Text: Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
“I wish Christmas time would never be over.” It is a feeling I’m sure we’ve all shared. Christmas seems to come earlier every year; the commercialization of it, that is. It is a time that comes and goes, leaving us yearning for a day when time would stand still and somehow our lives would be filled with excitement, and our days would be kinder, lovelier, and more peaceful. That time never seems to come, though we never give up the dream.
What would life be like without special moments? For example, just think about how this time of the year dominates our days. It’s Christmas time, wintertime, shopping time, vacation time. Every day there comes a time to wake up, a time to go to work, a time to eat, a time to play, a time to go to bed. The word time defines our existence, as the preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes puts it: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; . . . a time to seek, and a time to lose; . . . a time to love, and a time to hate.” Those are the times that come and go as we move through life – happy times, sad times, exciting times, boring times, full times, empty times.
And so it is in the world in which we live, marking our time every moment of every day. We are creatures bound by time, which can be a challenge or a problem, an opportunity or a disaster. Time, which was intended by our Creator to be a blessing, sometimes seems to be more like a curse. We delight in those moments when we have good times, exhilarating times, hopeful times. But we can easily turn them into anxious, stressful, hurtful, desperate times.
In the Christmas story, the time came. It came as a decree from the emperor requiring everyone to return to his ancestral hometown for a census. Today the Census Bureau sends representatives to our houses. In those days, they required families to take the time to make a long, hard journey. For shepherds it was time to keep watch over the flocks at night, shivering in the cold, enduring the time until morning came. And for the holy couple, Joseph and Mary, it was time to find a place – not just to rest, but to deliver a baby, since there was no room at the inn.
Here we are, gathered together as God’s holy people waiting to celebrate that moment in time when a Baby was born, but it is not just the birth of any baby. It is the birth of the one whom Isaiah foretold of so long ago: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” This Baby is none other than Jesus Christ, the very Son of God. The time has come. The time has come for the promise from God of a Savior to be fulfilled. The time has come for God’s creation to be restored. The time has come for the sins of the world to be forgiven. The time has come for your sins to be forgiven.
When we see how the Son of God came into the world, it is not how the people of the New Testament expected. They had grandiose expectations of their King: a man who was strong and mighty; a man who would reign as their earthly king; a man who was powerful and a born leader. Instead, they received a Baby, born to meek and meager parents – a young teen mother and a carpenter. Instead of getting a great and powerful king, they got a Baby. This Baby was not strong and mighty. A Baby could not serve as a king. He wasn’t powerful or a born leader. What a let-down this must have been! Instead of getting a Messiah who fit their profile, they received a Baby who was the Messiah which fit God’s profile.
The prophet Isaiah later writes this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The people knew what they wanted the Messiah to look like. However, God knew the Messiah that they needed. He knew better than the people did of what they needed. They wanted someone who would establish an earthly kingdom, possibly bring peace or make Nazareth a respectable city again. Instead of giving to the people what they wanted, God gave what they needed: a King who would reign over heaven and earth. He gave to them a King would establish a peace that passes all understanding, a peace between God and His creation. Jesus our King restored the relationship between God and us by His death on the cross. That was something that no earthly king could do; something only the Son of God could do for us.
Look at where Jesus was born. He was born in a manger, nothing more than a feeding trough. If He were the Messiah that the people had expected, wouldn’t there be more pomp and circumstance to His birth? If you look at the birth of a child of a dignitary or a leader of a nation, there is security, paparazzis taking pictures, the red carpet rolled out; in short, nothing but the best. In the case of Jesus, what happens? Listen to what Luke says: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” What was done for the Babe of Bethlehem? Maybe a few sheep were moved out of the way. Possibly a hay bale was undone for the Holy Family. Hopefully the innkeeper was gracious enough to clean out a trough to lay Jesus in. None of this screams “Son of God” or “Messiah” for the people, but this was all according to God’s time and God’s plan.
Tonight, the time has come. The time has come for the Savior of the nations to be born – Jesus is born. The love of God took the shape of one named Jesus, born of Mary, but called also Immanuel – God with us – thus blessing and redeeming our times.
For many, tonight marks the end of waiting: waiting to open the presents which Santa Claus brings. But for the millions of believers in Christ, tonight is the culmination of much wishing and hoping and waiting as well. We too have received a present. But it is not a present that comes from Santa. Rather, it is the greatest gift of all – the gift of God’s own Son.
The time has come for us. In Jesus, God has entered our world where we are born and die, work and play, love and dream. We rejoice with the angel who proclaimed, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In Jesus’ name, amen.