The Indescribable Gift

Worship Service for December 24, 2021

WELCOME

Good evening, and welcome to this Christmas Eve, 2021 worship service. I thank you so much for coming. Toward the end of this hour, we will light candles and sing Silent Night, Holy Night. If you haven’t received a candle, raise your hand. I also thank you for your willingness to wear a mask tonight. I understand they are a pain, but I’m glad you see it as an opportunity to participate in a greater good.

As a result of Covid, we stopped passing an offering plate during the service. If you’d like to give to support the mission of CrossPointe Church in our community, you may do so by placing your gift in the wooden box on the table on the right near the door as you are leaving. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

I wish to thank you for your generous support of our various mission projects in Chippewa Lake all year long, but especially the last 30 days. I am speaking primarily of the Thanksgiving boxes we packed and gave away, the way that we responded again to the need of the Church-at-the-Lake Food Pantry, and last but not least, the amazing response to the opportunity to provide Christmas for six families who live in our neighborhood.

What is it about Christmas? People decorate their homes, put up lights, go to the trouble to put up Christmas trees, spend hours coming up with lists, and shopping for just the right Christmas presents for friends and loved ones. Everywhere we go, we hear Christmas music. Would you believe that there are 9,274 songs with the word Christmas in the title! Someone dug into the streaming service Spotify and discovered 914,047 Christmas songs! So what is about Christmas that draws the world’s attention? I think you know.

SCRIPTURE

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on My behalf.

Micah 5:2

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Luke 2:1-7

CHRISTMAS CAROL

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Brooks, Phillips / Redner, Lewis H.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth,
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years,
Are met in Thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above;
While mortals sleep the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O, morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts,
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin;
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell;
O, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord, Emmanuel.

© Public Domain
CCLI License No. 1843349

SCRIPTURE

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 2:8-20

CHRISTMAS CAROL

Angels We Have Heard on High

Chadwick, James/Barnes, Edward Shippen

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o’er the plains;
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
Say what may the tidings be;
Which inspire your heav’nly song?

Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see,
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!

See within a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heav’n and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior’s birth.

Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis, Deo!

©Public Domain
CCLI License No. 1843349

OPENING PRAYER

Gracious God, we have gathered together on this special once-a-year occasion to celebrate Christmas Eve. We are grateful for the wonder of the story of the humble birth of the Savior in the little village of Bethlehem. We join in the praises of the angelic choir as we sing these beloved Christmas carols. And we rejoice with the shepherds over the good news of Jesus’ birth. O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray, cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us tonight. We ask this in the name of the Christ, amen.

SONG

O Holy Night

Adam, Adolphe/Dwight, John S.

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining;
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices;
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees!
Oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine!
Oh night when Christ was born,
Oh night divine!
Oh night, oh night divine!

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings, lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials, born to be our friend;
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend;
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love, and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us, praise His holy name.
Fall on your knees!
Oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine!
Oh night when Christ was born,
Oh night divine!
Oh night, oh night divine!

©Public Domain
CCLI License No 1843349

CHRISTMAS PRAYER

Merciful and Compassionate God, we remember and celebrate the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We thank You that His birth changed everything. We thank You that His light began to shine into the darkness of a world engulfed in sin. And we thank You O God that through Him our sin could be forgiven and we could be made right with You.

He knows our need, to our weakness He’s no stranger. And we thank You for that truth because again this Christmas, we keep hearing every day of a pandemic that has been plaguing the world for almost two years now, casting a shadow over the planet. We miss those who are not celebrating this Christmas here on the earth. So more than ever we need the comfort of a confident faith in knowing that they are celebrating in Your presence. We pray for those who have lost loved ones, that you would bind up the broken-hearted with Your presence. We pray for those who are ill. We pray that this pandemic will come to an end soon.

Truly He taught us to love one another. Help us O Lord to love others as we love ourselves. We pray that the Spirit of Christmas love will pervade over this land into and through the coming new year. As peace on earth was proclaimed to shepherds on the hillsides, so grant Your peace to our hearts regardless of what we have been facing lately. And may that peace not only bring a calm to our hearts but bleed over into the lives of others.

Dear Lord, on that wondrous night long ago You sent your Son to take on frail human flesh in order that all who believe in Jesus might be saved. You sent angels to herald His birth in Bethlehem and a star to proclaim it to the ends of the earth. And so we close this prayer asking that You would send us now as messengers of your good news and proclaimers of your peace. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

SCRIPTURE

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Luke 2:10b-11

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

II Corinthians 9:15

MESSAGE

The Indescribable Gift

Randy K’Meyer

This is the most wonderful time of the year for several reasons. One of them is this is the time when we both give and receive Christmas gifts. And I was wondering, “Have you ever received an indescribable gift?”

