Christmas Eve
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 2:15-20 Sermon
December 24, 2005

Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
42 "O Come All Ye Faithful"
27 "O Little Town Of Bethlehem"
23 "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear"
24 "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"
30 "Angels We Have Heard On High"
48 "What Child Is This"
25 "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"
16 "Silent Night"
15 "Joy To The World"


TEXT (vs. 15-20): “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

All you need to do is to have a good look at me, and you can probably tell that one of the things that I enjoy is a good meal. Some of you have witnessed that. And I can assure you that I’ve come by every pound of my weight quite honestly.

When it comes to food and eating, I’m just like everybody else in one respect. There are foods that I like, and there’s also that rather small group of various food items that I wouldn’t care if they were to pass completely out of existence.

For example, I don’t know when I ate my first porterhouse steak—you know, that premium cut T-Bone. But I know that I like it. I don’t know how many times I’ve eaten porterhouse or T-Bone or other steaks in my life, but I know that I’ve had a good bit of it, and I would also guess that I will have it many more times in my life, simply because it’s one of the foods that I like.

On the other hand, there are foods like salmon that I don’t like. My mother used to make salmon croquettes a lot when I was growing up. I didn’t like them then, and I don’t like them today. In fact, I’ve tried salmon a lot of different ways. But I still don’t like it. And I feel much the same way about tuna fish. You can check the food shelves in my utility room, and you wouldn’t find a can of either tuna or salmon. Why? Because I simply don’t like them, and I don’t care to eat foods I don’t like. It would be a waste of money for me.

Using the illustration of eating and food is a topic that definitely touches everyone. We eat all of the time. We have to eat in order to stay alive! We repeat this process of eating again and again and again, and as we go along, we develop a rapport of foods that we like, and that we want to keep eating.

If we move outside of the realm of food, we find that much of our lives involve some sort of repeating process. We use that part of ourselves which ventures out into the unknown and discovers something new, and then we make a judgment. We either want to do it again, or forget about it altogether. And we soon discover that repeating things from our past experiences is much of our way of life. The two parts of our life then, are discovery and repeating. And its with this in mind that we come into our text for this evening with the thought, “I want to hear it again.”

Before we get into the particulars of our text, let’s take a general look at it. It’s the final section of the Christmas story as recorded by Luke in Chapter 2. Notwithstanding the text of the Lord’s Prayer, it’s probably among the most well-known sections of the Scriptures throughout the world. Almost anybody, regardless of whether or not they are church going people, could tell you at least the first line: “And it came to pass in those day, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” (Luke 1, 1)

Every children’s Christmas program I have ever been to has the children reciting portions of this text. And I think I would be safe in assuming that every Christian church throughout to world will be reading this text sometime this Christmas.

I think it’s interesting to note how the different Gospel writers have handled this Christmas story, each one in a different manner. Matthew for example traces the genealogy of Jesus. He talks about Joseph and how the news of the birth affected him, and also about the Magi, the three kings, who came from the east. John concentrates more on the theological side of things, how the Word became flesh, and John the Baptist’s role in the whole thing. Mark is the most brief of the Gospels here, stressing in a much more condensed fashion the ministry of John the Baptist. But Luke is the one that actually takes us to the manger, picking up the story where the others leave off. Luke gives us the Christmas story, and the happenings surrounding the actual birth. And so, it has become one of the most repeated sections of the Scriptures at Christmas time. And most of us have probably heard it many times over.

As we’re gathered here for worship this evening, you are making a statement. Even though you know the story, even though you know the Christmas carols, you’re saying, “I like it. I want to hear it again. Repeat it for me.” And so we do.

As our text opens for us this evening, we find the shepherds out in the field. The angels had just gone away into heaven, and there they are. The Shepherds now had a decision to make. And so they decide, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” The shepherds of course having experienced something entirely new liked what they saw, and so they decided to investigate further. They’re about to make their discovery.

And so they go. As our text states, “And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” And here an important truth comes to light. Before you can repeat something, before you know something is good, before you can say, “I like it, let’s do it again,” you have to experience it for the first time.

Let’s take a look around us. The world is full of sin, and we know it. We can see it. Sin and all of the wrong happening in the world has brought much misery. And when we see it on a personal level, sin has brought us much misery as well. Read down the list of the Ten Commandments. As we’ve broken those commandments, hasn’t that made our lives miserable? Haven’t relationships and friendships been taxed to the limit because of sin?

What I find most amazing is that people even recognize sin and wrong in their lives, and choose to reject that cure for sin. Yes, it’s true! It happens all the time.

People see the hurt and the problems sin causes. You don’t even need a Bible, or to be a Christian to see it. People can see it in their own lives. And what happens? The cure for sin is right there, and people refuse it. They don’t know it, they won’t experience it, and so they choose to live as they have in the past, repeating and repeating the sin that continues to create more and more problems. Instead of running to the manger, they run away from it, refusing to experience forgiveness and new life.

