It Is Just as We Have Been Told!
A man and a woman stood in front of a tree, admiring the fruit. They remembered his words, “You shall not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, or you will die.” And yet, as they looked at the fruit it looked so delicious. One bite can’t hurt, can it?, they had wondered. But now as they listened to God, they realized that it would happen just as they had been told.
Fast forward some three thousand years. A prophet was told “A virgin will give birth to a son – he will be called Immanuel….His kingdom will last forever.” As he shared God’s message with the people, the prophet’s face gave away his confusion and wonder. A virgin will give birth? Did you say forever, God? This prophet would never see the fulfillment of that promise, and yet he still believed that it would happen just as he had been told.
Press that fast forward button again and move forward another 700 years. A teenage girl is doing her chores when suddenly a man appears in her room, dressed in white and as bright as the sun. “Greetings,” the man said. “You will have a son – his name will be Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High and will reign forever!” I don’t understand, the teenager wondered out loud. How can I have a child? I’m a virgin! “Nothing is impossible with God,” the angel replied, and then left her.
Nine months later and here she was, experiencing all the discomforts of a nine-month pregnancy and making the trip to Bethlehem. As she traveled with Joseph she must have thought, It is happening just as I had been told.
Outside Bethlehem, a group of men gathered together for warmth. It had been a long day watching their sheep, and they were tired. As they argued, trying to figure out who would sleep first and who had to keep watch, they heard a voice they had never heard before. “I have great news for you! Tonight, this very night, a baby has been born. He is wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. This baby is not just any baby – he is Christ, your Savior!” And when the angel was done speaking, the sky suddenly looked as if it was day again and one voice became many: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Curiosity and joy gripped those shepherds and they didn’t stop running until they found that baby. It is just as we were told! Here, lying in this straw is the one who has come to save the world!
This evening, we don’t have God standing before us and conversing with us. Yet, we are reminded through his Word that it is because you and I disobeyed God that there even is a Christmas. As we listen to the children of our congregation proclaim the message of Christmas we are told that something needed to be done to change our course. Through our disobedience of God we had merged onto the highway of sin heading straight for death and hell.
I highly doubt that anyone here tonight has been given a message directly from God to share with the rest of us. Yet, we will still hear his message as it comes from the youth of our congregation, a message which proclaims – “The virgin will be with child, he will be called Immanuel.” As you hear these words spoken, consider the wonder of this miracle. Consider how awesome it is that a message given through the prophet Isaiah would be fulfilled 700 years later on a night in a tiny stable in the town of Bethlehem.
They may not look as bright, nor seem as innocent, as angels, but as the children of our Sunday School share the words of the Christmas story, try to share in the wonder and awe of those shepherds that first Christmas Eve. And as the story unfolds, share in the joy of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. For there, lying in the manger is a baby. That baby, wrapped tight in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough for animals, surrounded by the humble surroundings of a stable, is your Savior. That baby was born for you and me. It is that baby that would grow up and die without having done a single thing wrong. It is that baby’s perfect life, that baby’s innocent death that has led us off the highway of sin and onto the path to righteousness. That baby, lying there in the manger, is Jesus Christ and he is our Savior. Though small and defenseless, that baby is the one who created heaven and earth and came to save us from all our sin.
And so now, as we hear the Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and as it was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, it is not just those shepherds who say, “It was just as we had been told.” In fact, you and I can join with them and say “It is just as I had been told.” For this night we hear the wonderful message: Wretched sinner though I may be, Jesus Christ, my Savior, is born for me!