Christmas Eve 2016
CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICES 2016- 5 PM (Children), 7 PM ACT IT OUT, LIVE IT OUT Christmas Eve 2016 5:00 PM Children’s Service at Lake Murray Presbyterian Matthew 15:8; Matthew 2:7-12, 16
Tonight we have some sweet earthly angels imitating the heavenly ones that came that first Christmas. Those first angels that they were playing tonight said an important message for us today- the message is “Fear Not” We do not need to be afraid for God cares for us. There is good news- good tidings- which is meant for all people- not just one or two or even people way back then. It is not just good news for children or good news for older adults- it is good news for every human being. It is good news for each of us. Tonight this play is a reminder of what happened long ago. It is not just a history play, but it is a story that affect us and all people. God still is acting out His part. The same love of God that sent His Son years ago is still at work today. Now He wants us to respond to His love as the shepherds did and as people like Mary, Joseph, Anna, Simeon and the wise men did. The shepherds, the wise men, Anna and Simeon all came and gave thanks for the child- and worshiped Him. This is not just something that I am glad that the children acted out tonight. Giving ourselves in gratitude to God for His coming down for us elicits worship from all of us. The lesson tonight is not just applaud- but believe. Not just act out- but live out the good news in your lives. You have heard of fake news. There are also fake people. Herod pretended to be a believer- he did that his whole life. He said tell me where Jesus is born so I can come worship- but he ended up trying to kill him. Now Herod did religious things- he even re-built the Temple. But in his heart it was all about him- and not about God. What makes someone real- these children have it and can teach it to us- that is simple, trusting love for God. Do not be an actor- love God this Christmas and seek to love neighbor.
Psalm 98, Luke 1:41-45; 2:1-10 CHRISTMAS EVE 7 pm 2016 WORSHIP “The Lord is Come…Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.”
The song “Joy to the World” that we sing every Christmas is not based on the Christmas story, but on a prophesy in the Psalms of the basic message of Christmas- that God cares- God comes- and God saves. There is no mention of shepherds, or angels, or a manger, or Mary or Joseph. Yet it is the most published Christmas hymn of our day. It does not focus on the birth but on the coming. The meaning behind the coming of Christ is that He brought a little hope and joy to the world his first coming- and one day He will set the world straight. You know I really think our world, the church, the families, need more joy. We need a shot of joy. Joy is something everyone wants- but not everyone knows the ultimate source of joy. It is not found in drugs, or drink, or gambling, or any addiction you may have. There is a joy that is more powerful than any problem, sin, or pride you may own. Joy is based in faith that God loves us no matter what; Joy is based in hope that this God and good will triumph- and we with Him; Joy is based on the love of God shown in Jesus Christ. When a baby is born, it brings a little bit of joy and hope anyway. I have seen it in family after family. Maybe the great grandparent is ill or dying- but if a great-grandbaby is born there is hope in the family. Maybe a job is lost and everyone is wondering how are we going to feed this little baby- but there is still joy. When the baby John the Baptist heard the voice of Mary- he lept for joy in the womb. From the very beginning His coming brought joy. When the angels came they did not say, “I’ve got some news.” No, they said they have joyful news- glad tidings of great joy for everybody- all peoples. God is God for all- rich, poor, different cultures, language groups people of the past and people of today and in the future. You may feel God does not care for you- but you, if you are a person, are a part of “all peoples.” God is for you- and He wants you to have His abundant life- His joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength. This verse is given to Nehemiah to a people who were convicted of their sin. They were weeping when they heard God’s Word from Ezra because they hadn’t been able to hear it in Jerusalem. It was moving. But Nehemiah said, this is a special day focus on your joy and not on your sadness. Christmas is one of those days. It is a day that can be moving. It is a day that can be filled with sadness- we may miss people at Christmas. But learn to fix our eyes and your focus on the One who came for us. Without the joy of his coming- there would be no Christmas at all. Set your mind on things that are above. Live with a purpose- not by your feelings. Quit saying, “I feel, I want, I worry- but say what know- and are assured of by faith- know that the joy of the Lord is your strength- your purpose- your peace. The lie is that Christ takes away your joy. He does change your heart- so that you don’t want to do evil. If you get joy out of hurting people- he will take that joy away. If you get joy out of destroying your family from drug abuse or violence- He will take that joy away. If you get joy out of destroying yourself and others- He replaces that joy with a better healthier joy. I have seen it- maybe you have too. Truth is, there are people who think they are doing the right thing by taking the joy away from people. Like the guy in Florida who put an evil Satanic symbol next to a nativity scene. He didn’t add any joy- he was just trying to put a wet blanket on Christmas and the joy of others. Ebenezer Scrooge was not trying to add joy to life. He couldn’t take the joy away from Tiny Tim who said, “God bless us every one.” The Grinch in the story, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” thought he could take away Christmas by taking away presents and the food. But they still sang and celebrated. Joy can never be stolen. C. S. Lewis was an atheist. He was convinced that Jesus was a cosmic kill-joy. But in his mid-life he was convinced that Christ is real. He became a Christian and he thought that all of his joy would just be sucked away from him. But he wrote a great book describing his experience called, “Surprised by Joy.” Joy also happened to be the name of his wife, but the dual meaning is that Lewis was surprised at how much more he enjoyed his life after conversion. Millions would tell you the same thing. William Tyndale- was a great scholar in the 15th century. He had a deep faith and paid for his faith and translating the Bible into English with martyrdom. He has an interesting description of what Christianity is- Christianity is good, merry, glad, joyful tidings that make a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance, leap for joy. Jesus Christ has come to increase our joy- to give us hope- to give us meaning- to let us know we can be forgiven and we are loved by God. There is a bit of a call here- hidden in the midst of this song. The call is this- Do you want more joy in your world? Then let the Lord come in. Let every heart prepare Him room also means, Let your heart prepare Him room. A group of Presbyterians in Omaha were in worship and were given an helium balloon. They were told to release the balloon at some point in worship to express their joy in the Lord. Most Presbyterians don’t interrupt with an “Alleluia” or an “Amen” but the thought was maybe a balloon would be okay. All through the worship service balloons went up. But at the end 1/3 still were holding onto their balloons! Let me ask you- to let go of your balloon. Let the Joy of the Lord be your strength. Remember joy is not the same as happiness. It is a hopeful thing that goes beyond circumstances. Today, we have no balloons. But we do have candles that we hold up in hope that the light of the world will make this world brighter. This light has come into the world- into our hearts (who believe), and gives us hope, faith, love, peace, and joy. So raise your candle if you have hope in Christ today, and then sing with your heart- “Joy to the world the Lord has come!”