With all the back and forth that goes in politics and all the acrimonious displays by those who are strong in their beliefs and strident in their defense of them, (Myself chief among them), it's time to stop and remember what this season is all about. Let us never forget that there is one mighty in power and clothed in splendor who loved us enough to give his all for us. As the Shepard boy David who became a king through GOD's grace said after the prophet Nathan promised a coming king who would rule from David's thrown, a kingdom without end:
...."Who [am] I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?
And [yet] this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have [also] spoken of Your servant's house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O LORD God.
What more can David [say] to You for the honor of Your servant? For You know Your servant.
Who are WE indeed that you would come to this earth as a man and pay the price WE have earned for OUR sins and transgressions.
So...with that, let us remember what was done for us and take a moment to remember the reason we celebrate this awesome occasion for he came with but one purpose and that was to redeem us to himself and provide a way for us to be with him forever!
Why am I doing this?
As someone who grew up in the sixties and went to grade school in the early seventies, my fondest memories of the Christmas season are of reading and memorizing the Christmas Story and reciting it in Christmas plays at the local Methodist Church. I remember dressing up as a shepherd for the school play and acting out the parts of this story while our Principal read it during the final assembly on the last day before Christmas Vacation. These were in the days before activist courts and radical atheists and somehow we survived the subversive nature of telling the story of the redemption of all mankind....but I digress. Every year I went to church as a little guy even after I lost faith to participate in what had become a childhood tradition for me. It was a special time and I miss the innocence of that era. I strive continually to provide the same sense of innocence, awe and precious memories for my boys now and pray you all will as well. I encourage you tonight to take this as I present it or open your Bible and look it up yourself...read it to your children tonight...better yet...make it a Christmas tradition. It will bless your children beyond your ability to comprehend and it will bless you in ways you can not now fathom, I promise you.
With that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and as my gift to you all, I give you The Christmas Story as told by Saints Matthew and Luke:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife [was] of the daughters of Aaron, and her name [was] Elizabeth.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And when Zacharias saw [him], he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. Luke 1:22
But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.
Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,
Luke 1:25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on [me], to take away my reproach among people."
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name [was] Mary.
And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored [one], the Lord [is] with you; blessed [are] you among women
But when she saw [him], she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
And the angel answered and said to her, "[The] Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
For with God nothing will be impossible."
Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,
and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed [are] you among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of your womb!
But why [is] this [granted] to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Blessed [is] she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy [is] His name.
And His mercy [is] on those who fear Him From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered [the] proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from [their] thrones, And exalted [the] lowly.
He has filled [the] hungry with good things, And [the] rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of [His] mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever."
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this [will be] the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Now when they had seen [Him], they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
And all those who heard [it] marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered [them] in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present [Him] to the Lord
(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD" ),
and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law,
he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
May GOD Richly bless and keep all of you and your families.
"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"