Are you ready for Christmas Eve worship services? We are hoping to welcome you home along with many other persons on December 24th as we make ready for in-person and online worship experiences at Manchaca UMC. This year, we offer services at 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 7:00 pm. Consider this a personal invitation to you and your family to come join us in the Sanctuary for a wonderful celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Many "C"hristian churches are offering similar worship services. Why come? I believe it is a great time to be available for an experience of the glory of the Lord. You might ask, what is the glory of the Lord? Luke's gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus places Mary (birth mother) and Joseph (earth father) in Bethlehem, a village just south of Jerusalem during the seasonal census, registration, and taxation event sponsored by the Roman Empire. Joseph's family of origin traced back to King David who grew up in this area. And so Joseph returned and brought a very pregnant Mary with him. (See Luke 2:1-7)
While Mary is giving birth to Jesus somewhere in Bethlehem (the house of bread), there is a brilliant flash of light and the voice of an angel of the Lord that "visits" some shepherds in the fields nearby. The message of Jesus' arrival and this important birth is announced. That is the main thing. That's why we come together in worship on Christmas Eve and tell this story - GOD is with us in the birth of Jesus! (See Luke 2: 8-14)
But I also like to share this story because of its unexpected recipients - the shepherds.
They were considered unclean, they were not welcome in polite social circles in the city, they were despised by those in power. And the glory of the Lord was made known directly to them. Just think, the brilliant light and the messenger of God did not show up in the big city church with the fancy sanctuary. God's direct message was not reserved for those in power, either religious or political. The glory of the Lord was made known in a field just outside a village to a bunch of no-bodies. Luke's gospel story sets the stage for God to be made known through the visits of the Angel, first to Zechariah, then to Mary (on both accounts making the promise of a son), and then in a THIRD VISIT to a bunch of shepherds.
Back to the glory of God. If you want to read more about the Exodus of the people of Israel who God rescued from slavery in Egypt, look to the book we call Exodus in the Hebrew Scripture (some call it the Old Testament) and find these places where the glory of the Lord is made known: Exodus 14:17-18, 16:10, 24:17, 40:34-35. And then in the story of Solomon's Temple find the glory of the Lord showing up again (1 Kings 8:9-21). In each case, God's presence is made real to those persons in the story. In the deliverance of a people through the wilderness years, in the daily presence of the pillar of fire, and in the cloud that came into the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord appeared in such a way that those experiencing it were fully aware of the power and majesty of God.
That is what happened on the third visit of the angel of the Lord in Luke's gospel narrative. The glory of the Lord appeared to them. We tell the story and often skim over the spectacle of the shepherds in the field. Who they were... are were not. And the glory of God, you would think someone more important would have been chosen to receive the message. If you are still with me, just think - the glory of the Lord could show up in our lives too!
Even unexpectedly, most importantly unexpectedly and in the least likely location. It does not have to be in the fancy sanctuary. It could be wherever we are gathered this year. Standing beside a friend laying in the hospital with a viral infection. At the end of the longest line on the last day of shopping. In an out of the way, back street cafe with a someone who is hungry. In videos or photos sent by family unable to gather for the holidays.
The message comes in the glory of the Lord. The message is that God is with us in Jesus! That is the story we will share on Christmas Eve. We would love for you to be a part of that night with our church family.
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend