As I have been planning Christmas gifts, I have used phone calls, emails, and text messages to determine the best gift for each family and grandchild. Since it costs so much to mail a package, I have sent electronic gift certificates to some of the distant family members. They do the same for us, too.
Most of the time, when I was working on this particular aspect of Christmas shopping, I got the message that my purchase was successful. However, one granddaughter wanted a specific gift card. I tried for an hour to find a way to send her one. No matter what I tried, I kept getting error messages. I finally chose another product, which gave me no trouble, and a message that my purchase had been successful. We all like messages bearing good news.
It strikes me how often in Luke a story is told about someone receiving a message. This message comes frequently, but not always, from an angel. Luke’s gospel begins with the angel Gabriel giving Zechariah the message that he was going to be a father, and that Elizabeth would bear a son named John who would himself be a messenger. I would love to have been in the room when Zechariah gave Elizabeth this message!
Then, a few months later Gabriel gives Mary the message that she will be the mother of the Messiah. Once she believes it herself, she has to share the angel’s message with Joseph, and I’m sure, with her mother and father.
When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. John is already announcing the coming of the messiah.
In tonight’s gospel reading, angels give shepherds the message that the messiah has been born. Wouldn’t you love to have been out there with the shepherds? The shepherds gave Mary and Joseph the message that they had been sent by angels to see the baby.
After they have visited the family, the shepherds return to the fields, praising God, and most likely, telling everyone the message that they had some amazing news.
All of the messages point to this one message: I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Tonight, we hear this message once more, just as many of us have heard it every year for all our lives. To us, gathered here for worship, there is good news which brings us great joy. A savior has been born who is the messiah, our Lord.
In Luke, the angel tells Mary the baby is to be named Jesus, which in Hebrew means savior, deliver, rescuer. Jesus comes to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and the recovery of sight to the blind. We all need this message of good news, that our present situation will not last forever.
In Matthew, the angel tells Joseph that the baby is to be called Emmanuel, which means God is with us. No matter how crummy things are in my life, Jesus is here with me.
I count on Emmanuel a lot. I reason that since God came to us as Jesus, God-with-skin-on, God knows what it is like to be human. God knows how hard it is to earn a living; God knows how hard it is to battle a life-threatening or chronic illness; God knows what it feels like when someone we love dies. When I take time to sit or walk in silence, I know that God is there, too.
While sometimes God seems like a distant, powerful, punishing deity, with Jesus God is a close, forgiving, loving friend. Our image of God takes on a new shape each year when we reach out for the cuddly infant born tonight, and 2,000 years ago.
We do not fear this God; we do revere Jesus, and honor him as our God.
We trust this God to provide the best for us, even though God may not give us what we ask for.
We praise this God, for finding new ways to reach us and to prove that we are beloved children of a forgiving God.
We follow this God who sacrificed all in order to demonstrate to us how deeply God cares for us. Jesus said, “The greatest love is to give up your life for someone else.”
We love this God who came among us to teach us how to truly love each other.
The message of Jesus is love; cute, cuddly baby love; wise teen in the temple love; healing love; sometimes tough, challenging love; always present love.
The message of the baby on this night is: “I love you. I love you more than you can ever know. Yes, I love even you.”
Please pray with me. We are amazed, God, every year, that you would choose to come to us as a little child. Yet, we need this reminder to love each other with your amazing love. We need this reminder that you love us as much as you love this tiny child. Help us to believe and then share this simple message – that you love us beyond our imagining. Amen