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By Pastor John Partridge
Isaiah 9:2-7 Luke 2:1-14, (15-20) Titus 2:11-14
Scriptures read during worship by various volunteers:
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
By Pastor John Partridge
In our scriptures tonight we heard stories about appearances. These were not the kind of appearances that we think of when we say, “keeping up with the Joneses” or “Keeping up appearances.” Those are superficial things. The appearances that we heard tonight were actual, physical arrivals, when new things appeared. In Isaiah we were told to expect the appearance of light to people who were walking in darkness, the appearance of freedom to people who were shackled, yoked, enslaved, and burdened, the appearance of peace to those who were accustomed to violence, war, and oppression, and the appearance of a peaceful and stable, homegrown national government to a people who were accustomed to being on the wrong end of conquest and shifting global military powers and national allegiances.
In the Christmas story from the book of Luke, we heard about the appearance of a newborn baby to Mary and Joseph, the appearance of an angel, and then the appearance of a great heavenly host, to a group of shepherds who were spending yet another chilly night in the countryside. But there were more appearances than that. Titus 2:11-14 says that…
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Among all the other things that appeared on that first Christmas morning, there was more. In addition to all the “appearances” that we heard in Isaiah and in Luke, Titus tells us that we mustn’t forget that alongside all those things, grace, salvation, and rescue appeared on that first Christmas morning.
Titus argues that there is a reason why the Christmas story matters to us two thousand years later. God didn’t just send Jesus to earth to create a nice story for us to remember. God sent his son with a far larger purpose, and Titus reminds us that God’s purpose, the purpose behind all the nice stories of Christmas, was to purify us.
Because we’re not perfect.
We worship a God of perfection and purity while we live lives that are anything other than perfection and purity. And so, at Christmas, God begins to create a way for us to be with him. At Christmas, God creates way for us to belong, a way for us to be good, and a way for us to be eager to do good.
Christmas isn’t about God trying to impress us or make us feel good.
Christmas is about God creating a path to transform us so that we can become good, and so that we can belong.
Merry Christmas everyone.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™