Monday, December 24, CHRISTMAS EVE

We were not making up clever stories.

Candle Lighter: “And there were shepherds in the fields...”
Response: “…keeping watch over their flocks by night.”

Scripture: II Peter 1:16-21

16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

Reader:  The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
The certainty and reality of the Christmas story is central upon which everything else rides. If it is fiction, the whole world has been fooled. The people Peter was writing to were being subjected to false teachers and a blending of Christianity with other belief systems. It was a “Christianity plus…” challenging the faith. It is not uncommon for us today to have false religions embracing the Bible plus an additional “holy book.” Peter challenged the people to remain true to the gospel, period. Notice his very strong eyewitness account. 1) We are not making up clever stories. 2) We saw Jesus’ majestic splendor at the Mount of Transfiguration. 3) We heard God speak with our own ears! 4) 5) We were physically with Jesus. 6) Peter quoted the words God said. Again, notice the verbs: saw, heard. Peter’s first hand eyewitness experience gives him and us great certainty as to the reality, significance, and meaning of his encounter with the Son of God. But notice Peter appeals to more than his experience with Jesus. He admonishes them to pay close attention to all the prophets wrote concerning the beginning and ending of all things. Just like he denied making up clever stories, in the same manner of authenticity, the prophets likewise did not make things up, but wrote under the influence and direction given by the Holy Spirit as they communicated the very thoughts and words of God. So when you read the Christmas story tonight, remember Peter’s words, you are reading the very words of God as given to Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You will be hearing God speak out loud, just as certain as Peter heard God speak on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Music: “Silent Night”  arr. Stephen Paulus  The Singers

Father, long ago you sent your angels through the midnight of the sleeping world to tell the shepherds Christ was born in Bethlehem: come to our dark world, and stir our hearts to hear again their message of your love in Christ. Aided by your Spirit, may we grow in faith and understanding of your purposes and so be moved to wonder and to praise. O God Most High, on this night of joyful and expectant wonder, we tread again the path to Bethlehem and to the child whose birth was heralded by prophets, proclaimed by angels, and welcomed by shepherds. Open our eyes to see in him your loving purposes, and stir up within us the spirit of adoring praise. Almighty God, in the quietness of this hour, touch our understanding with thy Holy Spirit, that we may know again in true reality the wonder of thy love in Jesus Christ; and though there was no room for him in Bethlehem’s inn, help us to make more room for him in our common life, that our lives may show his love, and our hearts receive his peace, for the sake of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
― Prayers for Sunday Services. P.73 (Scottish)

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