Christmas Eve Message 12.24.2010

Here is my 2010 Christmas Eve Message. Merry Christmas!

You can follow this link to Good Shepherd’s website where the audio is posted.

    Luke 2:8-20 • December 24, 2010

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our savior and lord Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen.

I want to begin by offering a Christmas insight in the spirit of one of my favorite contemporary theologians – David Letterman. The top 10 things to say about a Christmas gift that you’re not quite sure about –
10. Hey! There’s a gift.
9. Well, well, well…
8. Boy, if I had not recently shot up 4 sizes, that would’ve fit.
7. This is just perfect, for wearing in the basement
6. Gosh, I hope this never catches fire!
5. If the dog buries this, I’ll be furious!
4. I love it, but I fear the jealousy it will inspire.
3. Sadly, tomorrow I enter the federal witness protection program.
2. To think I got this gift on the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
And the number 1 thing to say about a Christmas gift that you’re not quite sure about. … I really don’t deserve this.

When we hear the Christmas story as we just did during worship on this most holy of days, do we hear it as a boring old over-romanticized theatrical production that we’ve heard a million times before – or do we hear it again as if this was the very first time. Do we hear it like the shepherds in the field heard it on that first Christmas? They were struck with fear when the saw the glory of the Lord around them, but an angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I’m bringing you the good news of a most unexpected gift. A gift for all people, not just a select few, but for everyone.” They seem to drop everything they are doing and head out without fear to find Mary and Joseph and the gift that the Lord had made know to them through angels. A gift that they didn’t deserve. A gift that you and I don’t deserve, but a gift we have received anyway. We gather together as a community of faith in worship glorifying and praising God for all that we have seen and heard – through a gift that we don’t deserve.
What do you mean I don’t deserve the gift? I’ve worked hard, I’ve given a little of my time to volunteer and shared some of my money with others this year. I’ve treated others well, most of the time. I’ve share my love with those around me, at least when they weren’t annoying me. What do you mean I don’t deserve the gift?

I heard someone recently say that they think this Christmas will be the best Christmas ever. I think that is a great attitude, but for a Christian, the best Christmas ever was the first Christmas. The gift that you and I were given on that first Christmas is the best gift any of us will ever receive and we really don’t deserve it.

The best Christmas ever is what I think the writer of Luke’s gospel wants us to remember as we celebrate today. He wants us to hear the Christmas story like the first time, every time we hear it. Luke wants us to see the faces of the shepherds, to see the faces of Mary and Joseph and the animals, to see the face of the baby Jesus and to find ourselves once again filled with awe and wonder, to find ourselves realizing that we too might glorify and praise God this Christmas Eve for all that we are being invited to experience because of the life of the Christ child born on that night.

I don’t believe that Luke wants us to simply be fascinated by the Christmas story’s romantic quality and splendor. Luke is inviting us to explore the Christmas story’s depth and the unconditional and unmerited love God has given us in the gift of this child. This gift calls us to live beyond setting aside a few hours each year to remember its significance or working really hard at getting God to pay more attention to us than he does to our neighbor.

A theologian with a little more weight and clout than David Letterman is C.S. Lewis.

C.S. Lewis was visiting some of his friends who were begging him to play cards with them. Lewis hated playing cards, especially playing cards for money which is what his friends wanted to do. He finally said to them, “OK – How much money do you want to win from me?” He pulled out his wallet and put some bills into their hands and took the fun right out of the card game. Lewis was making an analogy that in our human games of wheeling and dealing there are some who will be winners and others who will be losers. In the gift of Christmas, God enters our bloody world of winners and losers, and offers the most incredible prize of a savior for everyone – winners and losers.

I don’t know why you are here today, though I’m glad you are. Maybe you’re here because you feel a sense of obligation. Maybe it’s just a tradition for you to worship on Christmas Eve. Maybe your spouse or grandmother made you come. Maybe you’ve experienced a significant loss in your life this past year and you are trying to capture that old feeling that Christmas used to bring to you. I don’t know why you’re here. What I do know and believe is that we are given a gift today. A gift for all of us. And it’s not the gift that the Visa and MasterCard bills won’t come due for another 30 day or that all of the holiday parties are finally over so we can get back to real life again.

The gift of Christmas is not given to those who deserve it the most or have worked the hardest to be good this year. The gift of Christmas is not found in anything that divides us into winners and losers over a game of cards or the journey of life. The gift of Christmas is that the God of all creation, the One who created you and loves you, knew that we could never find our way to God on our own in a world dominated by winners and losers and sin, so God went on the quest for us.

May that gift, the gift of a Savior born today richly bless and keep you on this day and in all the days to come. And may you be confident knowing and believing that the gift we celebrate today in the savior Jesus is greater than any gift you deserve or will ever receive.

Merry Christmas! Christ our savior is born! It truly is the best Christmas ever. Amen.


About Bishop Craig Schweitzer

The Rev. Craig Schweitzer, of Bismarck, was elected as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod on July 17, 2020, in the first-ever digital Synod Assembly. A historic event, Schweitzer is the first bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be elected in an online assembly. Bishop Craig Schweitzer began serving the Western North Dakota Synod-ELCA on September 1, 2020. He has always seen himself as an easy-going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in his life and the world in which he lives and serves. Prior to service in the Office of Bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod, Bishop Craig served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND as Music and Worship Minister (lay staff from 2002-2010), Associate Pastor (2010-2014), and Senior Pastor (2014-2020). Beyond his service in the church, he has an eclectic background that is a diverse collection of musical, educational, and business experiences ranging from live concert production and promotion to recording studios and live performance to music education. Throughout all of his professional and personal experiences, the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome have been a guiding light that has kept him grounded in whatever work God was calling him into – “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) Bishop Craig is a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. He also holds a certificate degree in Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. He was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament on September 16, 2010. Outside of his life as Bishop, Bishop Craig enjoys reading, all music, a little golf, a cold beverage with friends, and intentional times of quiet. And, of course, spending time with his wife Wendy and their adult twin daughters Ilia and Taegan. View all posts by Bishop Craig Schweitzer

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