I don’t know if I would use the word indescribable, but the year that my two brothers and I all three got brand new sleek black English racers for Christmas was pretty awesome. It goes down in my mind as the best Christmas that I experienced growing up because I know those bikes really stretched mom and dad’s budget.

I wonder, does a Ferrari LaFerrari that will go 220 mph qualify as an indescribable gift? Or this Lamborghini Veneno that will do 0-60 in 2.9 sec and goes for $4.5 million. Or how about the one-of-a-kind Bugatti La Voiture Noire, the most expensive car ever made at $18.7 million.

Now if you should care to buy your preacher one of those to express your love and appreciation for him, I promise I’ll be a gracious recipient. Shoot, I’ll even accept the cheap Ferrari LaFerrari.

Such gifts may stagger our imagination, but they are not indescribable.

Yet the Bible claims that God’s Christmas gift of his Son is indescribable! In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul simply but sublimely writes, “Thanks be to God for his ‘indescribable’ gift!” (9:15).

Whenever I read that sentence, I think of a jeweler holding an extremely precious and rare jewel up to the light and slowly turning it in order to catch a glimpse of all its beauty.

As I hold the jewel of Jesus up to the light, I see three different facets of the indescribableness of the gift of Jesus. All three come from the message of the angel to the shepherds:

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Luke 2:10b-12

First, I see that part of the indescribably good news of great joy has to do with how the ‘Lord’ God chose to communicate His love for humanity.

Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard says, imagine there was a king (represents God) who loved a poor maiden (represents us) with no social standing in the King’s court. She dressed in rags, lived in a shack and led the ragged life of a peasant. But for reasons no one could figure, the King fell in love with this girl. Why he loved her is beyond explanation, she had nothing to offer him but love her He did with everything He had and He could not stop loving her. But the King had a problem; how could He bridge the chasm of position and status in order to communicate His love for her?

His advisors told him to command her, as a puppet on a string, to love him back. After all, he was the King and by law, she could not resist His authority! But, he reasoned to himself, power, even unlimited power cannot command love. He could force her body to be present in His palace, but he could not force love to be present in her heart. All the power in the universe cannot unlock the door to the human heart. It must be opened from the inside.

So perhaps the King might try to bridge the infinite chasm between them by elevating her to His position. He could move her into the palace, shower her with gifts, have her crowned Queen. But then how would he know if she loved him for him or for all that he gave her? No, he dare not coerce her, he had to give her a choice.

So one day the King rose, left His throne, removed His crown, relinquished His scepter, laid aside His royal robes. He took upon Himself the life of a peasant; dressed in rags, scratched out a living in the dirt, groveled for food, and dwelt in a shack. He became as ragged as the one He loved, such that when given a choice to love Him back . . . she did.

Part of the good news is as Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (6-7) so that we could get to know Him whether by sight as did His contemporaries, or through this book and choose whether to love Him.

The Lord of glory “was born in Bethlehem. And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12).

Secondly, speaking of those ‘swaddling clothes’, according to the angel, Jesus came as a ‘Savior’.

What do swaddling clothes and Jesus as savior have in common?

According to the Mishnah, a Jewish Commentary on the Old Testament, swaddling clothes were used to wrap newborn lambs. And not just any little lambs, but specifically the Passover lambs; the lambs sacrificed on Passover for the sins of the people of Israel. According to Jewish Law, those lambs were to be perfect, unblemished lambs and were wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them that way. That’s why the angel says to the shepherds this will be a ‘sign’ to you. These shepherds would have immediately understood the significance of what the angel said because the Passover lambs were raised by these shepherds in Bethlehem.

In other words, Luke is describing the role of the Savior, that He is destined to be the sacrificial lamb who on the cross will take away the sin of the world. God was born in Bethlehem in order to pay the price for our sin.

There is a Christmas story about a young man in the Russian Army prior to the Russian Revolution. Because his father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, this young man was given the position of paymaster in one of the barracks. He meant well but his character didn’t match the responsibility and he gambled away some of the money meant to pay his comrades.

One day in December, he got a notice there was going to be an audit of his books. He knew there was no way he could make up what he owed, so he decided that would end his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on his desk, wrote a summary of his misdeeds, and at the bottom of his ledger wrote: “A great debt, who could pay.”

He decided he would die at the stroke of midnight, grew drowsy, and fell asleep. Czar Nicholas, as was his custom, was making his rounds and happened by that barracks, found the young man asleep, read the note, and was about to call for guards to arrest him when he saw the words, “a great debt, who could pay.” Under those words, in a moment of Christmas compassion the Czar wrote one word ‘Nicholas.’

Only the Czar could pay . . . and the Czar did pay.

