One Silent Night – Christmas Eve, 2021
Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:8-14
Christmas Eve, 2021
I want you to picture in your minds, the scene of Jesus’ birth. Our minds often make mental images as we think about things. So take a moment and think about your mental image of Jesus’ birth.
We love that image, don’t we! It’s a scene we see a lot this time of year, but perhaps not enough. We see it in pictures on walls, on our computer screens, on Christmas cards, in stained glass windows, and in “Manger Scenes” in our homes and on our lawns. In past years, we’ve “acted it out” in a “living nativity.”
What we see in that scene is the holy family, of course, and they are surrounded by animals, shepherds, and even Wise Men. (Although their visit was probably much later!) We also see a star overhead, and the Christmas angel looking down from above. It is a scene of peace on earth, and goodwill to all people! And often those words appear with it.
I’ve talked before about how some people want to leave the story of Jesus right there. Because they’re just fine with that wonderful, idyllic scene! But they don’t want to think about Jesus as a man, a teacher, a sacrifice, or a savior. They’d rather just leave him in that manger as a baby! And so I’ve often tried to bring all the rest of his life into this celebration.
But in saying that, I don’t want to be dismissive at all about this scene! I do want it to be meaningful as is. I want it to be the powerful, amazing, world changing scene that it is! This is a milestone in time. This is the moment that God stepped into our world! And I want us to see the great contrast here, the contrast between the holy Son of God, and this poor, peasant couple, struggling to care for this vulnerable newborn baby, with little means, and no lodging.
I want us to see in this child the pure, eternal love of God! I want us to see and to know all the things our closing song “Silent Night” says about this scene. “Silent Night” is arguably the most beloved Christmas song ever! And it is a wonderful musical description of this scene in Bethlehem.
And yes, I do want us to think about Jesus the man, Jesus the teacher, Jesus the healer, Jesus the Savior. But I want us to know that about this baby. I want us to know that he is “Emmanuel” – “God with us.” I want us to remember that he is “the Word made flesh,” as John told us. I want us to remember that this is the moment of the “incarnation.”
And yes, we’ll be thinking about all that other stuff after the first of the year. We’ll be chronicling the life and ministry of Jesus through Epiphany and Lent and Holy Week. But for now, for tonight, I want us to think just of this scene, this picture of what happened long ago, one silent night.
“And in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. And Joseph went up from Galilee, to Judea, to the city of Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7)
In a moment, I’m going to read from the great Prologue of John’s Gospel. For me, that always adds the eternal picture of the Christmas story. It tells the story of this baby, and how the story started at creation! And I hope that will help you see “the big picture” – the biggest of pictures! But then as we sing “Silent Night,” I invite you to think about that picture in your mind of that scene in Bethlehem, the scene that changed the world, one silent night.
Eternal God, we cannot begin to fathom your great love for us. We can only see it and stand in awe and wonder. Help us to be so filled with your love, that it overflows from us. As you have changed the world, change our lives through that baby in Bethlehem. For we pray in his name, Amen.