First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Birth of the King!”
I have always asked myself how we as Christians should celebrate Christmas. In other words, away from the commercialized, materialized, and secularized Christmas, what is the proper way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior? In our own culture, Christmas means parties, gifts, carols, big meals, a decorated tree, and of course last-minute shopping.
While I would venture to say that these things are not objectionable in themselves, none of them has anything to do with the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. Yet the principle of celebrating the coming of Christ to the world is certainly a good idea. So how should we celebrate Christmas? How should we celebrate this great day? The simple and most obvious answer is this. You should celebrate Christmas by becoming a Christian. After all, this is why Jesus came to the earth. He was born to be a Savior. And until you can call Him “my Savior,” you will never fully understand what Christmas is all about.
Fortunately, there are some Scripture passages that give us some insights of how we should celebrate the birth of our Lord. One of those passages is the shepherds’ encounter with the newborn King in Like chapter 2. This is a story that most of us know by heart. So on this Christmas Day I would like to share very briefly three responses of those who first heard the news that Christ had been born. Each verse tells of a different response, and the three responses together tell us how to celebrate Christmas—not just in December but all year long.
Luke 2:17 states, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” Luke tells us that the shepherds “spread the word.” They heard and saw the spectacular angelic revelation. Then when they went to Bethlehem they discovered the Savior of the world. They couldn’t keep silent. They did what all Christians should do. They told others what they had seen and heard. They “spread the word” about Jesus. When you get down to it, that’s all evangelism is. It’s telling the good news about Jesus Christ to someone else. Good news is for sharing. That’s what the shepherds did. That’s what all of us are called to do. This is the first way we can all celebrate Christmas.
Luke 2:18 tells us, “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” I’m sure that “amazed” is a mild word to describe the reaction of those who heard the shepherds. The story itself would sound incredible—the part about hearing an angelic choir in the middle of the night, not to mention finding the Son of God in a manger.
Wondering or amazed here describes a kind of awe that comes from seeing God at work in the world. In the deepest sense all the acts of God are grounds for holy wonder since everything he does has the stamp of the divine on it. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s acts call us to wonder, yet, chief among them is His incarnation.
Christmas is indeed a cause for holy wonder. How can it be that God should become a man? How can a King be born in a manger? How could the world ignore His coming? You ought to be amazed at Christmastime. If you managed to go through this Christmas season without ever pausing to think about the wonder of it all, then you have missed the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. I think regaining that lost sense of wonder is important.
Luke 2:20 continues to say, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke tells us that the shepherds were profoundly changed by what they had experienced. What a difference a day makes. On the day before Christ was born, they were in the fields tending their sheep. On the day after he was born, they were back in the fields once again. Only this time their hearts were filled with praise to God.
The shepherds were overwhelmed by God’s power, his grace, his goodness, his wisdom, and the amazing miracle of the Incarnation. They simply couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen and heard. And note where they did it. The text does not say that they glorified God in the temple, though that would have been appropriate. No, it says they “returned” to where they had been. Back to the tiring and unappreciated work of caring for sheep. They were back where they were when the angel found them in the first place.
The shepherds did so must we. Christmas eventually ends for all of us. Soon enough we will take down the tree, pack away the ornaments, and either use our gifts or take them back to the store to be exchanged. In a few days the children will go back to school and life will return to normal. But will we be changed by Christmas? For the shepherds, the work was the same, but they were different. They went back with new zeal, new joy, and new love for God in their hearts.
Friends, people sometimes wish they could keep the Christmas spirit all year long. I truly believe that the greater truth of Christmas is meant to warm our hearts all year long. Would you like Christmas to last all year long? It can if you will do what the shepherds did. Go back to where you came from. Back to your office. Back to your classroom. Back to your factory. Back to your neighborhood. Back to your job. Back to your family duties. Go back to your daily routine. And as you go back, spread the word, ponder the great works of God, and give glory to God in your daily life. Do these things and you will have Christmas all year long. Merry Christmas, Church Family.
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