Good evening, folks, welcome again to Grace
It’s good to hear you all and see your face.
Whatever brought you on this holy night,
We’re glad you came to worship here tonight.
As always one and all are welcome here
Where grace abounds, as well as hope, and cheer.
Perhaps you’ve come and you don’t feel so merry
You’re feeling anxious, sad, I get it, times are scary.
Perhaps it’s your first time in quite a while
Perhaps you haven’t come since but a child.
Perhaps you came here dragged by mom or dad
Perhaps they’re not here and that is why you’re sad.
Regardless of your age, or race, or station,
Ability, or gender, or persuasion,
I’ve spoken with the Lord of space and time
Who says tonight was made with you in mind.
So welcome one and all across the nation.
Come, let us contemplate the incarnation.
This year in Advent we have asked some questions.
If you’ve been here, you’ll have a recollection
But if you haven’t, let us read you in
For Advent is where Christmases begin.
We asked what child is this, so long professed?
By ancient prophets seen and heaven blessed?
We asked who is it who will come and save
Our souls from sin, and bodies from the grave?
And how? And when? And can’t it happen faster?
Good questions, asked by plenty, even pastors.
We turn to scripture with our questions, fraught
The prophets make it sound worse than we thought!
The prophets in the wilderness cry out
As they both for and at the people shout.
“Before a righteous God the world should tremble.
Just wait ‘til heaven’s army gets assembled!
Not twelve, more like twelve thousand drummers drumming,
The day of wrath is ready, hear it coming.”
“Between your questions and your bad behavior,”
The prophets say, “You people need a savior.”
It’s true. We do. To help our unbelieving
Our failures, faults, our grouchiness, our grieving.
Our bodies wearied, weakened so by Sin,
Again we ask, who’ll save us, how, and when?
Tonight comes God’s response to all our asking.
This myst’ry in a manger is unmasking.
Tonight we’ve come at last to the right place.
For this is where we find the face of grace.
So let us hear again the old, old story,
For first or thousandth time, behold the glory
Among the sheep is where the scene gets set,
As Shepherds watch and wait and ward off threats,
When what to waking eyes should then appear
But light so bright the shepherds shake in fear.
The sheep awake in chaos, awe, and shock
Their shepherds can’t believe it. “What the flock!?”
“Fear not! Be not afraid! Don’t freak! Don’t run!”
(The angel orders, easier said than done!)
We have to ask, what were those shepherds thinking?
Most nights are uneventful: Baa’ing, stinking.
No time to think, as to the one that roused them
are added scores of angels. Hundreds! Thousands!
It brings to mind some other Bible stories
Of other visits from the realms of glory.
In almost every case when they appear
The first thing angels say is “Have no fear.”
Tonight it’s “Glory to God,” and “Peace to you,”
Not wrath, but grace toward men (and women too!)
“Behold,” they sing, “We bring good news! Great Joy!
For you is born this day a baby boy.”
“Get up, to Bethlehem be headed toward.
Behold the savior who is Christ the Lord!”
Meanwhile, deep in royal David’s City
Begin the birth pangs, and, well, it ain’t pretty.
They get to Jo’s home town like Ceasar told them,
But there the people act like they don’t know him.
The holy family walked ‘cross half the nation,
But as they reach the chosen destination,
No rooms. No inns. No cot. No crib. No bed.
They find no quarter, just some cattle shed.
Jo tries to light a fire, and sweep the splinters,
As Mary groans into the bleak midwinter.
How can it be (we wonder one and all)
That God is being born within this stall?
A savior born of uncreated light?
In Nowheresville, when half spent was the night?
But this is how we’re told it came to pass
The one the world still groans for, here at last.
So Mary gives him birth, this holy stranger
And gently lays him, lowly in a manger.
But here’s the thing about this holy birth:
It’s beauty, and it’s meaning, and it’s worth
Come not from Christmas night alone, in fact
This is a posthumously written opening act!
The only reason we now have this story
Is the message of the cross and Easter glory.
We never would have heard of Bethlehem
Had he not lived, then died, then lived again.
What Christians celebrate this evening is
Not only how he’s born, but who he is.
He is the Light begot from light eternal
Descended here to dwell in flesh infernal
He makes the blind to see, the def to hear him
And welcomes lame and leaper ever near him.
He preached good news to all the poor, the losers.
He dined, and deigned to die for his accusers.
He came all fallen mortal flesh to holpen.
To breaks the bars of Hell, and Heav’n to open.
And now, his raised, ascended life resuming,
He lives eternal, like a rose e’er blooming.
“What does this mean?” We ask tonight in chorus.
The angel choirs answer, “God is for us!”
“The source of life and hope has come right to ya.
The source of all forgiveness! Hallelujah.”
He’s come, not ‘cuz of anything we do.
Our best intentions prove an empty womb.
“But that will do just fine,” says God above,
As for and from our nothing, he makes Love.
This is the firstborn of a new creation.
That’s why we celebrate his incarnation.
Good people all, upon this Christmas Eve
The Lord and I invite you to believe.
Our doubts may tell us it’s a bunch of stuffing,
But mark my words: it’s either this, or nothing.
No other word begins to mean as much
Than this, the Word made flesh, with scars to touch.
Receive him as a gift, just like a child,
This One who God and sinners reconciled.
He comes this night with you and me to sup,
Let Love, come down at Christmas, raise you up
Come, let us adore him, us deplorables,
Not cuz he’s cute, but cuz he is adorable.
Adore the one who came to earth to save you
Whose grace will break the chains of what enslaves you.
Be not afraid and be ye not forlorn.
For us this day a savior, Christ, is born.
Come kneel and feel the Holy Spirit guide us
Come with the saints who gather here beside us.
Come Peter, and Paul, come Mary, come Timothy, come Titus
Come Gregory, Julian, John, Augustine, Aquinas,
Come Luther, Bonhoeffer, Barth, come Lucy, come Linus,
Lean low with us and here behold his highness.
Come saints, come sinners, come oxes, and come asses.
Tonight behold your God here in Manassas!
Before him now a weary world rejoices.
Remembering him, raise bread, and glass, and voices.
Take body and take blood but not like cannibals,
Receive the bread of life you filthy animals!
Come feast on all the spiritual food he gives
The gospel that all grief his grace outlives.
My God the Father, Son, and Spirit bless you
And may the grace of God come repossess you.
To bind up all your wounds and never part,
May Christ be born again inside your heart.
And then arise! Go tell it on the mountain!
Like cups, go runneth over like a fountain.
Like lively lambs leap forth! Burst from the stall!
Reflect this light by loving one and all.
Announce that This! Yes This is Christ the king!
With harking herald angels let us sing.
This is the gospel, a song sung without end.
Thanks be to God this Christmas, and Amen.