As Christians, we might be tempted to look around us and see this being the case in the heathen world. But have we looked inside lately? How many times do we knowingly nurse a pet sin instead of experiencing the cure for it? As sinful people, don’t we all tend to run away from the cure we so desperately and continually need? Aren’t we all something like the sick person who refuses to go and see the doctor, for fear of what he might say or the treatment he may prescribe?

Well, the Shepherds didn’t run away. They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in the manger. They discovered something. Something beautiful. And what the Shepherds discovered, so we discover as well. We discover that babe lying in a manger.

What is discovered there, is not a demand or a threat, but an invitation. We find that very same Jesus speaking to all of us as he does in Matthew 11, 29-30: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy ladened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Doesn’t that sound like something we could all use? In our lives which are heaped with problems by which we all become so weary and burdened, Jesus promises us rest and forgiveness. And to discover that, is to accept it through faith—and it is ours.

That rest and peace which comes through the discovery of the babe in the manger, means that we can continually lay our sins at Jesus’ feet. We can’t find rest, peace, and forgiveness for our sins in any other way, except by trusting in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. And when we do that, then we are promised an eternal peace which will be ours forever. The call is there, and the invitation is there. All we need to do is to discover it. And this discovery is something that is repeated time and again in our lives. Sin will always be with us on this earth, but we know that every time we go to the manger, every time we go to Jesus Christ in faith, we discover forgiveness and new life.

Yes, that’s what the shepherds found when they went with haste to Bethlehem. They saw more than just a man and a woman and a baby. They discovered and experienced a miracle from God, which was a miracle that transformed their whole lives.

And so now we find these shepherds, after their discovery and initial experience, repeating it. Their lives had taken a dramatic and beautiful change. And they set about the business of repeating it verbally to others. In verses 17 and 18 of our text we read: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

I believe that we all like to share good things and experiences with other people. When we discover a good restaurant, we tell others. When we discover a good doctor, we let others know about him. When we get a good deal, we let others know about it and where and how we got it. Whenever we make a discovery and experience something good, we let others know about it. We don’t keep it to ourselves. And so it was with the shepherds.

With something this great, the shepherds could not keep it to themselves. And so we find them setting about the business of telling others. What they had discovered they wanted others to discover as well. They wanted others to share in this peace of God, this gift of God, this grace and love of God that they found in this new life in the manger. The rest for weary souls, worn out from sin was found right here. The spiritual blessings of God, the forgiveness of sins, and new life are anybody’s, simply for the taking. No cost, no fees, no duties, simply free for the asking. That’s quite a discovery! That’s what the shepherds wanted others to know, and that’s something we not only need to continually discover, but share with others as well.

And the end result of this discovery is found in the final verse of our text for today, where we read: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

Discovery and experience which is repeated, has a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. This tremendous gift the shepherds had discovered, led them to return to God, and praise him.

I believe we all will get gifts this Christmas, and we will be inclined to say “thank you” for them. And so it is with God and the gift of grace he has given us. As we are gathered here this evening, we are here for worship. We came to hear once more that Christmas story that is so familiar. “I want to hear it again! Repeat it for me!” But as we are fed from the Holy Scriptures, we are prompted to respond. Our discovery and response of this gift of God comes in the form of worship and praise. We sing, we pray, and we give thanks.

I remember seeing a comic strip in the paper some time back. The strip depicted a family getting ready, and then going to church one Christmas. As the service was going on, the youngest little girl was sitting there smiling quite contentedly and enjoying everything. At the end of the service, as they were walking out of the church and being greeted by the pastor, the little girl said to him, “I really liked this…too bad you’re only open once a year.”

The message and spirit of Christmas is continual. We are continually constrained to go to Jesus. We are to be continually discovering God in His Word. We are to be continually seeking the forgiveness that Jesus offers to us. And we are to be continually coming to him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. As we say, “I want to hear it again,” is to say it and do it every day of the year, every moment of our lives.

One verse of our text I skipped over, but I’ll mention it now, is verse 19: “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary still wasn’t too clear about all that was happening, but she knew that what God had done was something wonderful and something to be treasured. She was experiencing something great, and was in the process of sorting it all out, or “pondering it in her heart.”

As we look to God and his Word, as we discover Christ again and again, as we praise and give thanks, and as we tell others, it is also important that we continually ponder this message ourselves, apply it to ourselves, and grow in our faith. This is our call to meditation, personal devotion, and prayer.

Our lives will be lives of continuing new discoveries. We’ll go to new places, we’ll try new things, and we’ll eat new foods. We’ll continually develop patterns of repetition from these new discoveries.

Food is, of course one of the things that’s essential to our earthly existence. We engage in the repetition of eating all of the time. However, there is also a spiritual hunger that needs to be fed which is essential to our eternal existence. To this end, Jesus tells us in John 6, 27 & 35: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you…I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” And in Psalm 34, 8 we read: “O taste and see that he Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

To discover Jesus, that babe in the manger, is to experience the love of God for each and every one of us. This discovery and experience then is repeated again and again in our lives, as we continue to come to God, study his Word, and apply it to ourselves. We repeatedly feed on that Bread of Life, as we come and say, “I want to hear it again.” And we repeatedly praise and worship him, as we exclaim with the hymnwriter: “Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.”