From Heaven above comes the Gift of Joy

December 24, 2016 –  Christmas Eve

by Pastor Pete Scheele

Grace and peace to you as you live in the assurance of God’s love, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Read Luke 1:8 – 25


#1        Luke 1:8 – 25 “Zechariah’s Song of Repentance and Joy”

What kind of song would you be singing after spending 9 months of being mute, speechless, because of your unbelief in the words of an angle, who came to visit with you and told you that your wife, beyond the age of child bearing, is now going to give birth to a son?  I believe that most of us would be dealing with the same situation that Zechariah was, for most of us have the same sort of faith and unbelief that Zechariah had. Oh, we believe in God’s Word when it makes logical since, but when our logic get in the way with God’s Word, well then there is some unbelief that would be called doubt.

So what would your song sound like after spending 9 months seeing the miracle of God’s Word growing in your wife’s womb and then seeing him being born.  Oh yes, God’s word is still doing miraculous things in our life, like washing away all our sins in Holy Baptism and giving us the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith. Oh it may not take 9 month, but then that is all up to our own stubborn doubt and belief in our own abilities.

Zechariah’s song was one of repentance and joy.  Repentance because he had studied God’s Word and knew the promises of old but had doubted them, how He knew they were being fulfilled.  God’s own Word had changed his questioning unbelief to faith and repentance with the joy of the son promised taking over his life. 

Joy is a gift give to us as our faith holds onto the hope give to us through God’s Word.  For Zechariah that hope was now held in his arms and was expressed in repentance with the Word’s of God and the gift of hope and joy given to him.

Receive the gift of hope given to us through God’s Word that was born on this night to bring us forgiveness and to the Joy that comes from heaven above. For from heaven above God has sent us His Son to give us the forgiveness of all our sins so that we can hold tightly to the gift of hope and joy given to us by the Christ Child born on this  most Holy night.

 Let us respond with Zechariah’s song of repentance and joy and let it be our song of gratitude for God’s gift of hope and joy given to us.

#2        Luke 1:26 – 38           “Mary’s Song of Peace and Joy”

What kind of song would you be singing if you had the faith of Mary after hearing and believing all the words of the Angel to her?  Would it be a song of peace or turmoil?  There is very little peace in this world and a lot of turmoil.  Would your song be filled with joy or sadness?  Mary knew the peace of God through the words of the angel even thought they were beyond her belief, where others would find confusion and turmoil.  Mary knew the joy of being favored even though she knew she was unworthy.  That joy filled her heard and mind and gave her a peace that is beyond the world’s understanding.

Where are you in your life, in your faith as you hear God’s word proclaimed to you? Tonight we come to celebrate the birth of a tiny baby that come from above into our world of confusion and turmoil to give us the gift of peace.  Tonight we come to receive a Joy that doesn’t come from the things around us but from the God above who want us to have the gift of peace and sends us His only Son to purchase that peace for us by His life, death and resurrection.

Yes, Mary’s song is a song about the peace that only God’s Son can give to us.  Mary’s song is about the Joy that only God can but into our lives as He redeems us by sending His only Son down from heaven above. Mary’s song can be our song of peace and joy as we let it be to us according to God’s Word.  Behold each of us here are servants of the Lord and He wants to given us the gift of peace and joy, if we will let it be according to God’s Word.

Let us respond to God’s Word with Mary’s Song and let it be our song to God  in thanks for the gift of peace and joy.

#3        Luke 21 – 14  “The Angels’ Song of Life and Joy”

So what kind of song would you be singing if you were sent down from heaven to announce to the world the birth of the Christ Child?  Oh, I’m sure that you would mention the gift of hope and peace that this Christ Child would bring to all the world by your great song of Joy, but what would be of most importance would be the Life that has been to sent to all the world to give us a new life as a gift from God.

Oh, it’s not easy to be in this world with all the requirement that the world puts upon us.  That was the burden that Mary and Joseph were feeling as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, especially when there was no place to stay and give birth to her first born child.  That was the burden the shepherds were feeling as they watched their sheep that night when the angels came to sing their song of life and joy for them.

