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    Dec 24, 2021

    Christmas Eve 2021

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Advent 2021

    Keywords: jesus, culture, darkness, mary, light, joseph


    These three devotional features of our Christmas Eve service look at the darkness of the world to which our Lord came, how He penetrated the darkness and how God wants to solve the problem of darkness in our souls and world.


    Christmas Eve—Light in the Darkness

    December 24, 2021

    Section 1

    Darkness comes in many forms.  And every century, every society, every human heart knows its own share of darkness. 

    Our own world has experienced plenty of darkness this past year.  From violence and death to strife and isolation, this has been a year of darkness in many ways.  

    We’re not unique, however.  The world Joseph and Mary found themselves in some 2,000 years ago was very dark as well. 

    • For nearly 1,000 years, the nation of Israel had enjoyed an unbroken line of prophetic messages from God. But then the darkness of 400 years of silence from God descended upon this broken nation. This was a spiritual darkness that threatened to rob an entire nation of hope. 
    • On a personal level, Mary and Joseph were young adults who knew the darkness of grinding poverty. They came from a very poor town—Nazareth.  With under 400 residents, Nazareth was not exactly a bustling business hub in ancient Palestine.  Families like theirs lived in one-room, dirt-floor dwellings stacked one upon the other from which its residents eked out a subsistence existence year after year.
    • The darkness of illiteracy was the norm for most young women of Mary’s station. Jewish boys, fortunate enough to get some schooling, usually ended their studies at age 13 to begin a life of hard work.
    • The Christmas story we celebrate tonight picks up with Joseph, undoubtedly just starting out as a small business owner in the trade of wood and stone-masonry work, having his livelihood ripped out from under him by a capricious government edict that required him to close up shop and take a 100-mile trip on foot to the southern district of his nation. He most likely did not see his shop again for 3 years or more.  Such was the darkness of this family’s personal employment troubles.
    • Mary had her own darkness to contend with. A mere teenager pregnant through a hard-to-believe yet supernatural act of God, she had to contend with the darkness of small-town gossip, of rejection and isolation.  It was a darkness that others tried to hold over her and even her grown son, Jesus, for the rest of their lives.
    • And if you think governments of today are corrupt and coercive, just imagine what it was like to live under the rule of an occupying foreign power like Rome and the reign of terror of a psychopath like King Herod who used torture and death as a favorite tool of his reign. Herod, famous for his massive and expensive building projects is yet more infamous for jealously murdering his own wife and children.  He went on to kill over half of the Jewish ruling Sanhedrin in Jerusalem not to mention the infanticide he inflicted on the entire town of Bethlehem based merely on a rumor from three traveling foreign dignitaries.  This was a level of darkness few of us have had to contend with in our day. 
    • Then there was the darkness of the Holy Family’s flight to a foreign country, Egypt, in order to save Jesus’ life. The darkness of night that hid their escape mirrored the moral and spiritual darkness of Egypt where they would have to scratch out a living for months on end as refugees.
    • And when the dark reign of mad-Herod finally ended with his own tortured and painful death, 1 of his 3 his sons, Archelaus, took over the rule of Judea where Bethlehem was. He went on to immediately slaughter over 3,000 Jews who unfortunately had decided to throw rocks instead of a party to celebrate his coronation.  Israel was truly in a dark place. 
    • And finally, just about the time Mary, Joseph and their toddler Jesus did return to Nazareth to pick up life where they had left off several years before, the Roman General by the name of Varus attacked, sacked and burned the nearest neighboring city of Sepphoris not 4 miles from Nazareth. To prove his point he had the road from Sepphoris to Galilee lined with the crosses and corpses of 2,000 crucified Jewish rebels—more than 5 times the number of inhabitants in all of Nazareth. 

    It does not take to imagine the depth of the darkness that existed in the world to which God in human flesh—Jesus—was born 2,000 years ago.  Spiritual darkness, political darkness, economic, social and soul-numbing personal darkness had enveloped the world.   It is to this dark world that God, who is “the light of the world,” chose to come to.  When many were losing hope that light would dawn upon their lives again, the glory of the light of God himself pierced this dark world in the form of a vulnerable, helpless little newborn baby.

                So, if you are here tonight and you’ve felt weighed down by the darkness of our world this year, you have a lot in common with Joseph and Mary and the Christ-child, Jesus. Come and marvel with us the light of the glory of God himself who chose to invade our darkness. 


    Section 2:

    • So, what do you usually do whenever you walk into a dark room? (Look for the light switch to turn on the light.)
    • What do you do when the electricity goes out in a wind or ice-storm at night? (Find the flashlights or candles.)
    • What does God do when the world He has created turns its back on him, rejects what little light it has and dives headlong into the darkness of sin? Well, rather than abandon us to our own devices, God sends the best light-source He has into that darkness.  God comes Himself to invade and overcome our darkness.

