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Sermon - December 13, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1239

December 13, 2015                                                                            Luke 1:26-38

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“Let It Be To Us”

 

            As we move closer to December 25 and celebrating the birth of Jesus, a question has been popping into my thoughts, “Why does Christmas still matter?”  What is it about this particular holiday that remains so deeply ingrained in our yearly practice and tradition?  Christmas is one of the last remaining definitive roots of our national identity.  What I mean by that is that Christmas is deeply ingrained in our national consciousness.  It is a part of our “calendar” as a nation.  It is a witness to Christ that may have lost much of that particular witness, but it remains still a part of our lives as a nation.  I'm not sure what Jews and Muslims and other religions do around Christmas, except take a day off from work.  And there may indeed come a day when, at least publicly, Christmas is no longer practiced and goes the way of school prayer or Ten Commandment monuments – erased from public consciousness. 

 

            Another consideration is the national public problem that has been created in commercializing Christmas.   If there ever is a push to remove Christmas from national practice, the opposite push to grow Christmas as a commercial entity will become threatened.  So much of the economy depends on Christmas shopping.  School prayer can be removed from schools because that does not cost anything to the economy.  The other influences of Christianity can be threatened because WalMart or Amazon will not miss profits from those religious displays or practices.  No doubt there have been many distilling aspects to the Christmas celebration, moving to the generic Happy Holidays and a season of giving, but there lingers still the foundation behind Christmas – the birth of the Savior.

 

            Christ was born in troubled and violent times.  Today we celebrate Christmas in troubled and violent times.  Why does Christmas still matter?  It matter for at least five reasons that I have outlined in the sermon today and all from our passage in Luke 1:26-38.

 

 

  • The Great Promise of Christmas  (1:26-38)

 

            There is, within Christmas, great promise.  I don't just mean that God makes promises, but that there is optimism, potential, and hope in celebrating the birth of Christ.  Jesus' birth begins a new world, a new kingdom on earth.  It is the beginning of the good news of salvation for the world.  We love to celebrate birthdays.  Birthdays begin a new life and with Jesus' birth the new life is more than just his physical existence, but it means new birth for all who believe in him.  Not only can we celebrate our physical birth, but we can also celebrate that we are all born again.  The promise in our salvation is that we always have hope and renewal. 

 

            We have a Savior and in him is the promise of life and life eternal.  In him is the promise of God with us, Emmanuel.  If there was nothing else in the Christmas story we could go on with great hope knowing that God is with us. 

 

            The other hope I thought about with Christmas is the opportunity that anything can happen.  Christ's birth is the most unusual way we could have imagined God coming into the world.  Who could have thought that the Messiah would be born into the world as a vulnerable baby?  God does indeed work in mysterious ways and we can be sure that God will do amazing things – maybe even taking away our fears.

 

  • Do Not Be Afraid  (1:30)

 

            There is, within Christmas, no need to fear – all because of the peace of God.  The promise given in all of this is that we need not fear.  Just as the angel Gabriel told Mary not to fear, so too we need not fear in this life.  We know that there are enemies of Christ who seek to instill fear in us and we know it can be difficult not to be afraid.  Perhaps we need this Christmas story to drive out that fear.  The good news of Christ's birth dissipates all our fears into the good news of peace. 

Jesus promised the disciples and us, that he would give us a particular peace, his peace, not a peace like the world gives, but his peace.  And Paul teaches us that this peace goes way beyond our understanding.  It is the kind of peace we have deep within even when everything around us is going wrong or everything appears in chaos.  God's peace resides in us.  (John 14:27, Phil. 4:7)

 

 

  • The Power of the Holy Spirit (1:35-37)

 

            There is, within Christmas, great power by the Holy Spirit.  One of the things Jesus promised in the John 14 passage is the sending of the Holy Spirit.  In his Spirit is the peace he brings.  But we also see the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christmas story as the Spirit overshadows Mary and she bears within her body the Son of God. 

 

            That same power dwells in all who believe.  Because his Spirit is with us, his kingdom continues to dwell on the earth as it did when Jesus walked the earth.  As a part of the promise of Mary giving birth to Jesus, there is that promise of his kingdom having no end.  When we look at the “kingdoms” of this world, even the “kingdom” of America, we know that all these kingdoms will one day end, but the kingdom of God will never end.  We need that reminder in our time as will every generation that comes after us.  This story of Christmas gives us such a hope.

 

 

  • With God Nothing is Impossible (1:37)

 

            There is, within Christmas, nothing impossible.  We live in a world where there seems to be too many problems and not enough solutions.  One theme in the Christmas story is that nothing is impossible with God.  A virgin can conceive and a barren woman can too!  Mary is given two miracles in the good news of two births, hers and Elizabeth's. 

            Christmas reminds us that God can birth new things in impossible situations.  Perhaps God will bring forth peace in the face of terror.  Perhaps God will birth abundance in our perceived world of scarcity.  Perhaps God will birth courage in a time of fear.  Perhaps God will bring a second birth to non-believers that they might be born again.  Think about the least likely person or persons we could imagine coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior...terrorists, career criminals, politicians and lawyers (kidding), who might you think is the least likely to become a believer?  With God, nothing is impossible.  When we take that kind of attitude with everyone, it may change how we interact with other people. 

 

  • Let It Be To Us  (1:38)

 

            There is, within Christmas, complete submission and obedience.  At the end of Mary's encounter with the angel, she yields to the truth she is told.  “Let it be with me according to your word.”  This is one of my favorite statements in the Bible.  Mary yields her young life to the will of God.  How incredible is it when a young woman can say yes to becoming a mother under these circumstances.  She takes the risk of ridicule and even the possibility to be stoned to death.  I can only imagine a deeply powerful encounter with the angel Gabriel and the power of God's message so overwhelms Mary that she cannot help but trust in God's plan. 

 

            It is here as we think about why Christmas still matters that we see we must follow Mary's lead and let it be to us.  Obedience is a key to the continued practice of Christmas, for in obedience we stay true to the story of God's advent into the world through the birth of Christ. 

Why does Christmas still matter?  It is the only good news in a world filled with darkness.  It is the star that shines in the darkness of sin and death.  It is the story of promise in a broken world.  It is the story of confidence and power.  It is the story of unlimited possibilities.  And, it is the story of faithful obedience that enables us to realize why Christmas still matters.