Why was it a song of Life?  Because the prophet from long ago and all the world’s hopes had been told about this promised life that was born in the stable in Bethlehem.  Yes, this little tiny baby born to Mary and Joseph was the prince of peace that would given His life so that we could have a new life as a gift from God that would last for all eternity. Oh, there may have been a lot of fear that night as the Angels came from heaven above to sing their song of life and joy to all the world.  Thus it was important for them to sing their song of life and joy to proclaim the life and joy that was coming down from heaven above by singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”

#4        Luke 2: 15 – 20          “The Shepherds Song of Love and Joy”

Now if you were one of the shepherds who got to see the Christ Child on that first Christmas morning what would your song be like?   Would it be filled with the love shown to you by this gift of life born in a stable as a tiny baby that would give us peace and hope for all eternity? The Christ Child born as a baby in Bethlehem is a gift of Love from God to all the world so that we can have peace were there was none because of sin. Yes, this tiny baby born to Mary and Joseph, would bring God’s love to all as He gave His life for all to take away all our sins and give us peace with God once again.  This tiny baby lying in the manger is the gift of Hope given to all the world out of God’s love for us.  What a joy it must have been for the Shepherd to see this gift of love given to us all and they shared that love with all that they meet by glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.

So what will your song be like as you leave this place tonight?  Will it be a song glorifying and praising God for the gift of love given to us through the Christ Child with Joy?  That is the joy of knowing about the gift given to us from heaven above.  That is the joy that needs to be shared with others because God’s love is for all and His gifts of hope, peace, live and love are all ours through the Christ Child born on this morning to give us the Gift of Joy.  So all of God’s Creation sings the song of Joy tonight because of the Christ Child was born to give us God’s gifts of hope, peace, life and love to all the world.

#5        Titus 2:11 – 14           “From Heaven above we receive the gift of Joy”

On this silent night we given thanks to God for all the gifts of joy that He has given to us through His only Son, Jesus Christ born on this night for us. It is by God’s grace that we have been given the gift of hope through the Word of God.  It is by God’s grace that we have been given the gift of peace from the prince of peace born on this night to redeem us all our sins.  It is by God’s grace that we have been given the gift of life once again with the Christ Child as His brothers and sisters for all eternity. It is by God’s grace that we have been given the greatest gift of Love from God our Father sending His only Son from heaven above so that God’s Joy can be in our lives and be shared with all the world.  May we all take the gifts given to us from heaven above this silent night and let them shine like the candles we see all around us tonight. For the Christ Child came down from above to give us His gifts of love, life, peace and hope so that we can live in His joy for all eternity.  May this be God’s gifts be with you tonight and on into eternity.  Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 9:2 -3, 6 – 7     

            The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. [3] You have multiplied the nation; You have increased its joy; they rejoice before You as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

     [6] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  [7] Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

P    This is the Word of the Lord.

C Thanks be to God for His promises have been fulfilled.         

1st Gospel Reading: Luke 1:8 – 25

            Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, [9] according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  [10] And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.  [11] And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  [12] And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.  [13] But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  [14] And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,  [15] for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  [16] And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,  [17] and he will go before Him in the spirit and children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

            And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”  [19] And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.  [20] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”  [21] And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple.  [22] And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.  [23] And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

    [24] After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying,  [25] “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

P    This is the Good News of our Lord’s Birth.

C    Thanks Be to God for He has sent us His Son.

Meditation – “Zechariah’s Song of repentance and Joy”

2nd Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26 – 38

            In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  [27] to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  [28] And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  [29] But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  [30] And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  [31] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David,  [33] and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

    [34] And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 

    [35] And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  [36] And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  [37] For nothing will be impossible with God.”  [38] And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

P    This is the Good News of our Lord’s Birth.

C    Thanks Be to God for He has sent us His Son.

Meditation – “Mary’s Song of Peace and Joy”

3rd Gospel Reading: Luke 2:1-14

            In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  [5] to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  [6] And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  [7] And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

      [8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, [14] “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

P   This is the Good News of our Lord’s Birth.

C   Thanks Be to God for He has sent us His Son.

Meditation – The Angels’ Song of Life and Joy”

4th Gospel Reading: Luke 2:15-20

            When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  [16] And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  [17] And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard seen, as it had been told them.

P     This is the Good News of our Lord’s Birth.

C    Thanks Be to God for He has sent us His Son.

Meditation – The Shepherds Song of Joy”

 Epistle Reading: Titus 2: 11 – 14

            For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  [12] training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  [13] waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  [14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. [15] Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

P   This is the Word of the Lord.

C  Thanks be to God for His promise has been fulfilled.

P  May we all be filled with the wonder of Mary, the faithfulness of Joseph, the song of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi and the abounding Joy of Jesus. And may the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forevermore! Amen.

Closing Hymn: #363 “Silent Night”

(After we sing “Silent Night’ all the lights will be turned off)

Meditation -“From Heaven above we receive the gift of Joy”

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