Christmas Eve(Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Friday, December 24, 2010
Get connected this Christmas.
Stretch out the UNLIT lights down the center aisle.
Something’s missing, isn’t it? Something’s missing, because these lights aren’t looking too festive.
And frankly, sometimes you might feel like there’s something missing from your Christmas celebrations. And I don’t mean that you forgot to put out the potatoes or the Jell-O salad. I mean, sometimes you just feel like there’s something missing from your Christmas celebrations, something missing in your spirit, something missing about the real meaning of Christmas.
I don’t know what brings on that feeling for you, but let me throw out some guesses. It’s the busyness of the season. It’s the commercial focus of Christmas. It’s the fight you had with the kids trying to get out the door to Grandma’s house. It’s the stress at work about the end of the year. It’s the memories of loved ones. It’s all of those things or none of those things, but come on, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes something’s missing from our Christmas celebrations.
But when there seems to be something missing, well, there’s also a part of you that’s really desiring to Get Connected This Christmas. Get connected to God. Get connected to other people. Get connected to what Christmas is really about. There’s this deep desire in your soul to get connected this Christmas. It’s time to get connected to God. It’s time for God to work on your soul, to let His love reach into your soul and infuse into your whole life. It’s time to realize that you can be connected to something that goes beyond stress and fights and commercialism and sadness. It’s time to realize that even though it seems like something’s missing, well, the truth is that God has given you everything you need to be connected this Christmas.
The passage we heard tonight from 1 John tells us that we can be connected this Christmas. We can be connected to God the Father through His Son, Jesus. We can have a true, eternal connection to God through Jesus.
John says, “We know we live in Him and He in us.” We know we live in God and God in us. We are connected to God.
Plug in lights.
Get connected this Christmas. Get connected. Shine with the light of Christ. Shine with that true, eternal connection to God. Shine like these lights. Get connected this Christmas.
But how do we know if we’re connected to God? How do we know that are shining with the light of Christ? I mean, it’s one thing to be here on Christmas, but really, really, don’t we still find ourselves wondering if we’re with Christ, if we’re connected to God? John says, “We know we live in Him and He in us,” but how do we know that this is true? How do we know that we live in God and God lives in us? How do we know that we’re connected to God?
Well, it’s like the Christmas lights. How do you know they’re connected?
They’re connected to a source of power and they shine.
FIRST, THEY’RE CONNECTED TO A SOURCE OF POWER. (Unplug the lights and hold up the extension cord still connected to outlet). It’s an invisible source of power, but it’s there. And that’s the first thing that John says about how we know if we’re connected to God. “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
Think of the Spirit as the electricity, the power, the source of our faith. The Spirit is invisible, but He’s there. We know that we are connected to Jesus, because He has given us His Spirit. He has electrified us. He has powered up our faith. We are connected to Him. THE SPIRIT IS THE SOURCE.
That’s an incredible source. That’s an incredible thing to know. That’s something that deserves incredible music and praise to God. To think that He has given us of His Spirit, that He has put His Spirit in us, that He has connected us to His power, His love, His grace. That’s definitely something to celebrate, to praise God for.
Plus, what a comfort, what a thing to know, what a thing to build our confidence. We’re connected to God in an intimate, powerful way. We’re connected to God, because of what He has done, because of what He has given us.
I’m not sure that I realize this enough. I’m not sure I’m always aware of what God has done for us, has done for me. He has really promised to pour out His Spirit on me, on you. He has promised to get us connected to Him. He has promised to work in us, to power us, to be the source of power for us.
And if He’s the source of power, I can move and live and have my being from that sense of confidence, from knowing that He is empowering me. When I am faced with tough decisions, His power is with me. When I am called on to speak my faith, His power is in me. When I am challenged in my views and beliefs and convictions, His power sustains me. When I face great temptation, His power strengthens me.
I am connected. I am not disconnected. I am connected. I am with God. God is with me. I am connected and am not standing all alone. I am connected to the greatest source of power in the universe. God has connected me to His divine, eternal, beyond all things power. I am not alone.
That’s what this little reading from 1 John chapter 4 really drives home—that there’s an incredible set of ways that God connects us to Himself. We are born of God and know God. We have His love. He sent His Son for us. He lives in us and His love is made complete in us.
But now, what’s the other way that you can tell whether these lights are connected? Besides the fact that they’re connected to the outlet, connected to power.
THEY SHINE. (Plug in lights) And that’s another thing that John says about knowing whether we’re connected to God or not. He says, “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”
Think of this as the shining lights, the brightness, the evidence of faith. We know that we are connected to Jesus, because we have a source of power, because God is our source of power, but we also know that we’re connected to Jesus because we shine, we confess our faith. He has made us shine with faith. He has given us words to speak. He has made us glow with the confession of faith. We are connected to Him. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH IS THE EVIDENCE.
