Christmas Eve – 2014 LSB #’s 358 v.1-4, 361, 358 v.5-8
Text – Luke 2:6
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
The Time Came
One Christmas, some years ago, a pastor’s child expressed a feeling we’ve all shared. She said, “I wish Christmas time would never be over.” This season, like all others, is a time that comes & goes, yet Christmas seems to leave us yearning for a day when time would stand still & our lives would be filled with excitement, our days more kind, lovely & peaceful.
Though the longing for it lingers in our heart & soul, time is not capable of lingering. It is an ever-rolling stream that never pauses. For people who’ve lived in a stable country, like the United States anytime in the past 100 years, those special moments of life form a large percentage of our memories. What would our lives be like without them?
For example, just think how this time of the year dominates our days. It’s Christmas time, wintertime, shopping time, school 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 sleep. To human perception, time defines our existence, as the preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes put it:
“There is a time for everything, & a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born & a time to die . . . a time to weep & a time to laugh . . . a time to search & a time to give up . . . a time to love & a time to hate . . .” (3:1,2,4,6,8)
Those are the times that come & go as we move through life – happy times, sad times, exciting times, boring times, full times, and empty times. And so it is with 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, yet we 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 government forms or representatives to our house. In those days a census required many families to take the time for a long, hard journey.
When the fullness of time arrived, the shepherds were busy keeping watch over the flocks by night, shivering in the cold, enduring the time until morning came. For Joseph & Mary, it was time to find a place – not just to rest, but to deliver a baby. There was no room at the inn, so what a time that must have been!
Yet, all of that was merely setting the stage for God breaking through the boundaries of time & space, for an event that would change all time, all our times. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.” (v. 6) An angel announces the meaning of that time & event. That is how significant was the birth of Jesus:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (vs. 10–11)
Another messenger of God – the apostle Paul – wrote to the church in Galatia: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, so that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
The Christmas we celebrate is a moment in time so unique, so decisive that it is not possible for us in the space of an evening’s service to capture the full meaning of this event. That is really what our lifetime is for – to know that time, to love that time, to ‘live’ that time. Whatever other times come, that time changes all the rest of them. There are four times that are the most significant in history – all of them are God’s times.
The 1st is the time of creation. No one was there to observe it or videotape it. The time came when God created, & the best we can do is marvel at God’s mighty work. He continues to sustain his creation, moving it toward his intended goal. We are part and parcel of that process.
The 2nd time came when Messiah was born. The love of God took the shape of One named Jesus, born of Mary, called Immanuel – God with us – thus blessing & redeeming our times. He subjected Himself to the limits of time in order to fully take our place in every way.
The 3rd time came when Jesus was raised from death. Thus He started a new creation that surpasses even what happened in the beginning. One reason He did was to reveal the perfect goal of all humanity, the future of everyone who trusts in the Savior’s love for mankind. Jesus was born to redeem us, to fulfill all time & to deliver all things to His Father.
The 4th & final time, yet to arrive but already on its way, is Christ’s triumphant return, which the Bible calls the Last Day – an event that will take place at the conclusion of time. For us who trust in Christ, it will be the beginning of peace & joy forevermore. It’ll be the fulfillment of that which we celebrate in Holy Communion.
For the millions of believers in Christ, tonight is the culmination of much wishing & hoping & waiting. Christmas means that what we yearn for has already come, is here right now: God is present. He is with us, with an everlasting love in each & every moment of our lives, whether we perceive those any of those moments as good or bad.
The time has come for us. In Jesus, God has entered our world where we are born & die, work & play, love & dream. Let this Christmas time fill our lives with the knowledge that all our days are in the hands of our Lord. Since God joined us in our pain & disappointments, since He knows our weakness & death, let this Christmas time bring us strength, knowing that God’s love is stronger than death, & Yahweh is able to bind up all our wounds. Since the time has come, & our Savior has been born, God has rescued us from the sin that enslaves us. He’s freed us from the destruction we do to ourselves, to others & to the creation itself.
Let this Christmas time fill you with the will to love & care for all, just as our Savior did. Since the fullness of time has come & our Creator has visited His people, let us join Mary & Joseph, the shepherds & angels, all believers everywhere this night, in glorifying & praising our heavenly Father. The time has come for all of that!
That Christmas leaves us yearning for a day when time would stand still & our lives be filled with excitement, our days more kind, lovely & peaceful, is not a bad thing. If we think about, what that yearning is actually for is the life all God’s children will have in heaven. That yearning is for life as our Lord meant, & created, it to be.
We long for the day when life, & we ourselves, will be perfect in every way. For now, though we don’t see it clearly, our times are truly in God’s hands. Then, our eternity will be in His hands as well.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep & dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hopes & fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming; but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in. O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin & enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet