Every church I’ve served had Christmas Eve services and always at 11:00 PM or multiple services including one at 11:00 PM. For me, this is the ultimate celebration of Christmas that always concluded with lit candles and the congregation singing “Silent Night.”
Until that moment, I always found it difficult to relax and enjoy the season. There is always the expectation of visitors, the details required for any worship service and the focus of trying to do your best as a pastor.
Once every six or seven years, Christmas comes on Sunday and brings new opportunities but also increased pressures and expectations.
So, I pray during this time to feel the peace of God’s Holy Spirit offering you peace in the midst of the challenges and expectations facing us all during the days ahead.
Philip Yancey writes: “What could be less scary than a newborn baby with jerky limbs and eyes that do not quite focus? The King had cast off his robes. Think of the condescension involved: the incarnation, which sliced history into two parts had more animal than human witnesses. Think too, of the risk. In the incarnation God spanned the vast chasm of fear that had distanced him from his human creation. But removing that barrier made Jesus vulnerable, terribly vulnerable.”
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)
Sometimes it helps me to simply visualize what happened on that special night, when God deliberately made Himself vulnerable in order to allow us an opportunity to understand what the love of God means.
Joni E. Tada, during one Christmas following her diving accident wished fervently to have her body back. She believed that if she wished hard enough… anything could happen. She claimed the promise of Scripture in John 15:7 – “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!”
But in the midst of her prayers and wishes, Joni also ran across Acts 14:22 reminding her of the hardships and Romans 8:17 explaining that she would share in Christ’s sufferings.
When Christmas rolled around again, Joni knew she had received a much better present and learned how to delight herself in the Lord of John 15:7 that actually celebrated the relationship between the vine and the branch. She now had a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with her wonderful Savior!
There is the message of Christmas we all try so hard to experience.
Joni writes: “Of all the gifts you could receive at Christmas. What would be your heart’s desire? When you see a star appear, for what do you privately hope? Jesus says that whatever you wish, it will be done for you if his words fill your life and if you abide in him. When you do that, you end up receiving far more than you could ever hope for – you get the Bright and Morning Star himself.”
Kennith Osbeck wrote of two church leaders looking for the right hymn for Christmas Eve services. Unfortunately the church organ broke down and was not able to be repaired in time. One leader brought out a hymn he had written while the other set it to a simple melody that could be played on a guitar. Later the person repairing the organ noticed the hymn and passed it on to others and the rest is history.
“Silent night! Holy night! All is calm. All is bright;
Round yon virgin, mother and Child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild –
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”
May you feel the love of Christ in a special way this Christmas and may you be renewed.