Celebrating our first Christmas in our new building, we had three Christmas Eve services yesterday!
The morning service, at our usual 10:00 time, was especially for kids, Instead of candles, we placed out glowsticks and bells. There was the traditional Moravian love feast of cocoa and sweet rolls - and this time we served it in the cafe area afterward. The place was packed, and we had a joyous time.
At 5:00 was our traditional candlelight service, spreading candlelight while singing "Shine, Jesus, Shine." This service also ended with cocoa and sweet rolls.
This year we added an 11:00 pm service and ushered in Christmas Day with Communion together.
The music in the 5:00 and 11:00 services was completely different. Beautiful flute playing was added to the instruments at the late service.
But the Scripture reading and message in the final two services was the same. I didn't take notes, so it was good I heard it twice - I'd forgotten after hearing it the first time!
The Scripture reading was in Matthew 2 about the wise men. Pastor Ed gave us four lessons we can learn from the wise men:
1. God's gift is for all people.
The Magi were foreigners, probably from Persia.
2. We know about God because He has revealed Himself to us.
Whatever the star was, it came from God. We don't know about God because we're so clever. God inserted Himself into the human story by becoming a one of us, beginning as a helpless baby.
3. This world is a messy place.
This world is the sort of place where babies are slaughtered.
4. God didn't clean up all the world's mess with the coming of Jesus.
This is something Christians have to explain. Why aren't all things better now, if God reached out to the world?
Jesus taught more about "the kingdom of God" than any other topic. But he said that his kingdom was "not of this world" - not of this age. The world is going to change in "the age to come," and Jesus will restore all things "at the end of the ages."
However, Jesus also said that "the kingdom of God is within you." So we have seeds of that future kingdom of God in our hearts, because Jesus came and gave us His Holy Spirit.
And that is a reason for Joy and Hope at Christmastime!