that our text for tonight is the very one delivered by Linus in a Charlie Brown Christmas.
And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! (drop blanket) For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Now this part of that movie has always made me angry, because Linus has just done the elementary school pageant version of a mic drop, and yet he hasn’t really answered the question…At least not the real question that everyone needs answered….and if we’re honest it’s the question we have all asked, or will asked at some point in our lives…”so what?” “so what does the birth of a middle eastern Jewish baby born 2000 years ago have to do with me. If Jesus was really God coming to Earth, then why isn’t Earth a whole lot more heavenly…and if it really happened, how am I supposed to respond? The answer to the question of what is Christmas really all about, is not an admittedly awesome and dramatic reading of the Gospel account of what happened…The answer is This happened and now we…
You see God always gives us a choice. When we hear the good news of what God has done we have a whole range of options of how we can respond and act…Charlie Brown’s problem was not with the fact that Jesus was born…it was the indifference, and the commercialism that he saw as people’s response. Linus didn’t answer the So What…and so everyone responded with indifference. The Peanuts gang went right back to celebrating Christmas as usual because for them, Christmas was all about, Ho Ho Ho, and jingle bells and presents for pretty girls.
Well I hope tonight to be a better preacher than Linus, and move you to something beyond Christmas as usual. So let’s take a look at our other options of how we can respond to our gospel good news…
Well we could react like the shepherds did…Although perhaps panic and terror isn’t exactly better than indifference…I can’t really blame the shepherds though. I mean, imagine everything you’ve ever known or thought you knew about God is suddenly and Earthshakingly shattered!!!!
Two minutes before, the shepherds were minding their own business, and they knew: God was almighty, all powerful, God is in heaven, and heaven is way, way far away from here, and God isn’t overly concerned about me, a second, or third, or fourth son, stuck in the middle of a field watching over some stupid sheep.
And now Suddenly, and angel of the Lord appears and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounds them. Oh shhh…And the song we sing this time of year romanticizes this moment: “Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices…” But these guys were terrified!!!!! That same heaven that seemed so remote is BREAKING IN! And that God that didn’t really care about me has sent an angel to Speak, and the message. “FEAR NOT!” Oh yeah right! And then the angel describes and improbable savior. A messiah marked by helplessness, a messiah marked by a mother who had only some cloth to wrap him in, and a makeshift cradle….This. This is Christ the King? And the sky is filled with the armies of heaven saying “Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth Peace, Goodwill towards men..”
Which leads to our third option of how to respond to the good news of Christ’s birth…so far we’ve seen indifference, and terror, and now we see the urge to go and see. Suddenly in the grand scheme of things keeping watch over their flocks by night took a backseat to the invitation to Come and See. And it is that invitation to come and see that finds us thousands of years later gathering here…
It’s the audaciousness…that small spark within us, that whisper of the Holy Spirit that says, you are not alone, you are not unloved, you are not the product of an accident in astrophysical combustion, nor the plaything of an indifferent and cruel God.
Here tonight it is my prayer that in a world tired of Christmas songs, shopping sprees and inflated credit cards, a world tired of me too, and disasters natural and man made…you will encounter the thrill of hope in which a weary world rejoices. We like the shepherds can come and see this thing that has happened (go to manger scene window). We can behold the Christ child in the manger.
The very same God who hovered over the waters at creation, the Word that existed in the beginning with God and was God. The Word that gave life to everything that was created….That Word was born in flesh. The phenomenal cosmic powers of creation empties themselves into an itty bitty living space…to show us that life, vulnerable, scary, lonely and tumultuous life is worth the living.
And I’ll tell you a secret. Christ wasn’t just born into the family tree of David that long ago night. Christ has been born and reborn into yours and my family tree. When someone like an Aunt or Uncle, or Father or Mother, or maybe even a pastor, someone accepted the invitation to Come and see, and then like the shepherds they told you! I have seen the Son of God, Immanuel that is God with us….Jesus the Savior of all mankind is born…Won’t you come and behold him.
Now all night I’ve been picking on Linus as a bad preacher, because he didn’t answer the question of Jesus is born…so what…except he did…Something incredible happened when Linus got up to give his testimony. It’s just so subtle that no one noticed…I’ll do it again and see if you catch it...
And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not!
…You see Linus has a beloved security blanket, It’s the thing that he clings to as his source of comfort, And yet when Linus reads fear not…he drops the false peace of a blanket and wraps himself in the true security of the Prince of Peace. So tonight hear the gospel, Come & See, Make it known, BE AMAZED be Astonished but most of all FEAR NOT. God is with us! God is with us then now, and to the very end of the age. And life is worth the living just because he lived.