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AChristmas, Facebook-style@

Christmas Eve Dec.24/12 Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14, 3:3-7


It=s Christmas Eve - a magical time; more than that, a holy time. Here we are at church, singing carols, hearing the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus B but haven=t we done this every year? Don=t we have this down pat, are we so familiar with it that it seems we could tell it from memory? Do we know it so well that we maybe don=t even really listen any more?

So tonight, just briefly, I want to take a new technology and mesh it with that story from 2000 years ago. What can the hottest new social networking phenomenon on the planet tell us abut what=s at the heart of Christmas?

To explore that, let=s suppose (just theoretically) that you=re God, using Facebook, to create the event of Christmas. If you=re not on Facebook, please excuse me; you=ll have to bear with me, but I think you=ll catch the general idea. I know even some of the youngest members of our congregation are on Facebook so they=ll understand!


Now, to create an event in Facebook, you go to the AEvents@ section at the left side and then you=ll see a button at the top right that says ACreate Event@. That pops up the main ACreate New Event@ window where you input Name / Details / Where / When [GRAPHIC]. What to put in the box for details? How might God describe Christmas? What was fundamentally happening? Matthew (1:22f) quotes the prophet Isaiah, AAll this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: >The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" Cwhich means, "God with us.=@ God with us B not out there on some remote asteroid, or back of the universe in some spooky dimension B God WITH us. John 1, AIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.We have seen His glory...full of grace and truth...God the One and Only, who is at the Father=s side, has made Him known@ B made the invisible God Aplain as day@. Jesus shows us a perfect representation of who the Father is. Paul writes to Titus (3:4), Athe kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared...@ The Creator in all His absolute goodness, holiness, and power was about to >show up= inside His creation, walk around in human form, connect with His creatures.

A HUGE event! Amazing significance! But there=s a problem. Notice down at the bottom left of the ACreate New Event@ window is a hyperlink to AInvite Friends@. Of course, the whole PURPOSE of creating an event is so you can invite people! If you=ve been on Facebook for some time, you=ll understand how you gradually accumulate Afriends@ - relatives, spouses of relatives, old high school and college contacts, people you meet through work and community activities... I checked this morning, I haven=t really tried to search for FB friends that aggressively, and it=s showing a couple of hundred for non-movie-star me. I=m blessed to have these contacts!

But when God first thought up Christmas and the Incarnation, taking on flesh in His Son, how many friends did He have? Zippo, zilch, nada. No friends at all! Why? As both Paul in Romans 3(10f) and the Psalmist long before him observe, AThere is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.All have turned away...there is no one who does good, not even one.@ Or as we read earlier in Titus 3(3), AAt one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.@ Even if God were to create an event, no one would want to come! Us humans start out born with the bents, foolish, enslaved by our passions, seeking what WE want not what God wants. We are products of the Fall, the wrong choice by our very first forebears.

Not that God actually NEEDED friends. God is community in Himself; a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, an internal eternal sharing of love and appreciation, a sublime perfect glorious divine Asocial network@ without any need for a creation to experience community. Yet it please God to create angels and humans with the potential to relate to Him, and also risk rejection and dishonour if they turned away from Him B which we did. This brings us to the main point of Christmas: that is, the lengths to which a holy, loving God is willing to go in order to reconcile a lost world to Himself B to make us His friends. It would cost the rupture of that eternal communion within the Trinity - the death of His only-begotten Son.


The ACreate New Event@ pop-up has spaces to fill in AWhere@ and AWhen@ for the event. This forces you to get specific with your plans. God had been prepping for considerable time: back in Genesis He=d revealed the Saviour would come from Abraham=s race, and the tribe of Judah. Later it became apparent He would be from David=s family, and Micah prophesied the place would be Bethlehem. Isaiah foretold it would be a virgin birth B appropriate to emphasize the perfect innocence of the child, as a disconnect from Adam=s guilt. Now, God had found and arranged a receptive young virgin named Mary, who was engaged to a carpenter in Galilee named Joseph. But how to get them many miles south to Bethlehem, the city of David? Merely a matter of sovereignly compelling the Roman emperor of the time to call for a census, and registration of everyone at their ancestral home. Luke 2(4-7), ASo Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.@ On the little detail of timing, the Awhen@, the prophet Daniel (9:25) had foretold there would be 490 years between the decree to restore Jerusalem and the coming of the Anointed One.

