To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below. The sermon is available in PDF format under the link Pastor’s Sermon as well.
Sermon based on Luke 2:1-20
As Christmas draws closer, people I think are friendlier. In trying to spread Christmas cheer people often make an extra effort to help and encourage one another. Some of us need extra love and encouragement this Christmas. We remember people who are serving in the armed forces who are away from their family. We remember those who are celebrating Christmas for the first time without that special someone around. Still others in our community are without employment and even worse some will be without food or shelter this season. As a community of faith we can seek comfort knowing we have someone who we can turn to in difficult days. In just a few days we remember the birth of that someone who spent their life on earth helping others. When Jesus entered our world, he arrived not just to brighten our Decembers, but also to transform our lives forever. Throughout Scripture we can learn of Jesus’ ministry that provides for us a blueprint for loving our neighbors in a complicated world. Jesus made a point of seeking out those people who needed love and encouragement and in doing so he helped them recognize their purpose in life.
Earlier in our service we sang a hymn entitled, “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and there is an interesting story behind this hymn that shares how we can find our purpose in life. The Moravians were the first Protestant missionaries from Europe. As they began this outreach they did so at a great cost. Many parents had to leave their children behind in boarding schools across Europe. One family, the Montgomery family placed their son who was six years old at the time in such a school as they prepared themselves for a journey to the West Indies as missionaries. While in the West Indies this young boy’s parents passed away leaving no relatives behind to care for him. Young James Montgomery became an orphan. Throughout his teenage years he drifted around writing poetry and moving from one job to the next. In his early twenties he began working for a British newspaper. Here he found his purpose in life, he became a journalist. Sometimes his editorials proved to be unpopular with local officials and on one occasion he was thrown into prison and fined, but emerged from prison as a celebrity. He used his celebrity to promote some of his favorite passions. Chief among them was sharing the gospel message. Despite the loss of his parents and the hardships he endured early on in his life, he remained a devoted Christian and always studied the Scriptures. As the years passed he became a respected leader in Sheffield. The locals with eager anticipation read his writings. On Christmas Eve in 1816, then forty-five years old, James opened up his Bible and began reading the Christmas story from Luke and he was deeply moved to the point that he took his pen and started writing. By the end of the day his new Christmas poem was being delivered to England in the pages of his newspaper.
It was later set to music and was first sung on Christmas day in 1821 in a Moravian Church in England. The first stanza says the following:
Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth;
Come and worship, Come and worship,
Worship Christ the new-born King.
We have come here today as people of Christmas, to worship and give glory to God and to celebrate the birth of this new born king, Jesus. As we think of Christmas day that is soon approaching, as we look forward to exchanging and receiving gifts from family and friends, take time to remember the greatest gift we have been given.
Someone once said,
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.
As we celebrate this gift of the birth of Jesus, remember that we are called upon to be people of hope. We can share hope by listening to others, praying for our world and simply giving thanks to God for all blessings that are bestowed upon us.
May God richly bless your family and loved ones this Christmas!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
December 18, 2016