Dear people of the earth,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We like to celebrate Christmas Eve in calm stillness. There is a holy reverence that falls over us on this night above all others. It is more than setting aside the hustle and bustle of shopping and big family dinner preparations. After all, much of that has been taken away from us this year. If you are smart, you haven’t been out in the shopping crowds, you haven’t filled your house with family from afar. We have been asked to make this Christmas Eve still and quiet, but not out of reverence for the birth of the Saviour, out of fear of sickness and death.
I don’t want you to think of this gathering of the Church on Christmas Eve as an act of rebellion or a testimony that we deny the threat of viral infection, or that we protest the way the world is in upheaval from government restrictions and economic consequences. If we deny the upheaval of the world, then we don’t look for our Saviour. If we succumb to the fear, then we deny that our Saviour has come.
Our gathering of calm reverence on Christmas Eve is a testimony, not in protest or defiance, but in calm certitude that the situation is dire, as it always is in less perceived ways, and in the calm certitude that our loving God and Father has sent His own Son to save us from this very thing. We gather. We sing as Psalm 96 tells us to sing. “Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing to the LORD all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name, proclaim His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2).
Our gathering, our singing, is an announcement to our family, friends, and to the world that our God is greater than all the things that have the earth trembling right now. The virus itself is getting the headlines, but it is its secondary effects that really have us shaking. People are afraid of everything, from not having enough toilet paper to not having a job or a home or their parents or the rule of law to restrain rioters and protesters, or freedom to go to church or to Denny’s (the restaurant, not Pastor Putzman’s house). The world is so shaken over all of these things that arguments get out of control, people become incapable of listening to one another, people become blind to their own faults and cannot forgive the faults of others.
We would be deluding ourselves to believe that this is only happening to people out there and not to us. It is a very real effect of the current situation upon ourselves that has us look at all the problems with the people out there and turn the celebration of Christmas into a different kind of celebration where all we do is sit around and air the grievances that we have against others.
We need the quiet calm of this night, not as a time of silent protest, nor as a time to stick our head in the sand, but as a time to rest in the calm of knowing the salvation of our God. It is a time when we can say much more to the world in serene song than in a rebel yell or in silent submission. It is a time for us to hear for ourselves that our own sins are at the root of this unstable situation, but that we have a Saviour in whom there is forgiveness, in whom our quaking hearts find their serenity and peace, knowing that all is made right with the Lord of heaven and earth through the Child born in the city of David who is Christ the Lord.
In the quiet calm of this night an angel startled the shepherds, a baby was born, wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. This little Child was the One who healed every disease and illness among the people. This calm and quiet night God came into our world and He calmed storms and calmed the fears of the poor and widows and He did it without the rioting of zealots or the political manipulation of the religious leaders or the condescending condemnation of Pharisees. He did it through the confession of the truth, by declaring the glory of God the Father and displaying His power over all other gods, casting out demons, allaying fears, showing compassion and confidence in the maker of heaven and earth, and in His love for His people.
That love took Jesus calmly to the cross to save you from your sins and from the upheaval of this world. He did not protest but confessed who He was and went forth in the path that was laid out for our salvation. He went through persecution, ridicule, suffering, and death. But He came through in resurrection and glory. Splendour and majesty emanate from Him and He brings to us His victory in His personal presence as we commune of His risen and glorified body and blood.
His calm serenity in the face of every adversity and upheaval is yours in the victorious gift of His own flesh and blood given to you on this night; born for you on a calm and serene night like this so long ago, and placed in your mouth on this very calm and serene night to be your victory and your peace.
We gather tonight in calm serenity to sing and to say, “The LORD reigns. The world is established it shall not be moved” (Psalm 96:10). Under the gracious reign and rule of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, our fears are calmed, the virus will give way to healing, the panic of the world will not overcome us, changes in society or our employment or adjustments in our living situation are all under the rule of His love and subject to the reign of His might.
For the next several weeks (at least) our community will be under a shutdown situation. Let the calm serenity of a Christmas Eve observed in faith, pervade your daily life. For the same Lord and King who was born on a night like this, still rules and reigns. He is your God and your Saviour and we will find ways to sing blessing to His name and to ascribe to Him the glory of His strength.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.