God Came To Us
After returning home from a long tour, Bono, lead singer of the pop group U2, returned to Dublin and attended a Christmas Eve service. At some point in the service, Bono grasped the truth of the Christmas story: In Jesus, God became a human being and came to live among us. With tears running down his face, he realized that God sought to explain Himself by becoming a child born in poverty. Love needed to find a form, intimacy needed to be whispered … Love had to become an action and therefore there must have been an incarnation. Today we have come to this place of worship to celebrate the wonder of Christmas. It isn't about the good will we see in people's lives of sharing or time off work and school or the plans people made to be together. No, it's all about God Who came to us. When God tore open His heavens over the fields of Bethlehem-Ephrata, the angel who spoke first, gave the message, “Your God is here! Today, He was born in the city of David.”
From Luke 2: 8-20 we first see that God Came To The Ordinary. It wasn't by chance that Luke mentioned what we read in verse 8, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” They were meant to be there; they were placed there by God. Because they were chosen to hear the good news first that was to bring great joy for all the people. The “all the people” Luke mentioned include us more than 2000 years later. That is the wonder of Christmas in every heart that welcomes Jesus this morning! You see, just as God's people felt oppressed when the announcement came, we too hear this message “for all the people” in a world of turmoil. No matter what our world had to deal with this year – a continuous pandemic, with a new variant spreading faster than what medical experts thought...or...rain and hurricanes that took people's lives, God comes to us in this moment and says, “My Son came into this world. He is the answer to everything. In Him you can do what my servant Paul wrote about, 'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!'”
But shepherds were visited by God before the news went to “all the people.” They were the outcasts of society – they smelled for they lived out in the fields. To them the high class of society would always have said, “Use the back door. We don't want the smell in here. Let it be where the servants are.” My friends, what took place on that field was all about God's plan. He passed the palace that night – the news wasn't meant for Herod first. He passed the Teachers of the Law, the High Priest, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, for the news wasn't to reach them first. It was meant for the most ordinary of that time! They who would have heard it last by people's standards, heard it first. You know, it's such a relief that God included all of us for this news of great joy this morning. Think about it – from the perspective of people in the world, if this news was to be delivered the first time, where would that have been? We would think in a palace or at a convention of ecumenical spiritual leaders. But no, in a small hut in the most insignificant place in the world, God says, “To you, the Saviour of the world has been born.”
From this familiar passage of Luke about our Saviour's birth, we hear the words, Do Not Be Afraid. How could those shepherds not have been afraid? They were waken in the middle of the night by light and an open heaven. They didn't have time to try and make sense of what just had happened. And then they had the fear of every day life. They together with all God's people were oppressed. They didn't know if they would see the next day with the Roman authorities coming after them. In our time people have fear too – fear for something worse than Covid-19 that might come, fear for losing their jobs or homes, fear to be left out, fear for what a New Year will bring. But let's appreciate the words of the angel for all times,
“Do not be afraid...” Under any circumstance in life God comes to us and says, “Do not be afraid...” Jesus our newborn King and Saviour says, “I have come to answer all your fears.” There is no other answer you can find in the whole world than the answer God gave us on the night of His Son's birth, “Arise, arise my people, for your Saviour has come to you.” It was on Christmas Eve 1996 when a woman was in hospital in Standerton, South Africa. She received the news that she was terminally sick and her time was limited. That night she stood in front of an open window and her thoughts went far – about her husband, children and grandchildren. How would their lives be when she was gone? She thought about her faith – her relationship with Jesus Christ felt so distant in that moment, all she felt was fear. And then something remarkable happened. From the darkness of the night a white dove came flying and sat on her head. And as it sat all the woman's thoughts of fear vanished. She found assurance in Christ and made the best of the time she had with her family. How do you feel on this Christmas morning? Do you truly accept what the angel of the Lord said – “Do not be afraid...”?
There is a last thought from Luke 2 I would like to share: God Came To Us that Our Joy Will Last Forever. Those shepherds didn't say, “Let's get some sleep and go and see the Child the angel told us about.” No, we read in verse 15b and 16, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” They were overcome with joy and they had to go immediately. We see in this passage that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Nothing can take away our joy in Jesus. It is indeed – “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” And you know my friends, joy is so needed in our world today. People are depressed; people have lost the joy to give them purpose each day of their lives. It seems like they just want to go through the motions until their lives are over. No, we have to take the message to them, “In Jesus Christ, there is an answer to every situation. In Him God came to us to change a song of lament into a song of joy.”
We praise our Heavenly Father today as we've done so many times on Christmas Day. Jesus came to us...when He came it was far more than a Baby that was born...No, God came to us. To Him we sing our praises now and forevermore.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall