Friday, December 26, 2014

Does Christmas Matter? Christmas Eve Message

Does Christmas matter? The obvious answer might be “yes” but maybe sometimes we aren’t sure.

Maybe like George Bailey in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life we need the angel Clarence to come show us how the world might be different without it.

Or maybe like Scrooge in the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, we need spirits to come show us the impact Christmas is currently having.

Angels play such a big part in the Christmas story—appearing to Joseph, to Mary, and announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds—that it’s not surprising that they are also prevalent in our Christmas movies, too.

If angels were going to visit us tonight, what would the angels need to say or show us to help us see that Christmas matters?  That Jesus’ birth matters?  That you and I matter?  That how we celebrate matters?

Maybe they would show us what the world would be like if Jesus had never been born and we didn’t have anything to celebrate at all.

There are entire books written about what might have been different about the last 2014 years without Jesus.  They’re worth reading and considering.

But tonight we’re here to celebrate that Jesus HAS been born!  To hear the angels say once again,

“For behold I bring you good news of great joy!  For tonight in the city of David is born a savior who is Christ the Lord!”

I think one sign that Christmas still matters today is that church attendance tonight across the nation is double what it is on any given Sunday.[1]  We come to church on Christmas because we still want to hear the story, sing the carols, and light the candles on Christmas, and to remember how Christmas began.[2]

It might surprise you to know that 96% of the population celebrates Christmas.[3]  Not everyone is celebrating it as a religious holiday, but in a world in which we cannot seem to agree on anything anymore, we agree on Christmas.

Although we don’t all celebrate in exactly the same way, I still think it’s remarkable that 96% of us celebrate Christmas.

The one aspect of celebration that most of us have in common is that we spend time with friends and family for the holidays, and we give gifts.  Spending time with people and giving are acts of love.  You might be thinking, yes, but I do those things because I have to, not because I want to.  Well then, isn’t that an even greater act of love?  That you don’t want to do them but you do them anyway?  That is an act of sacrifice!  For some of us GREAT sacrifice!  And that’s exactly the example we have in Jesus—sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others.

So one of the reasons I think Christmas matters is that it’s a sign to us that there is still good in this world.  Back in the beginning when God finished creating the world, he looked at all he had made and said, “It is good!”  Some days it seems like the world has fallen apart since then, and it’s hard to see whether there is much good left, but at Christmas we can see the good at work.

Christmas is the annual evidence that God is still at work in our world.  God is love.  And love abounds at Christmas.

Giving abounds at Christmas.  30-40% of all charitable giving happens at Christmas time.  There’s even a new tradition which began two years ago to balance Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It’s called Giving Tuesday. Have you heard about this?  It was started by the New York YMCA along with the United Nations Foundation, and it’s catching on.  I got reminders about it this year from our Presbyterian leaders.  It’s not about giving to one specific organization, it’s just about having a day to focus on giving in the midst of all the buying.[4]

Sometimes it might seem like Christmas is all about commercialism and that we could just do without it, but Christmas still matters.  It’s the one time of the year we almost all celebrate, that many of us take time to spend with the ones we love, and that we are giving—giving not just presents to our family and friends, but also to those who don’t have as much as we do.

Christmas is a sign that God is still at work in our world.  That God’s goodness is still here.  Jesus came to bring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.  Mark Twain said that kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  Kindness is important all year round, but kindness abounds at Christmas.

Does Christmas matter?  By the very fact that you are here listening to this, I think that you probably think that it does…or at least you hope that it does.  But you might think it does for different reasons than the ones that I have given.  So I invite you to consider why Christmas matters to you?  And if you aren’t sure whether it matters, what might you do tonight to MAKE it matter to you?

Does Christmas matter? Yes.  For many reasons, but maybe the most important one is that Christmas matters because each one of us matters.  Every single one of us is someone God loved so much that he gave us his one and only son, so that we might know him.  So that we might know that whatever there is that keeps us from God is forgiven.  So that we might know how much he loves us.  So that we might have his love living in us to share with the world.

 Loving God, help us to see and hear and know you.  Help us to see how Christmas matters, and how Jesus matters, and how we matter, as your love lives in us and shines through us to the world around us.  Forgive us for failing to see.  Forgive us for not turning to you with our doubts and fears.  Thank you for your love and grace, born tonight in a manger, born that all might know that nothing is more powerful than your love.

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