“A Reflection of God’s Glory”
Christmas Eve 2016
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Dearly beloved church family and friends:
On this day,
In the City of David,
Is born our Savior,
Jesus Christ the Lord.
He’s been found,
Wrapped in swaddling cloths
Lying in a manger,
Tucked away behind an inn.
This isn’t how you expected Christ to come?
You thought maybe he’d swoop in unannounced from a cloud
Judge the good from the bad
And make another ascension with the righteous and faithful?
Hah! Joke is on you.
Jesus is born a baby.
The baby Jesus is the one the prophet Isaiah foretold has come!
Jesus Christ has come as the Prince of Peace.
Peace! I said.
Peace! You heard me right.
If we have the courage,
War can be no more.
Fighting, suffering, refugees, … all can be no more,
If only we pledge ourselves
As disciples of the Prince of Peace
To work for peace.
Let us dedicate our lives to the work of peace.
Jesus Christ has come as God incarnate,
God in the flesh.
God has come to save us.
Jesus is the Good News who announces salvation!
Salvation comes to victims of injustice,
Both near and far.
Salvation comes when our Divine Judge rules with fairness and equity.
Salvation comes when the boot is removed
From the neck of the oppressed.
Salvation comes when we work hand in hand with Jesus
To rehab the world from top to bottom,
Destroying oppressors and bringing humiliation to the powerful,
Ushering in God’s world order,
Where there is abundance for all
That all may equally share in the blessings of the Lord.
A kingdom of justice
Is God’s gift of salvation to those who have been treated unfairly.
Justice is God’s gift to his faithful.
Salvation comes to those the world has passed over;
The left behind.
The low are being lifted up!
The high and mighty are being made low!
Be it age, infirmity, disability, or poverty …
Be it hunger, fear, homelessness, or simply being overwhelmed …
Christ has come to save you!
To set you free!
To restore you to wholeness.
Salvation comes because our God ROCKS!
And our God REIGNS!
Sin, death, evil … they’ve had their day,
They’ve played their hand,
And they’ve all been defeated.
Sin, death and evil have all been defeated
By Christ who REIGNS!
When we lift up our voices in singing and thanksgiving.
We renew our baptismal confession
That Jesus is our Savior.
That we trust in his grace.
And that we promise to serve him as our Lord.
Jesus brings salvation
To a world in need of revival.
This night you’ve been redeemed from the dead,
No less dramatically than a paramedic shocking someone back to life.
This night you’ve been redeemed from your past sins.
All your regrets can be swept away down the storm sewers of life,
Because Christ has come
To restore every relationship that has been broken,
To heal every transgression that’s been committed,
To right every wrong,
And to set us out on the journey of life again.
Jesus gives you this day a clean slate;
A fresh start;
A do-over with your life.
The past is forgotten.
Our history is as if no more.
This is a day of new beginning for you and me
Because Jesus Christ has come
God had been speaking the language of salvation.
For eons God sent our ancestors prophets
… Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and many others …
To relay his Word
To our world.
But, our forefathers and foremothers were just as hard-headed as we are.
They didn’t listen.
Today, God is doing his speaking directly
In and through his Son, Jesus.
Jesus “is the reflection of God’s glory,”
“The exact imprint of God’s very being,”
The author of Hebrews so eloquently writes.
Now, it’s Jesus doing the talking.
It’s the same God,
But speaking through his Son, Jesus.
Jesus is so much more straight up and personal.
A baby is just impossible to ignore.
This is Good News!
Merely by the power of his Word,
God is able to sustain all things.
Through His Word
God is able to sustain YOU.
Do you need help?
Help to get through the next week?
The next day?
The next moment?
Is it addiction?
Or just putting up with too many coming over for Christmas dinner?
Is life overwhelming?
Mourning the death of a loved one?
Is your health becoming more than you can handle?
Go to the Word and find all the support you need,
And more, in spades,
Simply by the power of God,
Through His grace;
His gift of the Word.
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,
The Apostle John witnessed.
Jesus dwells among us,
Lives in and through us,
Sustaining our every need,
Supporting our every want.
Yes, Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
God in the flesh
Is more than just talk.
Jesus walks the walk.
He takes action.
Not only does his Word sustain us,
But his actions sustain us, too.
First, Jesus leads by example.
His life was an example of how we are to lead our lives.
Reach out to the poor, because that’s what Jesus did.
Advocate for the victims of injustice, because that’s what Jesus did.
Bring healing to a sick world, because that’s what Jesus did.
Be the Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man, because that’s what Jesus did.
God loves you and me so much that he sent us the perfect example
Of how to live as his faithful followers.
Secondly, Jesus willingly died to take away your sins,
And the sins of the world.
What a gift.
Yet, it certainly demands our response.
Dying on the cross,
Jesus makes you and me clean.
God’s love is up close and personal.
Lastly, Jesus rose from the dead.
By his resurrection from the dead,
God assures us that, likewise,
When we die, … you and me …
We will likewise be raised from the dead,
Lifted up into heaven,
Where we will spend eternity with our God.
There is victory in Jesus!
Jesus is the perfect reflection of God’s glory!
And this glory has been bestowed upon you and me this Christmas day.
No wonder angels proclaimed!
No wonder shepherds went searching!
No wonder wise men were soon to follow.
Let us take our place this day
At the manger,
Bowing before the baby Jesus.
Thank God for his gift.
Praise God for his glory.