    We just heard several O.T. passages which speak about the darkness that human sin inflicts on whole nations and the souls of people. But each of those passages also foretold the Light that God promised would one day invade our darkness. 

                Our God could have very justly and easily left this sin-wrapped planet to its own demise.  Beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing on into the personal choices and sinfulness of each of our hearts, God was under no obligation to rescue us from this darkness of our own making.  From the Garden of Eden to the great sacrifices of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, God always made a way for people tired of darkness to find the light of His presence. 

    Adam and Eve stepped out of their own darkness of sin and into the light of renewed relationship with God when they stopped trying to cover their nakedness their own way.  Instead, they put their trust in what God provided to them—clothes made from the skins of some animals they had known and loved in the Garden before eating the forbidden fruit…animals they had watched pay the ultimate price for their personal sin. 

    From there on, God kept providing the “light switch” needed in every generation for the longed-for presence of God to abide with people.  Whether Abel or Abraham or a thousand years of Temple sacrifices, God always made a way to show people that the darkness of this world was not His design for us but rather the tragic result of our sin.  And today, to any human being humble enough to recognize that it is their sin that darkens and destroys life’s most important relationships, God has always promised renewed life and light by simple faith in Him.

    In every one of the Bible passages we’ve read tonight, people have been responsible for the darkness.  Yet God has always been providing the light.  The Bible tells us in 1 John 1:5 that, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  From speaking light into existence in the universe to being the light which will illuminate all Heaven for all eternity (Rev. 21:23), God has and always will be the solution to every type of darkness of the human soul.  The more people and nations try to remove God from their experience, the deeper we are plunged ourselves into darkness.  But the more we open our hearts to the presence of God himself, the more we will find that darkness flees and life-giving light heals and restores our lives. 

    So, it is no wonder that when God wanted to make His light known best in human experience, he didn’t just send the ‘flashlight’ or ‘candle’ of prophets or priests or saints or even angels. He sent the sunlight of Himself—God incarnate in the person we call Jesus Christ.  He didn’t do it in such a way that we had to accept the light.  He didn’t do it in a way that would leave us blinded by His light.  He did it in a way that left every one of us with a choice to either receive or reject the light…either walk away from OR walk into the light. 

    • When the angel came to Mary to announce God’s design to give her a child without a human husband, she had a choice to say “No thank You” to the light. Instead she chose to respond, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
    • When Joseph learned of this miraculous conception and what it would mean to both their lives, their reputations and their futures, he could have said, “No thank You, God. I’ll stick with what little light I’ve got.” Instead he chose to embrace the promise of God in Jesus Christ with all of its uncertainties, perplexities and unknowns…and experienced the light of God as few have.
    • When those cold, tired, smelly, and little-respected shepherds saw the light of the heavenly hosts and the glory of God in that non-descript field outside Bethlehem, they could have said, “No thanks,” rolled over and gone back to sleep. Instead they said, “Yes”, sought out the baby in the manger and glorified God by telling others of the events of that night. 
    • When wise men saw the light of the star… and heard the prophetic light of a king to be born in Bethlehem…and saw the light of the world in the face of the toddler Jesus…they said “YES” to that light, offered their gifts, worshiped and went away protecting rather than betraying that Light.
    • When Jesus offered himself to the nation of Israel as “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” most of Israel said, “No thank You.” But a few of them said, “I believe,” and began walking in the light of new-found salvation as Jews.  Others, like Paul, said “Yes” to that blinding light of Christ on the Road to Damascus and lit a fire with that light that has spread to every nation on the face of the planet today. 
    • And for some 2,000 years, those who have said “Yes” to the light of God in Jesus Christ have taken that light to family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers and strangers. Many have responded, “No thank you” and chosen to remain in their darkness rather than enjoy the light of God’s presence.  But some of every generation continue to say “Yes”.  In so doing they have found that the Light of God in Christ which shown in the darkness of our world 2,000 years ago has the power to continually and forever rid their lives of sin’s deep darkness. 

    Who will we be like this year?  Mary?  Joseph?  The shepherds?  Those wise men? Or the Herods, the Pharisees or the millions who choose to try and light their own dark path rather than embracing the light of God himself in Jesus Christ? 


    Section 3

    The message of Christmas is a simple message of the light of God invading the darkness of human souls in the person of Jesus Christ. None of us are strangers to the darkness of this world or our own souls.  This year has, like many years, confronted us all with new dimensions of that darkness. 

                But it’s very possible that you are a stranger to the light of Jesus Christ.  The light of Christ is not something that just blazed for 3 decades some 2,000 years ago on this earth.  It is a light that God would love to flood your life and mine with and dispel all the darkness and emptiness of sin. 

                Jesus said in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verse 12, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness,but will have the Light of life.” 

