First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Service ~ December 24, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris Yousef, Pastor
A Pastor was preaching on Christmas Eve, and his sermon went quite long. His thoughts were scattered, he rambled on, it was difficult to follow. When he was greeting his congregation after the service, one parishioner surprised him when she commented, “Pastor, your sermon tonight reminded me of God’s peace and love.”
The pastor was flattered. “Really? How so?” he asked. “Well, it reminded me of God’s peace in the way it surpassed all understanding! And it reminded me of God’s love because it seemed to endure forever!”
I’d like to assure you tonight that my meditation won’t be long, and I do hope I might avoid both of these pitfalls!
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It is supposed to be a time when Christians take a moment to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ; God’s most gracious gift ever given to humanity. There are songs to be sung, presents to be exchanged and lights to be seen. But the birth of Jesus is so much more than an annual celebration. It’s a revelation from God. And it reveals, particularly, four things; four amazing things you and I need to reflect on this Christmas. I’d like to focus on the first two in this service and I will cover the other two in the 11:00 o’clock service, Lord willing.
The Birth of Jesus: a Revelation from God
When Simeon, a righteous and devout Elder who had been waiting the birth of the Messiah, when he saw Jesus for the first time at the temple in Jerusalem, he was moved by the Spirit and said these great words in Luke 2:29-32, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Jesus was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” But the question I am asking tonight is: What did Jesus reveal? What was needed to be revealed? What does the light of Jesus reveal to us today? A couple quick thoughts to reflect on tonight:
First: Our Greatest Need
The birth of Christ reveals something about us and our greatest need. The birth of Christ reveals our sin. A Savior is our greatest need. Behind all of the celebration is the crucial fact that the eternal Son of God came from heaven to earth to save us. Jesus left the glory and the joy that He knew in the presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit and took on human form. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 2:7: “He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Why? Why would the infinite, eternal and unchangeable Son of God become man? Why would the one who was perfect in being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth come down and put Himself under the law (Galatians 4:4)? What was so wrong with humankind that Jesus came from heaven to earth?
The answer, in a word, is sin. The Bible describes sin in two ways. First, sin is that which breaks God’s law in thought, word or deed. But second, we also sin when we fail to act justly, to love mercy, and to do what is right. Theologians call these two categories sins of commission (sin we actively commit) and sins of omission (sin by failure to act). When we begin to look at God’s law, and realize these two categories, we will certainly start to realize just how bad our situation really is. We will certainly go down on our knees crying to God “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
In the birth of Jesus, God revealed humanity’s greatest need. Our greatest need is not for a smart politician; it is not for more money; it’s not for more education and knowledge. But our greatest need is for a Savior. When the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream in Matthew 1:21, the angel told Joseph that Mary “will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name (Yeshua) Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Second: A Revelation of God’s Light and Presence
But the birth of Jesus reveals another profound truth. It reveals that in our dark places, God’s light breaks through. In our sin and sinfulness, Christ’s righteousness covers us. In our spiritual poverty, God’s generosity overwhelms us. Luke expresses this in the image of the good news of Christ’s birth being announced first to the shepherds, the non-religious, impure, and the least likely recipients of Christ’s birth. Luke 2:9 states “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
John 1:9 says that Jesus Christ is the “true light that gives light to everyone.” I know that some of us are in a dark place right now, let Christ’s light breakthrough. When Christ was born, it was such a dark time for the nation of Israel. Their land was occupied by the Romans; the Romans imposed heavy taxes; the Israelites were treated badly by their oppressor; the religious atmosphere was so corrupt; and on the top of this, God was silent for over 400 years. 400 years passed between the last prophet in the Old Testament, Malachi, and John the Baptist. One important thing to remember here: the darker it gets, the closer we get to the dawn. Yes, it was in the darkness of that holy and silent night that Christ was born to us. God shows up when it gets too dark. He will be there for us.
Therefore, my friends, I say to you tonight what Isaiah said to the nation of Israel in chapter 60:1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.” Do not stay in your darkness.
In a few minutes we will be lighting our candles and singing together “Silent Night.” That candle is a reminder of the light of Christ that breaks through our darkness. So as you get together with family and friends this Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, take some time to reflect on Christ being “a light of revelation.” He reveals to us that our greatest need is for a savior. He also reveals to us that in our dark places, Christ’s light breaks through. Allow the Christmas story to speak anew to you. Read it and listen to it as you have never heard it before and as you do so, may the hope, the peace, the joy, the love, and the wonder of it transform your life. Merry Christmas everyone!