Christmas Eve Sunday, 2006

“Filled With Expectation”
Luke 1: 39-45

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth . 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  (NRSV)

ll of us know how it feels to be expecting a big event. The days drag like we were waiting on Christmas; as we are. The extended wait for Christmas Day is an especially anxious few weeks for young children: “We just can’t wait Daddy! How much longer is it until Christmas morning? I want to add something to my Christmas list!”

We have enjoyed being around the children in our church as their excitement has taught  us. I know that those who participated in our fourteenth annual “Walk Through Bethlehem” have helped give us a feeling of expectancy. I know that it caused me to open my heart much wider as I have been caught up in Christmas Expectancy.   

The Hebrew People, The Jews, The People of the Book, knew this feeling of expectation  well for they had been waiting on their liberation from bondage by their promised Messiah. It had been too long; several thousand years is too long. Most had given up settling for hopelessness and for many years of chanting lifeless, worn out words of ritual and hoping against hope that it would come soon.

However, when the Christ came most missed it. The long years of waiting had twisted their vision, and promise. They had warped the words and were looking for a military strong man who would come riding in on a large war horse followed by thousands of troops.  We can almost understand how they missed Jesus for they needed far more than preaching to liberate their people from the Mighty Roman Army.

But Apostles, disciples, devout followers and secret disciples, did not miss the Baby Jesus and welcomed him with open hearts. Last Sunday we read the story about

Zechariah and Elizabeth being called to give life to a son who would grow up to preach and baptize thousands of Jews so that a large contingent would be ready for the Messianic Age. John the Baptist’s ministry was largely successful in that many responded to his message and began a new life characterized by hopeful  expectancy; thus joining those who would more easily receive Jesus and the “Messianic Age,” in which we remain to this day. Matthew 3:5 tells how people from all over Palestine came to hear John’s preaching and believed his words and were baptized. Later when Jesus came preaching, John stepped aside and gave up some of his disciples and loyal followers, to Jesus’ growing group of disciples and followers. John was faithful and successful in his role of preparing the way for the Messiah.

It has been a long time already as faithful believers have patiently awaited the ushering in of a Messianic Age in which time the Risen Christ would reign.

We Christians of 2006 are caught between two Advents. Christ came on that first Christmas and He will come again at the end of this age. Just as the faithful Jews were a long time waiting, so we who are now alive are also waiting. Christ could return during our lifetime, or on our children’s watch. We do not know the time.

Many believers have died waiting, during our two-thousand year old dispensation. I remember well the old evangelists who used to come to preach week long revivals and how most would preach their last sermon on the immanent Second Coming of Christ. I felt some sadness that my Mom and Dad died without having been caught up in the Rapture. They lived out their lives expecting the Return of Christ in their lifetimes.

We used to hear the oft repeated story about a Campmeeting preacher who got carried away during his sermon on the Rapture and asked all of those present who wanted to be caught up in the sky to raise their hands. Everyone raised their hand except one worldly looking fellow on the back bench. The preacher asked him, “Sir. Don’t you plan to go to heaven when you die?” The fellow responded, “Sure, Yes, I plan to go to heaven when I die, but you sounded like you were getting up a load to go right now.”

This is our situation, we are ready for the Second Advent, but we might as well wait.

In the mean time we still celebrate the First Advent with great Expectancy and with Christmas packages under the overly decorated tree.

But we are not all that excited about being caught up in the sky and carried to celestial places yet uncharted. We Are Filled With Expectation about what we can see and feel reasonably certain about; a repeat of our “Good ‘Old Merry Christmas!” Our home is excited about seeing our Grand-Baby Charlotte next to her first Christmas Tree.  

And may Christ’s birthday observance fill us with wonder and expectation.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Christmas Eve Sunday, 2006