Christmas Eve Message
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 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.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Christmas is a time when people like to be at home. Most businesses still close on Christmas day (though more and more are staying open). They close so that people can be at home with their family for the holiday. Yet, there are some places that cannot close. No one wants fire stations of police stations to close on Christmas. (What if there is a fire or a crime on Christmas day?) My wife Kelly is a nurse and she has to work tomorrow night, because—believe it or not—babies are still born on Christmas!
The shepherds in the story from Luke were working on the first Christmas night. They were not at home warming by the fire. They were out working the night shift keeping the sheep safe when the angels appeared to them.
And then, there is Mary and Joseph. If anyone wanted to be home, I’m sure it was Mary and Joseph. Mary, a young girl having her first child, was miles away from home and everything that was comfortable to her.
Sometimes when Kelly and I go to visit family in middle Georgia, we will get hotel to stay the night. My mom’s house is not big enough to sleep my whole family comfortably. Neither is my mother-in-law’s. Sometimes we split up and send part of the family to my Mom’s house and part to my mother-in-law’s, but that has it’s on challenges too (Who’s gonna stay where? How are we going to get back together in the morning?) Sometimes it’s just easier and more comfortable to get a hotel and call that home for the night.
Mary and Joseph couldn’t even get a hotel room. They tried, but all the rooms were full. So, all they had to call home for the night was the stable where they kept the animals.
Sometimes, home is where you make it.
Life is messy. It doesn’t always go the way you plan. Babies are born at inconvenient times. The hotel doesn’t always have enough room. So you have to make do with what you have. Sometimes, you make home where you are.
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
You see, when your heart is right with God, God can teach you to bear with any inconvenience. But don’t get the impression that God just makes you tough enough to grit and bear it. God can actually take an impoverished situation and turn it into an abundant life.
Take Mary and Joseph. There were no doctors or nurses or cozy state-of-the-art birthing rooms available. Mary gave birth in a barn and laid her precious baby in a manger with animals all around watching. Yet, angels announced his birth and the shepherds came running to see the miracle child. Before long, Wisemen came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But the greatest gift of all was the privilege of bearing and raising the Son of God. This was not merely getting by. This was being at the very center of God’s eternal plan to save humanity.
I don’t know if Mary and Joseph knew the full ramification of what they were doing the night Mary gave birth to the Christ. I think they had some clues, but didn’t understand in full. That’s the way most of life is. We may suspect something important is happening in our life, but we don’t fully understand what it is. All we know is that this is the hand life has dealt us and we can complain about it and mope around, or we can have faith that God is doing something truly amazing—that God has already given us a tremendous blessing we just don’t fully understand yet.
Several from our church went Christmas caroling to our at-home members. (These are members of our church who for health reasons are not able to get out much. Many of them live in assisted living or nursing homes.) Nancy Ware, Rena Gallman, and I had the privilege of visiting with Virginia Wallace over at Tranquility Assisted Living. I asked Virginia if she liked living at Tranquility and her response was full of wisdom. She said, “I love it her. It’s a very nice place. Of course, no one wants to leave their home and move into assisted living, but I couldn’t ask for better. You can choose to be unhappy because you are not at home anymore, or you can choose to be happy. It’s up to you. I am very happy to call Tranquility my home. It is a wonderful place.”
We would all do well to listen to Virginia’s advice. Your attitude makes all the difference. So whether you find yourself like Virginia in assisted living, or if you find yourself like Mary and Joseph and all you have is a stable and a manger, remember: home is where you make it. Maybe you ought to get busy making it a home.
An Invitation to Come Home
I want you to remember that any home we have in this life is only temporary. Ultimately, our Home is with God. Even when this life comes to an end, we have a Home awaiting us in Heaven. Hebrews 13:14 tells us, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
If you want to go Home for Christmas this year (not necessarily your family home or your childhood home, remember, we are talking in a spiritual sense), you must get your heart right with God. 1 Peter 3:18a tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”
The glorious Good News of Christmas is that, through Jesus Christ, God tore down every obstacle that keeps us from being at Home with Him. There’s nothing in the way—no sin that can’t be forgiven, no fear or anger or grief or shame that can’t be overcome. All you have to do is decide that you truly want to be at Home with God. Do you want to be at Home with God? Will you decide to come Home today? As for me, I’ll be Home for Christmas this year.