    God’s light in our lives is not a religion.  It’s not rules or rituals or even human effort.  It’s a Person—God himself.  It’s the eternal person of Jesus Christ.  It is God who inserted himself in a human body, lived the only perfect and sinless human life and took the punishment that was eternally due each of us for our own sin.  His life was that One and Only Life that can light the heart and soul of any human being. 

                It doesn’t matter how good you think you are or how evil you know you are.  Jesus is the only Light that can cancel sin’s stain in every one of our souls.  He is the only Light that can show us the plans God has for our life and the blessings God longs to shower on us.  His is the only light that can guide every human soul through the darkness of this world.

                Jesus himself said in John 12:36, “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”  Have you seen the beauty of the light of Jesus’ life for you tonight?  Have you sensed him calling to you, “Come into my light; Let me fill your soul with light; Let me exchange your darkness for my light”?

                If you have, I want to invite you to make Jesus more than a historic figure you sing about once or twice a year.  I want to invite you to make him Lord of your life.  I want to invite you to become a child of light by simply “believing in the Light”…in Jesus himself. 

    ILL:  When it came to marriage, I chose to “believe” in one woman, my now dear wife Sandy.  I could count other women as friends.  But there was only one I “believed in” as my wife. 

                Believing in Jesus is similar.  You can hold Jesus at arm's length by believing He was a historical figure that he was a good man, maybe even a prophet of God.

                But when you choose to “believe” that He is the “light of the world”, you are choosing to receive him as THE light of God himself for YOU.  You are choosing to enter into an eternal relationship with God through simple faith in Him and what He has done to reconcile you, a sinner, to God who is holy.  It’s the most important ‘believing’ you will ever do and it is the only ‘believing’ that will dispel the darkness of our souls and bring eternal light to our lives.

                Will you welcome the light of Christ into your life tonight?  If you would like to do that, I’m going to invite you to pray a simple prayer.  There’s nothing magical about this prayer.  It simply puts in words what believing in Jesus means.  Here’s what I’m going to pray:

                “Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am separated from God and in darkness because of my sin.  I want the light You are and offer me.  I ask you to help me turn from the darkness of my own sin and embrace You, the Light of God.  I ask you to forgive me of my sins and to become my Savior and Lord.  I put my faith in You and what You have done to save me out of darkness and bring me into Your light. 

    Please fill me with the light of your presence, your Spirit.  Thank you for loving me and giving your life for me. In your wonderful name, Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN.” 

                So now, would all of you bow your heads as we talk with God who longs to dispel the darkness of our souls with the light of His presence.  Feel free to pray along with me either silently or out loud as I pray this simple, life-changing prayer.  [Repeat above.]

                And to those of us who may have come here tonight already knowing the life and light of Jesus, can we ask God anew to refresh our souls with the renewed light of Christ in us?  Let’s invite Him to dispel any darkness that still plagues us today and fill us with the light of His love and presence.  [PRAY] 

    We’re going to experience visually right now what we’ve just engaged in spiritually.  Just as this light of Christ has taken hold in some of your lives tonight by faith, we’re going to light the candles you’ve been given.  We’ll start by lighting just a few people’s candles.  But as they choose to share that fire with their neighbors, that light will pass to all of us here…and change the experience we share tonight. 

    That’s a brief picture of what God wants us to enjoy the rest of our lives.  If you’ve embraced the light and life of Jesus tonight either for the first time or afresh, I want to invite you to KEEP THE LIGHT BURNIN BRIGHTLY in your soul throughout this coming year.  You can do that in many different ways.  Here are just a couple I would recommend you begin with:

    1. Get a Bible, preferably a version you can understand, and start reading about Jesus. Start reading any of the 4 Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Maybe ask a friend you know loves Jesus to do it with you so you can ask questions when you encounter things you don’t understand.
    2. Tell someone you know has a relationship with Jesus about the decision you made tonight to believe in Jesus. They will want to pray for you and help you in any way they can to keep growing in your relationship with Jesus.
    3. Start hanging out with other people who have the light of Jesus in their lives. That might be in a home Bible study group or over coffee with a Christ-centered friend.  It may be by finding a good church that will help you know Jesus better and teach you the Bible faithfully.  ILL:  the fire of God’s Spirit in us is a lot like that fire you have when you’re camping.  Logs burn best when they are next to other logs that are burning.  They tend to go out when they are separated and try to burn all alone.  Our life in Jesus is like that.  We burn best and enjoy the light most when we’re close to others who have the light of God as well. 

    CLOSE:  THANK YOU for choosing to spend this Christmas Eve with us.  We will close tonight’s service with a couple of numbers.  The next one is taken from Psalm 91 and is something you may just want to listen to and reflect on.  The last one is Silent Night, one we hope reflects a bit of the experience God has given you tonight with the light of Jesus Christ, His Son.