A decree. A census. Quirinius. If you’ve heard the Christmas story from Luke 2 enough times, you might think to yourself, “Enough with the names and the geopolitics—let’s get to the good part!” Or maybe it’s the first time you’ve heard it, and you are wondering why a Christmas celebration sounds more like a history lesson. But these opening verses are so important because it is history. It happened in history! There are many feel-good holiday stories out there—probably a hundred or more on TV and streaming services just tonight. But they aren’t real. This one is. And Caesar? Well, he was real too, and really important. It took an important person to set the wheels in motion for this census that opens the Christmas story—a moment that would bring a man and his young wife to Bethlehem. But here’s the twist: Caesar’s also not that important at all. There’s only one wheel-turner. The rest of us—even the Caesars—are just people. We’re all human. Was Caesar so wrapped up in the world around him, the world he claimed for himself, that he lost sight of that? What about us? We’re not emperors sitting on thrones, but each of us has a throne right here [point to heart] that we all, at times, claim is ours and ours alone. Are we so wrapped up in the world around us and our own dreams and desires that we can’t see what’s happening? The one eternal, holy, creator God is sending the greatest gift: Immanuel—God with us. The divine is reaching down to us and meeting us here in this moment of history. It’s not just a story from the past. This moment, this baby, changed history and is still changing the lives of those who make him room.
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1–20
Suggestions for a Sung Response
“Still, Still, Still” Evans, GtG 124
“Creator of the Stars of Night” Neale,LUYH 71, GtG 84
“Imagine” Getty, LUYH 72
“O Come, All Ye Faithful” Wade, LUYH 76, GtG 133, SSS 96
Rome was caput mundi—the capital of the world, the ancient “Big Apple,” if you will. People of prestige, position, and power were in Rome. But a prophecy of old pointed elsewhere. The first dwelling place of the holy infant, the promised king, was . . . Bethlehem. That’s a big clue that this isn’t the kind of king we tend to picture: one with a crown and flowing robe, sitting on a throne, introduced with a trumpet fanfare. And, of course, it’s not the kind of mighty king we imagine wields power, a conquering hero bending others to the royal will. Jesus didn’t come to be that king. He bends himself, humbles himself, so that we might be lifted up and filled with joy and peace, now and forever. His kingdom is eternal.
Scripture Reading: Micah 5
Suggestions for a Sung Response:
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” Brooks, LUYH 88, GtG 121, SSS 80
“Once in Royal David’s City” Alexander, LUYH 87, GtG 140
“Away in a Manger” North Amer, LUYH 86, GtG 114, SSS 79
Sometimes we miss seeing things because
they are small and seemingly insignificant.
Sometimes we miss them because
they are unexpected or unlike our expectations.
Sometimes we miss them because we think
we’ve seen or heard it all before.
Let us listen with open ears and open hearts
to hear what God was about to do.
God’s plan is full of surprises.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 1
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8–16
Have you ever heard a piece of music that made you smile and weep and tremble all at once? Such an experience is likely rare for us. But that’s how I imagine an angel chorus sounds. I imagine those glorias filled the hearts of the shepherds with such delight that they couldn’t contain their joy. I imagine the angels spoke and sang with such awesome power that the shepherds felt as if their hearts might stop right then and there. I imagine a beauty so piercing it brought tears to the shepherds’ eyes because they knew—as sure as anything—that this moment changed everything. “A Savior has been born for you; he is the Messiah, the Lord!” Many kings have been greeted with trumpets and drums and cymbals. But angels? No earthly king has ever received this sort of welcome. Angels on a hillside would be hard to miss. Let’s not miss it either. Because Christmas is never really over. We welcome our Savior tonight, but we welcome him each and every day by making him room, receiving that great gift of love and life: Jesus, the Savior who is coming again.
Please stand in body or in spirit and let us sing together of the good news of great joy for all people.