Only the perfect, unblemished Son of God could pay for the sin of humanity and Luke reminds us there that he was born destined to pay. This prism reminds me of that as it contains a cross. We love Christmas because who doesn’t love a baby, but we must remember that from the beginning the babe of Bethlehem was destined for a cross.

Is it any wonder that Paul describes Jesus as ‘indescribable?’

The third aspect of Christ I see is that He is the gift we all really need.

Have you ever found that when you go to buy a Christmas gift for someone, that very often it’s difficult because that person already has everything they need? But did you ever stop to think that maybe you are a person who’s hard to buy for, as you probably already have everything you think you need.

“I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all people” (Luke 10b).

God knew that our greatest need is not anything the world can offer.

And yet it seems that many of us spend our days endlessly pursuing that which the world offers, thinking that if we could just accumulate more power, more fame, more money, more possessions, we will finally be satisfied.

But God knows our greatest need is for a Savior who will forgive us our sins, thereby making us right with God and gift us with the hope of heaven.

Like that young man forgiven by the Czar, we all need forgiveness. When we take time to take stock of our lives, each and every one of us is aware that we have done things for which we are ashamed. We have sinned against our fellow human beings; friends and loved ones, and the Bible tells us those sins are also against God. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, people will forgive us and that can help. But people are fickle and we can’t always count on the fact that they have really forgiven us. And that leaves a bad feeling inside, the feeling of guilt.

On the other hand, when God says He forgives we can take it to the bank. That’s the kind of forgiveness we need. Jesus is indescribable because only His forgiveness can free us from our past, make us right with God, and, as the Christmas Carol, Away in a Manger, prays, “fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.”

And until we accept the gift that Christ offers, there is an unsatisfied longing in our hearts for forgiveness, a fresh start with God and a peace about facing that which awaits us all.

Christian mystic Sundar Singh once said, “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Yet, though this world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so our hearts have no peace until they rest in Christ Jesus.”

A friend of mine told me about being in Atlanta on business on Christmas Eve. He had to wait until Christmas morning to catch a flight home. He was feeling pretty low and so decided to take a walk, and left his hotel after dinner. He stopped in front of a large downtown church. As he stared at the beautiful stained glass windows, a sense of longing came over him. He hadn’t felt that way since childhood and suddenly allowed himself to sense a deep yearning for God in his life. He remembered Christmases of long ago, how his family attended church together, how that church was lit with candlelight and pine boughs scented the air.

But that peace, warmth, and love seemed far away from him at that moment. Christmas was lonely and cold and he hadn’t been to a church in years. And he wondered if he had outdistanced the love of God.

The pain of remembering opened his heart. He knelt down in front of a nativity scene in the churchyard. He studied the figure of the Christ child whose arms were outstretched and wished with all of his heart that those arms were reaching out to him.

About that time, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the pastor coming to open the church for Christmas Eve services and he invited my friend in. He hesitated at first, then went in, found a place to sit, and began to take in the enchantment of the church decorated for Christmas. People started to stream in with expectation on their faces. The service began with a familiar Christmas carol that stirred his heart. And by the time they were singing Silent Night, Holy Night, he was on his knees again, but instead of being invited in, now he was the one inviting Christ back into his life.

Maybe you’ve never connected the dots until now. Maybe for you, Christmas has always been about putting up and decorating a tree, an old man with a white beard and a red suit and giving presents. Understand this tonight: Christmas is about God’s love for you and me. It’s about God’s indescribable gift.

And so I have to ask you if you have accepted that which God offers? If there has never been a time in your life when you have personally committed your life to Christ, what in the world are you waiting for?

This could be your moment. It doesn’t matter what your age is. It doesn’t matter how shameful your past is. Jesus doesn’t care what your track record is. All He cares about is that you come to Him by faith.

I invite you to emulate my friend and fall on your knees and thank God for His indescribable gift.

I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Luke 2:10-11

PRAYER IN RESPONSE TO THE MESSAGE

Almighty God, you have favored us with the greatest gift ever given; Your only begotten Son, the light of true light, God of true God. May we never take this Your gift for granted; may our songs of praise never fade, and may we treasure it in our hearts always and forever. Bless all of us here gathered in worship as well as our loved ones at home. May peace and joy ring in our hearts and reverberate through our communities tonight in the name of Jesus the newborn King. Amen.

CLOSING SONG

Silent Night Holy Night

Mohr, Joseph / Gruber, Franz / Young, John Freeman

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin mother and child;
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing “Alleluia.
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.”

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night,
Wondrous star, lend thy light.
With the angels, let us sing,
Alleluia to our King.
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

© Public Domain
CCLI License No. 1843349

BENEDICTION

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever. Amen.

Randy K'Meyer

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