How’re they doing?
Have you ever thought about what was going through Mary and Joseph’s minds the night before Jesus was born.
We might like to think that they were really excited about having their first child, that they were overflowing with love for him and for each other, and that they were feeling the joy and the peace that we sing about all Christmas season.
And that’s a nice image, Mary and Joseph, the night before Christmas, smiling and happy as can be.
Seems a little unrealistic to me when you stop and think about it.
I have to imagine that the emotions that they were actually feeling were more in the department of fear and anxiety.
Joseph was probably concerned about the whole census thing.
I’m sure he was sitting there that night afraid of why the Romans were trying to get a count of everyone.
Were they going to be raising taxes and making sure they could collect from everyone?
Were they going to start a military campaign and seeing where they could draft soldiers from?
Were they getting ready to exile the Israelites or enslave them and wanted to get an accurate count?
I’m sure Joseph was worried about that.
Not to mention the impact all of this travel could have on his work as a carpenter, would he be able to take care of his new wife and son?
And while he’s pacing back and forth worried about all this, I imagine Mary sitting down worrying about a whole other set of problems.
I imagine she’s terrified to have her first child, terrified because of the pain she’s going to be dealing with and terrified that she might not survive giving birth.
I imagine she’s terrified about what’s going to happen to the baby because he has to live in a stable for the first days of his life.
And I imagine both of them are terrified about becoming first time parents, both of them are scared about what it means to be the parent to the Son of God.
But it didn’t stop them from being where God wanted them to be, it didn’t stop them from doing what God wanted them to do.
Ruled By Fear
Now as we sit here in 21st century America, we don’t have the same fears that Mary and Joseph did.
But we still deal with fears and worries and anxieties, and those fears can still keep us from doing what God wants us to do or being where He wants us to be.
Our fear of other people’s judgement can keep us from acting like we should.
We know that God calls us to treat others with love, to be honest, to be faithful - but we’re afraid of looking like a goody-two-shoes or giving off a holier-than-thou impression.
So we do things we shouldn’t or treat people with less love than we should.
Our fear of financial trouble can keep us from giving as we should.
We know that God calls us to give Him our first and our best, we know that the Bible sets a precedent of giving 10% of everything we receive to God - but we’re afraid that we won’t be able to pay all of our bills or that we’d have to sacrifice more than we’re comfortable with.
So we give less than we should or we don’t give at all.
Our fear for our kids future can keep us from instilling faith in them like we should.
We know that the highest responsibility God gives to parents is to make disciples of their kids - but we’re afraid if we drop things that conflict with church that they won’t have all the best opportunities in life.
So we don’t make them be as involved in faithful community as we should.
We’re afraid of missing out on Saturday night so we sleep through church on Sunday morning, we’re afraid of feeling uncomfortable so we don’t connect with Christian community, we’re afraid of being challenged so we keep other Christians at arms length, we’re afraid of being judged so we don’t share our faith.
We’re afraid of the light of the world exposing our sin and brokenness, we’re afraid of losing the comfort and familiarity of darkness, we’re afraid that in the light we will be fully seen and that we won’t be enough.
We’re afraid of the light, so we content ourselves with living in the shadows.
*Turn out the lights in the building*
The Root Problem
And all of our fears, everything that draws us away from God comes from two places.
A lot of it comes from our broken humanity, our sinful nature elevates things so that we’re more concerned about them then about taking care of our faith.
And if we aren’t broken enough on our own, the devil steps in and does his best to draw us away from God.
Our sin and the devil have broken this world and all of its imperfections weigh on us, scare us out of doing what God wants us to do, scare us out of being who God wants us to be.
But throughout history, God has always left a light in the darkness.
God has been pointing the whole time to the way He would overcome all of our fears.
We have this Advent wreath, and we’ve slowly been lighting it more and more completely each week, and its light points us towards Christmas.
The Light of the World
Zechariah’s prophecy says that John will also point towards a light.
He says that John will point the way to Jesus, that Jesus will deliver His people from the hands of their enemies so that we might serve Him without fear, Zechariah says that John will give light to those who sit in darkness.
And that’s what we celebrate each year on Christmas.
We celebrate the child who was born in the manger, the son of Mary.
The light that has gone ahead of us this whole way now comes to us.
*Elders start lighting the congregation’s candles.*
Jesus Christ, the light of the world, came to earth as a baby.
He grew up without ever doing anything wrong, without ever sinning, untouched by the darkness.
When He was grown, He brought that light to the people around Him, He healed the sick and the hurting, He overcame fears and showed love to people.
But that wasn’t enough, so He allowed Himself to be lifted up on the cross, taking on all of our sin and brokenness and darkness.
And three days later, He walked back out of the tomb, having taken our darkness and giving us brilliant light in return, restoring us to God and promising to walk with us.
Giving each of us a light that no sin, no fear, no power, no darkness can ever overcome.
Take Your Light
The light of Jesus removes all darkness.
It reveals our sin and brokenness, then it heals it.
It takes away the familiarity of darkness, but gives us eternal comfort.
In the light we are fully seen by God, and He says “I am enough for you, you are loved, welcome home.”
So we take our light back into the world, free to serve God without fear.
We take our light into the world, and allow our life to reflect the faith we share.
We take our light into the world, and allow our relationships to be illuminated by it.
We take our light into the world, setting it’s brilliance against the darkness - knowing that it will overcome, with the confidence that we can always return to this place, to this community, for God to strengthen and ignite our little light.