Christmas Eve Homily

24 December 2019

Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

1

Prayer: Breathe life into your Gospel this evening, O Lord, that it might speak to each of us, and, touch us like a newborn baby. Amen.

 

Grace.

Calm.

Glory.

These are three of many characteristics of the Christmas story.

That have been speaking to me this year.

 

……….

 

The Gospel of Matthew begins with a glimmer of grace

That culminates with God’s greatest gift of grace;

God’s great love.

God so loves the world

God gives us his Son, Jesus.

Through Jesus,

We are not condemned,

We are forgiven.

We are saved.

 

The glimmer of grace is found in Joseph.

Matthew begins with a list of the lineage of Jesus;

Directly connecting his ancestral heritage with that of King David.

The Messiah everyone expected had to come from King David’s descendants.

Matthew states the case:

Joseph is a bonified grandson.

 

Despite his royal lineage

Joseph was in a pickle.

He knew his fiancé was pregnant.

He also knew he wasn’t the father.

Furthermore, according to the Law of Moses,

as found in Deuteronomy 22:13-21,

The penalty for an adulterous fiancé

was stoning to death.

 

Joseph was devout, meaning he righteously followed the letter of the Law.

 

His dilemma:

Live by the Law, as was his practice, and have Mary stoned to death,

Or, live by grace, completely contrary to his righteous lifestyle?

Lead with grace and save her from public disgrace by quietly ending their nuptials?

 

The first action in the first Gospel

Is an act of Grace;

Joseph’s heart of rigid, legalistic stone

is transformed

Into a heart of love, compassion, life-saving mercy.

 

This is a sign that God is tacking in a new direction.

Behold, with Jesus, all things are made new.

Love has always been God’s motive.

Grace becomes God’s signature.

 

Live by the Law, and die by the Law.

Live by Christ, and taste and see God’s abundant grace and love.

 

This act of grace by Joseph

Begs me to ask,

Where is God’s grace at work in our lives?

 

Where have you experienced

God’s amazing grace?

Undoing or discarding old and tradition-bound, stubborn ways?

 

Where in your life has God’s grace

Resulted in the transformation of your heart

From cold and uncaring

Into a melted heart

filled with love, compassion, and mercy?

 

Where have you personally experienced God’s grace working through you, like Joseph,

To become for the world

The amazing, abundant grace of God?

 

Have you experienced God’s grace

Such that you firmly believe

God is calling you to take a new direction,

To boldly make a life-altering change,

To fish other seas?

 

………

 

Grace.

Calm.

Glory.

 

An angel, a messenger from God, visits Joseph in a dream.

The angel leads with “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid for God is doing something brand new.

 

This is the angelic message:

Mary conceived her child by the Holy Spirit,

Not by an act of adultery.

 

This is God’s command to Joseph:

Take Mary as your wife.

When she gives birth, name the boy “Jesus.”

 

Do not be afraid.

In the Jewish world

Naming was done by the Father.

The act of Joseph naming Jesus,

Means that adoption is made legal and

The royal, paternal, messianic connection is made.

Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled.

God’s been at work all along.

To speak Jesus is to recognize Emmanuel;

“God with us.”

 

Do not be afraid, the angel said.

The Messianic promise is complete.

Jesus, adopted by Joseph, grandson of David.

Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit with Mary, Son of God.

God has sent the world His Son.

 

Do not be afraid, Joseph.

God is with you.

Jesus will save his people from their sins.

Behold, Messiah has come!

 

The angelic message begs the question,

Beloved, where have you faced fear in your life

With the calming presence and power of God through Jesus Christ?

 

When that termination letter arrives,

Be not afraid.

Be calm.

The Lord provides.

 

When your loved one is sick, suffering, or dies,

Do not be afraid.

Be calm.

Jesus heals, forgives, and saves.

 

When marriage is on the rocks,

When a relationship doesn’t work out,

Or when children don’t live up to expectations,

Do not be afraid.

Be calm.

God’s got this.

God is with you.

 

When the will is worn and tired,

Emotions are raw, and

Doubt assails your faith,

Do not be afraid.

Be calm.

You’ve been given the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Do not be afraid.

Be calm.

God actually does love you!

 

………..

 

Grace.

Calm.

Glory.

 

As the angelic opening begins with an assurance of calm,

“Do not be afraid” is followed with

Angelic glory!

 

Suddenly, the lone messenger angel

Is joined in Bethlehem’s sky by

“a multitude of the heavenly host,

Praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,

And on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Luke 2:13-14)

Glory to God!

 

What does glory mean?

 

Glory is used to describe the manifestation of God,

God’s presence,

Right here,

In our midst.

 

For Joseph,

Glory comes with his recognition

That Jesus is God’s divine Son

As well as his adopted son.

Glory to God!

By the birth of Jesus, God is with us.

 

Glory comes with Joseph’s recognition that

Jesus is the prophetic promise

That God is with us.

Glory to God!

 

Glory comes to the angelic host flying over shepherd’s fields

When good news is proclaimed!

Good news is Gospel.

Gospel truth: Jesus is born this day.

Gospel truth: Jesus is the Messiah.

Gospel truth: Jesus is the Lord.

Glory to God!

Jesus is born; God is with us.

 

Glory comes to shepherds who did as they were told,

Who went and beheld the newborn Jesus.

They experienced the presence of God laying in a manger

And returned their glory to God;

Praising God for all they had seen and heard.

 

Where have we experienced the presence,

The manifestation,

Of God?

 

Where has God snuck into your life and surprised you?

Unexpected? Unannounced? Completely out of the blue?

Where and when has God’s presence been revealed?

How have you responded?

 

Respond with glory!

Let us join Joseph, shepherds, and angels choirs:

Give glory to God in the highest heaven!

 

Give glory to God by

Proclaiming Good News!

Join the celebration at the Table,

With song, dance, and prayer.

Give glory to God by loving God

With all our heart, mind, soul, and strength,

And by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Give glory to God and revel in His presence!

 

Beloved, when God is near,

Give glory!

 

…………..

 

The Gospel of Matthew, like Joseph, leads with grace.

Try to lead with grace in your life, too.

 

Do not be afraid.

This calms Joseph and shepherds alike.

Be calm in the face of what ever live throws your way.

Discover the calm at the center of Jesus’ birth.

 

Give glory to God.

The birth of Jesus places God front-and-center in our life.

God is with us.

Give God the glory!

Amen.

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