For a million years and beyond

Friday, December 23, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am

It’s Luke, Chapter 2. No matter how many times we hear it, read it, think it, pray it. It is never old. It is, truly, the Greatest Story Ever Told:

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (4-7).

There’s a touching song by the contemporary pop star Adele that’s been running lately on television to sell cars. It’s the commercial with the doe-eyed boy getting his dad to drive him to the “movies” in the middle of a snowstorm. When he gets there, the theater is open but empty. The boy’s doe-eyes become more so. But then a girl shows up with a Cheshire grin, having “overcome” the snow in a car just like the one the boy’s dad drove. Cue. A happy ending. Cue. A few more cars sold.

But there’s a part of that commercial that really touches me. It’s in that background song that Adele performs:

“When the evening shadows and the stars appear. And there is no one there to dry your tears. I could hold you for a million years. To make you feel my love.”

— “Make You Feel My Love”

Feel the love of Jesus

It’s a love song and, like most good love songs, it’s sentimental. But I keep returning to that verse:

“I could hold you for a million years. To make you feel my love.”

At the heart of the song, I think, is the heart of the message of Jesus. It is the heart of knowing how much we are loved by Jesus. That no matter what happens, he is always there with us and for us — he is there to hold us for a million years and beyond to make us feel his love.

That’s the mystery. That’s the beauty. That’s the joy of Christmas. The Advent anticipation — “Come, Lord, do not delay. Come and set us free, Lord God of power and might” — is at an end. We now celebrate that Jesus is with us.

The most important things you and I can say to people are often the most difficult things to say. But shouldn’t they be the easiest to say? Whether it’s difficult to say or easy, that’s the charge of Christmas — to say them! Think of it this way: at Christmas, the miracle of Jesus is sometimes so difficult to say in a culture that is wrapped up in secular stuff, where even the word “Christmas” is replaced by “Holidays.” But the miracle of Jesus should be much easier to tell — shouted from every corner, between all the gloss and the glitter, beyond all the department store coupons and the Amazon bargains. It is always there! Luke’s telling the story is always there for us in turn to tell!

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (12-14).

That is Luke’s story of the Nativity. God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son. That’s the story that we need to tell at Christmas and beyond.

Share the joy

There are so many people surrounding us every day who are seeking Jesus without even knowing it. Many of these people will come to our churches at Christmas. And it might be the only time they join us during the year. Like the shepherds, they have come to find Jesus. They might think that it is just a Christmas thing to do, a Christmas tradition like putting up a tree or hanging lights on the house.

But let there be no mistake about it. Whatever the admitted reason, it is grace touching them and us. And it is up to us to make certain that they feel warm and welcome when they come to church. That they feel they have come home at Christmas. Come home to encounter Jesus.

Our message to them and to all whom we meet at Christmas is simple. But far more important than a commercial selling cars. It is Jesus who will hold us and them for a million years and beyond.

It is my hope that you will have a wonderful Christmas. And please remember what makes the joy of Christmas perfect.

Sharing the joy! Taking the first step of helping others to feel the love of Jesus — for a million years and beyond!

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