By the way, after you=ve created your event, as days go by it=s fun to watch who=s responding. How are those invitations coming? Matthew 2 shows how responsive King Herod was: he=d rather wipe out all baby boys in a village rather than tolerate a Messiah being born. Luke mentions some bigwigs in vv1&2: emperor Caesar Augustus, Syrian governor Quirinius: did they drop everything to come witness God in a manger? Nope.So who actually DID respond to God=s invitation? In Matthew 2, Gentile astrologers; and in Luke=s account (2:8), shepherds! Lowly farm workers who didn=t even qualify to testify in court at that era. Vv15f AWhen the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let=s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.@ For some reason, it=s the most unlikely people that take God up on His invitation.

Titus 3(3f), We were foolish, deceived, hating one another - ABut when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.@ We come tonight conscious of being undeserving recipients of God=s mercy: we have no Aright@ to be here, it=s all on account of His kindness.


It=s all well and good to plan a wonderful event, you=ve got all these great ideas in your head, but at some point you have to roll up your sleeves, apply some elbow grease, and get to work making it actually happen. Jesus was not born in some nice clean nursery in Caesar=s palace, as might have been fitting for God=s Son; nor some sanitary crib at Herod=s or a side-room at the Temple. At Christmas we see God coming down to our level, our muck and mess, the abasement, humbling, emptying Christ undertook from His eternal divine glorious state. What had the angel said? Luke 2:12, AThis will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.@ Wrapped in strips of cloth B not even a nice Aonesie@. A manger, a feed trough B and in a stable of all places! Born in a barn. How disgusting, unsanitary, unthinkable.

But Jesus came to do our Adirty work@; He washes our feet, cleanses us from sin. He took our shame and guilt on Himself to redeem and sanctify us, that we might become fit to have fellowship with a holy Almighty God. Titus 2:14, He Agave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.@ Titus 3:4ff God Asaved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior...@ We have Abeen justified [put right] by his grace...@

Are you conscious of a mess in your life? As you look back on 2012, are there times you=ve failed or fallen short; are there things you said or did that damaged relationships and hurt others? Did you think twice about coming tonight because you know you=re not perfect and it might seem like hypocrisy? Jesus came to clean up your mess, so you could be God=s intimate friend!


One of the coolest part of Facebook is being able to see your friends= pictures, Alike@ them, and comment on them. So, after your event=s all done, of course you=ll want to pick some of the best pictures and upload them for mutual viewing pleasure.

Now, we all know there are good photos and not-so-good photos. Nobody enjoys seeing themselves in a picture where your eyes are closed or you have a mouthful of food B looks dumb! Embarrassing. You have to sift through and pick the good ones.

Selection involves judgment, deciding according to standards of what=s good and what=s not. When it comes to eternity and fellowship with God forever, He has to be selective. Not everyone makes it into heaven; no evil or wickedness belongs there. So Jesus= coming to our world necessarily involves judgment, depending whether we receive Him or reject Him. We often see references to John 3:16, but don=t overlook the following two verses: AFor God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God=s one and only Son.@

God is selective, picking those who respond to Him: He=s not going to Aupload@ to Heaven what doesn=t belong. Consequently, once we=ve been saved by Jesus, we become selective too in our behaviours. Titus 2:12, God=s saving grace Ateaches us to say >No= to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self‑controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...@ That Asaying no@ is tough! But God gives us His Holy Spirit to help select what=s best, to choose actions that are good and loving and honouring to Him.

God will be uploading His people; for those who are actually alive when Jesus returns, we call this the ARapture@! 1Thessalonians 4:17, the >dead in Christ= will rise first, then A...we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.And so we will be with the Lord forever.@ Uploaded, permanently! So Paul can remind Titus (3:7) we are Aheirs having the hope of eternal life.@

Now, on Facebook it=s not enough just to see somebody=s photo and move on; if you like it, you=re supposed to click on Alike@ then they=ll be able to SEE that you liked it. In heaven, God the Father will be Aliking@ seeing us in our glorified, perfected state. But even more wonderful, we=ll be able to see and like and be enthralled with God=s own beauty, magnificence, and radiance forever. We won=t just Alike@, we=ll ADORE. When the wise men saw the child with his mother, Athey bowed down and worshiped Him.@ (Mt 2:11) The shepherds, after they had seen the baby, spread the word, and returned Aglorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen@ (Lk 2:20). What=s going on in a nativity scene? The shepherds and wise men are adoring the Saviour, soaking up His beauty and marvelousness just as we might find ourselves arrested by a glorious sunset or rainbow. Its beauty is so rewarding that=s all you want to do, is stop and admire it and soak it in.

And in heaven besides forever >liking= God=s picture, we=ll get to enjoy each other=s company, our new selves, washed in rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit rather than Abeing hated and hating one another.@ Such a hope! For all this, Christ has come at Christmas. Let=s pray.