Try the Christmas Quiz at the end.
Did you miss it?
Christmas carols have been playing on the radio as we have raced all over town shopping and running kids from parties to rehearsals to programs. Have we taken the time hear these songs of joy or did we miss it?
Lights are shining on people’s homes all over town. Did this light fill us with a sense of awe and wonder, did it remind us that Jesus is the light that shines into our darkness or did we miss it?
Christmas Cookies and Candy Canes have been given out at work and school and enjoyed at home. Did we savor the sweetness of the food and the time with family and friends or did we miss it?
Nativity Scenes are on the front of cards and on front lawns and even at front of the church. Did we see the gift of Jesus? Did we see in these scenes what the gift of Jesus can do in our world or did we miss it?
Too many of us enter this holy night exhausted and empty because we missed it. We have celebrated Christmas but we have missed the presence of God with us in Jesus.
If this sounds like you, if you are here tonight thinking that once again you missed it, it is not too late. Please hear the message we have been sharing this Christmas season and open your eyes and mind and heart and life and don’t miss it, don’t miss the presence of God because that is what Christmas is all about. We make Christmas all about presents, the gifts and packages that go under a tree, but Christmas is all about the presence of God. Christmas is about the God of the universe coming into this world as a small vulnerable baby boy so that in him and through him we could see and experience God’s love.
Don’t miss the presence of God because that is the real gift of Christmas, that is the gift of Jesus and that is the best.gift.ever.
Do you remember the best gift you ever received at Christmas? I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a lot of Christmas gifts, although I do remember we always got socks and underwear. I have noticed one thing about gifts, the older we get the smaller the gifts become – not less expensive, just smaller. Children’s toys come in big boxes, but phones, tablets and electronic games are small. Eventually the boxes go away completely because a gift card or cash just needs an envelope. But the greatest gift ever didn’t need a box or an envelope, it just needed a manger because the greatest gift given was the gift of Jesus and while it may have been very small and in the town of Bethlehem it was barely noticed, it held within it the very presence of God.
While Mary and Joseph were told to give their child the name Jesus, the prophets said that the Messiah would be called Emmanuel – which means God with us. (Matthew 1:22-23) The presence of God with us means many things and the first thing it means is that God loves us. John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. Let me put that another way. God loved us so much that he allowed himself to enter into this world as an infant and live as a man so that we could move beyond an empty existence of always being exhausted and experience the gift of real life – life to the fullest, life the way God intended it, life the way we want it to be.
While we often don’t feel worthy of God’s love, and at times may not feel worthy of anyone’s love, the truth is that God’s love for us is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what we have done or who we are, God’s desire is to be with us and to help us experience the fullness of life. Don’t miss it.
God’s presence with us also means that God forgives us. No matter who we are, where we have come from or what we have done, God forgives us. The first people to hear about the birth of Jesus were Shepherds. Shepherds were not held in high regard. Because of their work and lifestyle, people considered them outcasts and sinners who were neither loved nor accepted, yet those were the first people God wanted to hear about his coming into the world. When God sends angels to give them a message of good news and great joy about a Savior, it tells us that we are all forgiven. The presence and grace of God is for us. Don’t miss it.
There is no one who is too far from God or too sinful for God to give up on. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around this at times because we have done a good job of demonizing those we don’t like or those we disagree with. When we listen to the news and hear about all kinds of people who are evil and do things that we often think of as unforgivable, it’s hard to think about God’s forgiveness reaching down that far, but God forgives and tonight God’s presence in Jesus is here to forgive and redeem us. The message of the angels said, Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord. This is a gift for you and me. This is forgiveness for you and me, don’t miss it.
The presence of God also means that God helps heal and strengthen relationship. Because the presence of God brings love and forgiveness it brings with it the gift of stronger and healthier relationships for us all. The presence of Jesus helped hold Mary and Joseph together. When Joseph first heard that Mary was pregnant, his plan was to divorce her, but then God stepped in and said that the child was the son of God. God’s presence with Joseph gave him what he needed to take Mary as his wife. God’s presence held this couple together and God’s presence can still hold relationships together.
Marriages and families are strengthened when God is present. Grace and forgiveness can restore relationships and strengthen friendships and that’s what happens when God is present. Tonight and tomorrow and in the days to come as we celebrate with family and friends we have the opportunity to forgive one another and reach out to restore broken relationships. A quiet conversation, a note seeking reconciliation, a handshake or hug at a family gathering can bring healing and restore relationships which is part of why God came to us in Jesus. Don’t miss it.
God’s presence also helps create community because it was Jesus who brought angels, shepherds and wisemen to Mary and Joseph. While they were not all there at the same time, the presence of God did bring people together. We live in a divided world. Politically, socially, economically and racially we are divided and while there is a lot of talk about how we need to come together, there is no real hope we see of this happening. The greatest hope for a community to come together lies in the church. While Sunday morning might still be one of the most segregated times of the week, the church is a place where God can bring people together. As we read through the gospels we see that Jesus gathered disciples from all kinds of backgrounds and Jesus formed new families. If we will allow God’s presence to fill us and lead us, new communities and families can be formed. Don’t miss it.
The presence of God also means that God helps us experience new life. 2 Peter 1:3-4 says, God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. It is God’s presence with us in Jesus and it is God with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us everything we need to live the kind of life that we want to live. It is God with us that helps us experience and work for a life of grace, peace and love. It is God with us that gives us a life of meaning, purpose, adventure and joy. It is God’s presence with us that helps us experience this new life and it is God’s presence that gives us what we need to keep living this life day after day, year after year. Don’t miss it.
If this is not the life we are experiencing, if we have not experienced peace or purpose or joy in this Christmas season, if we have missed it – don’t worry, it is not too late. God’s divine power is with us tonight – it came in the presence of a baby born in Bethlehem – a baby that we remember and celebrate and can still receive. God’s divine power is with us tonight in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit that waits to be invited in to hearts and lives that are full and yet empty. Our hearts are of activity but empty of hope, full of expectation but empty of peace, full of fear but empty of joy, full of doubt but empty of love. The presence of God can fill us up = Don’t Miss It. Don’t miss the chance to accept the best gift ever – the gift of God’s presence – Emmanuel, God with us.
Christmas Quiz 2017
1. We make Christmas all about presents but it really is about the _________________ of God.
2. Pastor Andy remembers always getting _____________ and ______________. What was your Best.Gift.Ever?
3. The older we get the ______________ the gifts become.
4. God’s gift of Jesus came in a ______________ and it was the very ________________ of God.
5. The prophets said the Messiah would be called __________ .
6. The presence of God means that God _____________ us.
7. For God so ________ the world that he gave his one and only Son. (John 3:16)
8. The first people to hear about Jesus were _______________. This tells us that we are ________________.
9. God’s presence means God helps ____________ and ______________relationships.
10. A _______ or ______________ at a family gathering can bring healing and restore relationships.
11. The birth of Jesus brought _____________, _______________ and _____________ to Mary and Joseph – but not all at the same time.
12. God’s ____________ power has given us everything we need for a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)
13. The best gift ever was the gift of God’s ______________.