At Christmas we can get quite far from remembering the reason for the holiday. That makes it all the more important to remember that He came. He came to be with us, to live among us, feel what we feel and after living perfectly, He gave that life for us. On Christmas Eve we remember that He came… and that He’s still here.
Our text for the day: Philippians 2.5-11
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It doesn’t seem to be much of a Christmas Eve story, but let me take you back to an experience I had in April of 2016, so more than a year and a half ago. What started out as a normal April Sunday became a rather difficult day for me. As the afternoon and then evening went on I felt a pain in my back and belly. It got to the point where Robin said I think I need to take you to the emergency room and it hurt enough that I said yes. They treated me and sent me home after finding out that I had a kidney stone. Now call me a wimp, but it hurt. In an all consuming- can’t think about anything else- sort of way. It was so bad that I acquiesced to going to Strong Hospital’s emergency room the next day. I couldn’t sit down, I had to pace around until they took me in after answering all their questions, etc. Long story short, the kidney stone in question was so large that it couldn’t have gone through my system on its own. And they planned a procedure for the next day to break it up and remove it. So I had a day and a night in the hospital. Up until then, I had never really spent any time as a patient in a hospital. And it’s crazy, for anyone who has been there. Sounds, lights on, lights off, people coming in and going out, poking, measuring, and thankfully, giving out pain meds regularly. So I slept for a time, woke up, back to sleep, over and over again.
Now, I knew that people were praying for me. That was good to know and I’m grateful. But something extra precious happened in the midst of my little adventure. I woke up, and there was my Robin. I fell back asleep and there was Ronny Michalko. Giving me a hard time, of course, and giving the nursing staff a hard time, in the best of ways. I fell back asleep, woke up and there was our youngest son, Tim. While Tim was there (sorry, maybe this is TMI for a Christmas Eve service) they had given me morphine and no nausea meds to go with it. Sure enough, later on I was throwing up in a wastebasket, with my son there for the whole experience in HD. Then finally came the next day, the procedure and home to recover.
Why am I telling you this?
Because when the chips were down, there were people who cared, like the rest of our family and friends, there were people praying. But the ones who came and visited me, that stayed with me; I can’t forget that. It wasn’t that others would have been there if they could have, but the actual presence of someone who could take on my pain, be face to face with me in my struggles, as minor as my situation was compared to others, was more valuable to me than anything else. They came.
Our Student Pastor, Ian, isn’t with us today. He fell in love with some Romanian orphans this summer on a missions trip. And rather than send them a card or some gifts, he gave up his American Christmas with his family and friends and we sent him to be with those kids on Christmas Day in Romania. That will mean so much to those kids. To have someone visit them, be with them, in their lack of family, is more precious than we can understand. He came.
So here’s mankind. Broken. Struggling. Reaping what we’ve sown. Broken families, broken lives, broken systems, broken government. Violence, wars, poverty and hopelessness. And God could have found a way to help us out from Heaven’s distance, whatever that may be. But God came Himself, in the “likeness of men”, and experienced what we experience, grew up physically in the same conditions we all know, saw what we see and bled and died in the worst of ways as many do, even though He did not deserve it. He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, that’s why, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.
He came. And it all started on a day when an unmarried and virgin teenager was visited by God. That pregnancy resulted in the birthday of the Son of God, Christmas, which we celebrate now.
He came. He lived a perfect life in the midst of mankind’s well deserved struggles. He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind and taught and lived out God’s character and nature, teaching the radical and completely transformative way of God.
Then He did what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He was a powerful example, yes, a powerful teacher, yes, a wonderful miracle worker, yes, but He provided the permanent answer, the surgery, needed to change us inside and out. He made a permanent way to reverse the curse as it applies to your life and give you a lifelong and beyond relationship with God.
He came. And He is still here. Yes, Christ Jesus ascended to Heaven, but He told us that it was actually good that He would, as He would send the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God, to us, and He is here to this day.
So at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Arise, shine for your Light has come!! He came! And He’s still here.
He’s here for you. No matter how dark your hour is. Christmas is often a time of great sadness for many. Last week I told you about a young girl that used to attend here with her Dad when she was younger, in middle school. She ended her life a week ago Friday. I went to the visiting hours at the funeral home. There was her mother, greeting people, sobbing, crying, people trying to comfort her. There were the girl’s friends and extended family. As you can imagine, so close to Christmas, that Christmas will always be more than a little hard for those left behind. But He’s here. For them. For you. Always.
Arise, shine, for your light has come. He came. He’s here. Here in your brokenness. Here in your addictions and recovery. Here in your sadness and grief. He’s here.
All you need to do is humble yourself. Give Him your struggles. Give Him your sinful ways. Give Him your prodigal children. And believe. Believe that He has made a way for you to be free, even if no one around you is free. Believe that your life lived up until now can be wiped clean and you can have a new life. Believe that the new life you were given at some point in your history can be refreshed and renewed. Much of Jerusalem missed the day of visitation. But you don’t have to.
Because He came. Because He’s here.