Christmas Eve 2024

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Christmas Eve 2023 Devotional manuscript
I remember Christmas Eve as a kid.
The excitement and the anticipation was so strong that I could barely get to sleep as I thought about the packages to open the next morning.
Ours was the family seen in the movie, “The Christmas Story.” Ralphie and his younger brother Randy go to bed on Christmas Eve. Before anyone else in the house is awake, Ralph and Randy run downstairs to the presents placed under the Christmas tree and begin tearing into their gifts.
One after another, gifts are opened and then set aside for the next. Mom and Dad come stumbling down the stairs as the noise of torn open wrapping paper and boxes brings them to the reality of Christmas morning. The family sits together as more gifts are given and received.
Something happened as I grew older.
Once I departed from my childhood years, Christmas Eve became another night on the calendar.
The excitement and anticipation once felt as a young boy seemed to fade into distant memories.
As time went on and I entered my teenage years, Christmas gifts were no longer wrapped; instead, a trip to the local mall to pick the gift off of the rack became the new norm.
Christmas has remained the same through the years.
The story of Christ’s birth is the same narrative that has been shared time and again throughout the centuries.
Christmas hasn’t changed, but we change.
Seasons come and go and we find that who we once were is no longer the representation of who we are today.
I don’t know that I fully understand how all this takes place. It just seems that one day life is a certain way, and the next, it has changed in ways I never thought or imagined.
I believe we can all relate to this dynamic in life.
Each one of us could recall times and seasons of life that were one way only to be replaced by a new current reality.
For some, the constant pull and desire is to return to the “good old days” when the favorite season of life was being experienced.
They continually find themselves caught in the memories of days gone bye.
If they could just go back to those days when everything seemed good and right, but it isn’t long until the realization takes hold that it is at best only a wish and at worst a delusion.
We all seem to look for some sort of constant; something that will hold us in the midst of change.
We all handle change differently.
Some are bold and aggressive in their approach to change as they see it as a challenge to be conquered, while others may tend to be more cautious and guarded as they step into the shallow end of the change pool.
Either way, one thing remains the same; we are all required to deal with change regardless of our style and preferences.
Not all change has the same magnitude or impact.
Some change is more subtle in nature, and can be handled with little to no conscious thought. In these moments, we simply choose what seems to be the best steps forward in addressing the issue.
There are however other forms of change which are major and life changing.
Getting married, having children, starting a new job, buying a new house, the passing of a loved one . . . all of these and many others bring long lasting impacts of change.
They are the kind that are not easily navigated and the lingering effects at times seem to be never ending.
It is especially in these situations that we feel the need for the stabilizer.
We look and long for that which will provide a sense of momentum and focus when life’s changes generate blurred vision and stirred emotions.
Where do we turn for this constant stabilizer?
[Luke 2:8-18 NIV] 8 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.''
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
It was an ordinary day with ordinary sheep at another ordinary time in the fields.
Nothing out of the ordinary seemed likely; just another time of caring for the same order of business as the countless days before.
I’m not sure what the life of a shepherd is like. I have never had the experience of caring for sheep or living in the fields, but I imagine that the routine of the job is similar in ways to the routines we engage each and every day.
The mundane routine of daily activity and requirements can begin to dull us into a mindless job performance.
We show up, put on our “sheep” watching clothes, and go about our day like we have done for the past 20 years.
What happens next is beyond change; it is transformational.
I don’t think we can even classify the appearance of an angel as a change in their daily routine.
I think when the “glory of the Lord” shines around us, we encounter Someone we have heard about but never had the opportunity to actually experience.
There is a difference between hearing and experiencing.
I can hear about the encounters of others, but until I experience the encounter for myself, their stories serve as nothing more than a mental concept much like seeing a movie in the theater.
We sit and witness the unfolding story of others on the big screen as we sit in our recliner, but never get to the place of an encounter that changes all of life from that moment forward.
“Do not be afraid!”
That was a good start by the angel.
Anytime someone tells us not to be afraid, we know we are in a situation where fear is a reality.
Why these shepherds in this field on that night?
I don’t know. It was simply God’s choice.
God chose to send the angel to these ordinary men as they went about their evening job description.
We aren’t told much about them; just that they lived in the fields nearby and that they were faithful in keeping watch over their flocks.
Maybe this is what God looks for . . . Maybe He is just looking for someone who is “nearby” and faithful at doing what they have been assigned to do.
Obviously, we understand the word “nearby” to refer to a geographical location in reference to a certain place.
They were accessible in location, but I would also suggest that they were accessible in heart.
I believe the same thing holds true for us today; God still looks for those who are accessible in heart.
What keeps our hearts inaccessible?
Interest, lack of time, boredom, life’s demands . . . you name it, and it has the capacity to keep our hearts at a distance instead of nearby.
I think many times we aren’t even aware that our hearts are at a distance.
Somewhere along the way, our heart grew distant and unavailable just like Christmas Eve changing for me between boyhood and adulthood.
“I bring you Good News of Great Joy for all people” . . .
It’s challenging to hear good news and have great joy when we are caught in the grip of fear.
The shepherds had to get to the place where they could actually hear the news and receive the joy.
The same holds true for us.
God starts with the heart before moving to the head.
When our hearts are right, our heads can come into alignment with good news, and then our emotions can be filled with great joy.
