The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
December 24, 2019
11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
It was a magnificent event that arrived in meekness.
It neither commanded attention nor compelled anyone to even notice it. It occurred in an obscure corner of the world that few paid any mind to. There was a vision of angelic glory given to some shepherds, but few would believe the testimony of such unwashed, uneducated migrant field hands. There were some rich astrologers who came visiting, but few trusted strange foreigners whose field of study was held suspect.
And what was there to see anyway? Just another poor kid born to an unwed mother, a mere infant whose first home was a smelly shelter unfit for human habitation and whose prospects in life looked dim.
God’s taking human flesh at Jesus’ birth was meek in appearance, but not meager in importance. The immortal God became a mortal man; the Almighty, a helpless baby; the Supreme Being, a servant of nobodies who would for their sake be demeaned, humiliated, tortured, murdered and abandoned to hell.
That divine descent revealed God’s great grace. For God in Christ had left the Paradise of heaven to stand on this benighted earth with those who deserved condemnation and to sacrifice Himself for their forgiveness and salvation.
That Christmas, God was proving His love for all people. He was showing how much He cared about even the worst of us. He was making it manifest that, when it came to helping us, no distance was too great to travel, and no price was too steep to pay. He was demonstrating His willingness to meet us more than halfway and to do whatever it took to rescue us from our path of self-destruction and to launch us into an infinitely better life, better in every way.
For example, God came to liberate us from fear. Fear bedevils our lives, whether it shows up in the form of fretting, anxiety, depression, despair or envy. And there are so many things we might fear: death, judgment, loneliness, pain we cannot handle.
I have not personally verified the count, but I have heard a number of biblical scholars say that the most repeated command in all of Scripture is, in one variation or another: Do not be afraid. And what is wonderful in this is that God does not just tell us what to do but also makes it possible for us to do it.
For 1 John 4:18 in the Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” God took human flesh so as to bring us the perfect love that casts out fear.
God brought it into our line of sight by making it visible in a fellow human being. God brought it within the reach of our heart by making Himself as accessible as a baby and as winsome as a good man who lays down His life for His friends. God brought it into the realm of believability by proving it in the death of Jesus when He absorbed the full wrath of justice in our place.
The perfect love on display in the birth, life and death of the Christmas Child assures us that God balks at nothing to bless us and that for Him no gift is too big and no number of gifts is, for His loving heart, too much to lavish upon us. As it says in Romans 8:32, “[The God] who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will He not with him also give us everything else?”
As we appreciate the infinite magnificence of God’s love demonstrated at Christmas, we are set free from fear and launched into higher and higher joy! Let our spirits even now lift-off in glad-hearted appreciation as we watch Crystal Cooper, a daughter of this congregation, dance to the Yolanda Adams’ Christmas song Born this Day.
Though setbacks, sickness, suffering and sorrow may befall us, we will not fear but have peace of heart and serenity of mind even in adversity. For as much as God was with us that first Christmas in Bethlehem, He is with us this Christmas in Long Beach. Thus, while we may dread difficulties, we need not panic over them; and, while we may hate hard times, we need not let them steal our joy. For a loving God who can do anything is with us to help us make them serve our good. Why, as Romans 8:28 tells us, God can even work in bad things and bring good out of them, sometimes such good that we thank God for those bad times afterward!
In the One born in Bethlehem, we have a perfect God whose perfect love casts out our fear and replaces it with hope, peace, joy and love! May our hearts ever exult over God’s meek magnificence with mirth and merriment year round!