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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus


Christmas Day

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-14

Three men were nervously waiting in the fathers room at the hospital while their wives were in the delivery room giving birth to their first children. The men were too scared to go in.

After a while a nurse came with good news from the birthing rooms. She said to the first father-to-be, “Sir, you are a father of twins.” “That’s great!”, he said. “I’m a baseball player and I’m going to sign a contract with the Minnesota Twins. This will be good press.”

Pretty soon the nurse came again and said to the second father-to-be, “Sir, you are the father of triplets.” “Fantastic!”, he said, “Because I work for the 3M Company. This will be great press.”

At that, the third father-to-be jumped up and ran out of the room. He didn’t wait for the elevator but ran down the stairs. As he ran out into the parking lot, the nurse yelled out the window at him, “What’s wrong? Where are you going?” The man yelled back up at her, “I’m going to the office to resign! I’m Vice-President of Seven-Up!”

That poor father-to-be was feeling a bit overwhelmed. A lot of people feel that way during the Christmas season – ready to run away from it all. They’ve had all the bad news they can handle. I know that bad news sells newspapers, and it obviously sells TV time too. Fires, deaths, layoffs, indictments every day – and then fighting in foreign countries and starvation in Africa, topped off by how we’re losing the drug war, and rampant crime. Before we recover from one disaster there’s another one on the way. We romanticize the stable – it was really a cave – and clean up the animals and the shepherds. So we forget the pain and agony of childbirth by a frightened teenage peasant girl named Mary. This was a real event with real people experiencing pain and joy, and fear that eventually drove them from their homeland.

Max Lucado, in his book titled “God Came Near,” writes, “In one instant the omnipotent one made Himself breakable. He who had been spirit became breakable. He who was larger than the universe had become an embryo. And He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus! Holiness sleeping in a womb! The Creator of life being created!”

It takes a poet to do such an event justice. How can we make it so it grabs hold of our lives? If there’s anything we all need to hear, it’s some good news. The Christmas gospels certainly tell of the Good News that was proclaimed in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. And what was good news then is still good news today!

The Christmas gospels give us a multitude of good news, but we’ll just look at two pieces of that news today.

First of all, we learn that God himself entered into time and space. The Apostle John put it boldly: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (And) the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14)

No longer is God just a theological subject or an abstract concept. God became human in Jesus Christ. Christmas cards never really give us a picture that adequately describes this miracle. God has come into human life. But sometimes this is an uncomfortable thing to accept! It’s easier to keep God at a distance. That way God won’t mess with our lives. We can stay the way we are. We can be victims of our circumstances.

As Max Lucado goes on to say, “Let God be as human as He intended to be. Let Him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let Him in can He pull us out!” What a great way to put it: “Only if we let God into the mire and muck of our world, can He pull us out!”

In other words, we need to allow God to enter into our daily struggles. We need to read His Word and speak to Him in prayer every day, and be faithful in worship and in Holy Communion. If we think we can take care of our problems ourselves, and can live independently of God, we are fools! Jesus doesn’t want us to go it alone. He wants to help us. That’s why He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That’s some good news of Christmas.

The second piece of good news is that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Matt. 4:16) That’s the way Matthew put it. John wrote, “In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

God knows that we are a people who walk in darkness – if darkness means being uncertain, being lost, being afraid – if darkness means conflict between races, nations or individuals – if darkness speaks of a world where we can’t see very well because of sin – if these things are what darkness is all about, then we know more than enough about darkness! But God doesn’t run away from the darkness. On that first Christmas, God took up residence right smack in the middle of the darkness. With Him who is light, we need not be scared or worried about the darkness.

Bret Harte, in his short story, “The Luck Of Roaring Camp,” tells of the birth of a baby on the American frontier – a baby that made a radical change in a rough-and-tumble mining camp. The only woman in the camp, Cherokee Sal, a disreputable woman at best, died in childbirth, leaving a healthy young baby boy to be raised by the now all-male camp.

These rough, hard men made a decision that would bring changes they never dreamed of. They considered hiring a woman nurse to care for the baby, but decided not to. They figured a nice nurse wouldn’t come to their camp, and they didn’t want any woman who wasn’t nice around their baby. And so the work of regeneration began in Roaring Camp.

The cabin assigned to little “Tommy Luck,” as they called him, was kept clean and whitewashed. The beautiful rosewood cradle they bought for the baby made the rest of the cabin look bad, so they had to fix up the rest of the furniture in the room. Then a rule was made that if you wanted to hold little Tommy Luck you had to clean up for the privilege.

Every time they cleaned up an area it exposed more dirt and filth in the vicinity, so that they had to keep an ever wider area of the camp clean. Since the baby needed rest, the camp became quieter and more dignified, less noisy and boisterous, no longer the “Roaring Camp” of the story’s title. The story of the baby of Roaring Camp is the story of the regeneration of a people. A baby changed the whole atmosphere of the Roaring Camp. And so it was 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. A baby changed the atmosphere for all who have come to know Him.

For those who know that Jesus is truly God come in the flesh, everything becomes clear. For those who don’t know Him, everything stays dark. In Jesus Christ, light has come to a dark world. “I am the light of the world,” He said. And he said that we are to share His light, telling us, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:14,16)

The Good News of the first Christmas is that “peace on earth” comes to us when Christ enters into our lives – right into the muck and mire of it all – and pulls us out!

The Christmas Good News never wears out. It continues to be offered to all who seek peace with God. His light shines in the darkness – and ours must, too. “Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

This is the encouraging word that comes to those of us who, like the Seven-Up man, feel overwhelmed by our circumstances.

Truly the Christmas story was good news in Bethlehem 2000 years ago – and it’s still good news today!


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