After the sermon, we’ll all stand and confess the Christian faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, and that’s one way in which you shine, one way in which you shine as evidence that God is in you and you are in God. When we confess, when we tell the world that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that’s evidence of the fact that we’re connected to God, that’s evidence of what’s going on inside, that’s evidence that we have God’s Spirit.
We cannot truly confess our faith, we cannot truly state our faith in Jesus, unless we are connected to God, unless He is living in us. Without God, without His Spirit, we would reject Jesus every time. But with God, with His Spirit, by the power of God working in us, we are able to confess, to tell the world that we believe in Jesus.
The confession of faith is the evidence of being connected to God. It’s evidence that God is working in us.
So how do we know that we’re connected to God? He has given us His Spirit, a source of power, that causes us to our lives to shine, our lives to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. How do we know we’re connected to God? He lives in us, and we live in Him. We have His Spirit, and His Spirit enables us to tell the world that Jesus is the Son of God.
But knowing this, knowing that we have a source of power in the Spirit and our confession of faith is evidence of our connection to God, knowing this, what does that mean for us when we’re feeling like something’s missing?
Unplug the lights.
What does it mean for us when we’re feeling disconnected at Christmas, when we’re dealing with all of the stress that’s going on around us? What does it mean for us when we just don’t feel like Christmas is a festive celebration in our lives? What do we do when we feel like something’s missing?
Well, what we don’t do is go about trying to fix it ourselves. Think about it like Christmas lights. Have you ever tried to fix one of these strings of lights where if one bulb stops working and the whole set or at least half of it stops working? Have you ever tried pulling out each bulb, one at a time, replacing it with a new one, and trying to find the one that’s broken? And if there’s more than one broken bulb, well, you’ll never find it.
In that same way, when you’re feeling like something’s missing in your life, you can’t just muscle up and start doing the work yourself. You can’t do it, because you’ll never fix your spiritual problems by your own work.
Instead, go back to what John says. We know that we live in God and God in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We need to know that we’ve got our power source, we need that power that doesn’t come from us. We’re connected to God; we’re connected to the source of power.
Plug in lights.
And we know that it is the Spirit that enables us to say that Jesus is Lord. We’re shining with His light; we have evidence of our faith. There’s evidence that we’re connected to God.
Later John goes on to say that we’ll be confident on the day of Judgment. We have confidence because we have His Spirit. We have confidence because His Spirit prompts us to confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. We have confidence because God is working in us. We have confidence because we are connected to Him.
I don’t know what’s left you feeling disconnected. I don’t know what’s left you feeling like an unlit string of lights, but if we’re honest, there are many things that leave us feeling disconnected, feeling distant from God.
But go back to what’s true, go back to what you’ve heard, go back to what God has done for you. God has connected you to a source of power—His power, His Spirit. You are connected.
And God has made you shine, made you able to tell the world that you believe Jesus is the Son of God. God has made you shine. You are connected.
God is in you, and you are in God.
This is true for you whether you feel it or not. This is true for you whether your life is a celebration right now or not. This is true for you whether you’ve been bad or good, because God has been making his list, checking it twice, and every time you’re on His list, you’re on the list of people that He has saved through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You’re on the list of people He lives in and who live in Him. You’re on the list, because of His power, His Spirit, because He makes you shine, He connects you to Himself.
So if you’ve ever felt like you’re not connected to God, if something this year has left you feeling disconnected from God, I want you to remember these lights. I want you to remember that you are connected to a source of power, God’s power by His Holy Spirit. I want you to remember that you are shining with evidence of God in you, shining every time that you tell the world or show the world that you believe Jesus is Lord. You have power and shine with God, because He has connected you to Himself.
If you came here tonight and weren’t sure if you’re really connected to God, I hope that you have heard assurance for your soul, assurance from God, assurance that He lives in you by His Spirit. And if you are struggling in your faith, struggling to believe that God is in you, I hope that you will talk to someone about this—talk to the person you came to church with, talk to a Christian friend, talk to me, but talk to someone, get connected, and see how God is working in your life, how God is here for you, how God does forgive you and give you the promise of eternal life. Because each of you is one of these lights. You are one of these lights. You are connected to God because of what Jesus has done for you. You have His Spirit and you shine. Praise God that you are one of these lights. Amen.
Normally we would stand for the Apostles’ Creed, but I want you to stay seated, because I want you to be able to see these lights. As you confess your faith in God, I want to remember that you are these lights, you are shining with God, you are connected to God, you have His Spirit in you.