Merry Christmas! I love singing that last carol! Let’s sing it again! Help me out here! “Glo-oooh-oooh- oooh–ria….. in excelsis Deo!” “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.”
That’s what the angels’ sang to the shepherds as they filled the sky the night Jesus was born. I don’t blame them for being excited. They’d been waiting centuries for this! They were blown away by the wonder, the holiness of this night!
We would be too if we understood what happened there. We’d wake up every morning for the rest of our lives singing. “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth!”
So what happened that caused the angels to suddenly appear and fill the heavens with this incredible music? Try this on for size. What if the angels were always there, watching, guarding, protecting the shepherds silently, invisibly? But at the birth of Jesus, the Father allowed them to suddenly become audible and visible!
Suddenly the heavens reverberated with the glory of God. God’s glory is always there, but our sin blinds and deafens us. God perform miracles around us every day and we miss them, avoid them, deny them, explain them away. How arrogant we are!
But this night, the Lord opened the shepherd’s eyes and ears to see and hear. The door between earth and heaven was suddenly opened. That’s exactly what took place in that manger in Bethlehem. Jesus came into our world to open the door and pull back the curtain that separated the holiness of heaven and the sinfulness of earth.
To understand how big a deal this is, we need to understand how mighty God is. God transcends our imagination. The only way we can know anything about God if God reveals it to us in a way we can understand. So what has God shown us about himself?
First, God is a spiritual being who exists outside our cosmos, yet He fills the universe with his presence. He has revealed himself to us as Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one God in 3 persons. That means God is highly relational. He loves, gives, serves, creates, saves, renews, rests, laughs and cries. He’s big into music, art, science. He is perfect in all he is and all he does.
God created us in his image, which means he has given us the ability to love, give, serve, work, create, rest, emote. But that doesn’t mean He is just like us. To assume God is just like us causes all kinds of problems. The biggest is we think we can judge God for who he is and what he does. We think we can challenge God’s right to rule our lives.
God is completely other than us. His holiness and sovereignty are indisputable. His love and justice are perfect. So why then, is this world so messed up and full of injustice and pain? Why doesn’t God do something? That’s what this night is all about.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, creation has been at war. It’s the clash of two kingdoms - the kingdom of God and the kingdom of sin, death, and the devil. The birth of Jesus in that dark stable in Bethlehem rocked the cosmos, physically and spiritually. It was a beachhead, an invasion into the territory Satan had claimed as his own.
I encourage you to open your Bible to the Gospel of John chapter 1. Imagine for a moment that you are in the stable looking down on this newborn tightly swaddled and lying in the manger. Who is this kid? “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3
This squirming infant is the Eternal One, the Ancient of Days, through whom all things came into being. John goes on. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it or recognized it or overcome it” John 1:4-5
When Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden, God made a promise that he would send a Redeemer to rescue them from the curse of their disobedience. The Redeemer would be one of their own children, a son of Adam who would undo what Adam had done.
For the next how many centuries, Satan did his best to destroy every son and daughter of Adam and Eve possible to prevent this promised child from being born. Satan thought if he could cut off the family tree, he could eliminate God’s plan of salvation.
The murder, war, infidelity that fill the pages of the OT were all Satan’s attempts to prevent the birth of this child. But baby Jesus came, just as the prophets had predicted, right on time, in just the right place and neither Herod nor the powers of Rome, nor Satan himself could stop it. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
John goes on, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and through the world was made though him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him.” John 1:9-11
30 years later, this same Jesus said to Nicodemus, “This is the verdict: Light (Jesus) has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” John 3:9-10
Immediately after they sinned, Adam and Eve hid in the darkness for fear that their sin would be exposed. Did it work? No. We might try to hide our sin from each other, but we can’t hide from God. Our darkness is not dark to him. Jesus said, “God didn’t send the Son into the world to condemn the world, we were condemned already. He sent his Son to save us.” John 3:17
So when we were hiding in the dark, stuck in our sin, he came to where we were. What could be darker than a stable in the middle of the night? The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. That light is Jesus. He is the light of the world.
Last Sunday I led worship for the nursing homes. I asked the residents, “Were there any unlocked doors in Bethlehem the night of that first Christmas?” Remember the town was filled with strangers who had come to pay their taxes. My guess is that every door in town including the inn was closed and locked up tight. Every door that is, but one!
The stable had no lock; it didn’t even have a door. It was the only place in town were even a lowly shepherd could walk right in. When we couldn’t come into the unapproachable light and holiness of God, he came into the darkness and muck of our lives. A pure and holy infant sent into the darkness and dirt of a common stable and laid in a manger for us.
Satan still does everything he can to lock doors, build walls, separate, condemn, accuse, destroy, and spread fear, murder and hopelessness among us. But he can’t stop Jesus.
If you’re not sure about that go visit modern day Bethlehem. Tonight the holy city is surrounded by walls and guns and checkpoints and fear as the empires of the world battle it out to possess what was never theirs to begin with. That’s the kingdom of darkness.
A tiny stone manger is there and 7 miles away, a tomb with an open door. A door Jesus says, no man can shut even though many still try. This baby is the Lamb of God who loved us enough to give his life to take away the sin of the world.
There’s a lot of sin in the world, and you and I have added our little bit to the pile. But Jesus allowed his Father to put the sin of the whole world on him, and he took it to the cross. He looked down on those who refused to come out of their darkness and into his light and he prayed for them. He said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” The Bible says this same Jesus is still praying the same thing for you and me tonight.
The kingdoms of men still clash and fight among us. Satan still tempts them to believe they don’t need God; that they can be their own god. Men still chose darkness over light and suffer the consequences. How about you? Whose kingdom are you serving tonight?
John wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.” John 1:12
You were created to be a child of God, to be part of his kingdom, to serve him and enjoy him forever. But in order for that to happen you must leave the kingdom of darkness and receive him by faith. You must confess your sin, receive his forgiveness, and follow him.
Jesus is the only one who can forgive your sins and make your hearts clean and pure again. What’s it mean to believe in him? It means to quit pretending and be honest with him about your failures, your doubts, your fears.
If you will do that, he promises to meet you where we are. He will shine his light into your darkness and give you the gift of faith that leads to eternal life. Are you willing? Will you open the door of your heart and let him come in tonight?