I wonder how many times I’ve attempted to come at this from the opposite direction?
In other words, I start with my head, then go to my emotions, and maybe get down to the heart level at some point.
This reverse order keeps me caught in the cycle of endless pursuit for that “constant” I mentioned earlier.
Sometimes, I never get out of my head.
This positions me to think but never experience the fullness God desires for my life.
Is it the same for you?
Do you ever have trouble getting down to the heart level with God?
The angel said that the message he was assigned to deliver would be for “all people.”
This message was beyond the shepherds.
It included them, but it didn’t stop with them.
What they were hearing was for generations of people after them; it was for us today.
I wonder if they were able to grasp the magnitude of the message?
I think I would have heard the words, but the ultimate reality of what was being said would probably slip past me.
I mean, this wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill message.
This was life changing, not only for them, but for all of mankind.
How do you even begin to process a message at this level?
If one angel wasn’t enough to handle, they are then surrounded by an entire “heavenly host.”
Their situation goes from drastic to cosmic.
They are now engaged in a heavenly choir singing.
I wonder what it sounded like?
Was it loud?
Was there 4-part harmony?
How long did the song last?
Can we get a recording of it?
How do you even begin to respond to a situation like this?
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see . . .”
Let’s get in motion.
Let’s leave what is familiar (the field) and go see what is unfamiliar (the child).
They didn’t stop and sit down.
They didn’t call someone to check if they were right; they went to Bethlehem.
God looks for motion.
He joins Himself to those who go to Bethlehem for the purpose of finding His Son.
God wants us to come to Jesus.
The whole point of the message was to set the shepherds into motion, and the same holds true for us. God still wants us to come to Jesus today, but we have to get in motion.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying we can earn a right relationship with God, but there is something to be said about getting out of the field in order to stand before the King.
As long as I remain in the field, I will never stand in Christ’s presence.
They were “nearby” but they weren’t in front of Jesus. They had to make a choice to leave the field for the sake of Jesus.
What’s your field?
Where do you need to leave in order to stand in Christ’s presence? As long as you stay in the field, you may receive an encounter, but the ultimate goal is Christ Himself. He is our constant, our stabilizer. He is the “Savior of the world.”
“So they hurried off and found the baby . . .”
Here they are in front of Jesus.
A small baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. What a scene. What an incredible opportunity for these ordinary shepherds to experience the Savior.
It really is unimaginable, but it happened, and they got to experience Jesus and not only hear about Him.
What about the sheep? What about their responsibilities? What about . . .
They hurried off and found Jesus.
It reminds me of a story Jesus told.
[Luke 14:16-20 NIV] 16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.”
Excuses . . .
We all have them.
It doesn’t appear as if the shepherds allowed any excuses to get in their way. They simply “hurried off.” I’m really good at finding excuses.
I can quickly identify a variety of reasons why I should never hurry off. No matter how hard I try, I still sound like the ones Jesus mentioned in His story.
The whole point of the story was what Jesus said at the end:
[Luke 14:24] “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "
There is more at stake than we sometimes realize.
Jesus was saying that when we find excuses not to come to Him, there will be a day that we stand before Him and hear Him say, “you can’t sit at My table.”
At the time of the Christ’s invitation, those with the excuses could have thought it was just inconvenient; but Jesus is talking about eternity.
I can’t allow excuses, no matter how reasonable they may sound to me, to prevent me from getting to Jesus.
The first evangelists . . .
Do you know who the first evangelists listed in Scripture were?
The shepherds!
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”
They didn’t just go to the manger, they went to the streets and told others about Jesus.
I’m not sure when they made it back to the fields. The sheep still needed care. The job still needed to be done. Their responsibilities didn’t change, but they changed.
Their encounter with Jesus changed them, and the change in them had to be shared with others.
I could have been content to have stayed with Jesus in the manger. I mean after all, He’s the One the message the angel delivered was all about.
Why not just remain in His presence and soak in the moment?
Because Jesus wants others to know.
Jesus wants others to know today.
We can’t remain at the manger, we must tell others about the Savior of the world.
“and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
I don’t know what they said or how they said it, but I am convinced that their encounter with Jesus was life changing.
I would also suspect that when they did return to the field, it wasn’t the same.
How can you stand before Christ and go back to a field the same?
Standing before Jesus changes everything.
After an experience of this magnitude, and with the opportunity to see the Savior of the World, any change after this would be small in comparison.
No matter what they faced from this moment forward, they would always be able to recount the night they met the Savior.
How about you?
Have you met Jesus or are you allowing excuses to keep you in the field?
I believe that when we experience Jesus, we will finally find what we have been looking for.
Instead of something to hold us steady in the midst of changes and transitions, we can receive a Savior who will transform us from the inside out.
After all, there is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent the changes on the outside, but I have everything to do with the changes that happen within me.
Prayer:
Jesus, I bring my heart to You. I choose to leave my excuses behind. I choose to stand in front of You and accept Your offer of salvation and transformation.
From this day forward, I will follow You and place my trust in Your ability to lead me and to provide the constant in my life that I have been searching for. I ask You to forgive me and to cleanse me from all my sins, and by faith I believe that I stand before You forgiven.
Thank you for Your grace. Thank you for leaving heaven to become my Savior. Thank you for inviting me to Your table.
In Christ’s name we pray. Amen!
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