Tonight is a night when Christian churches of all different shapes, sizes and flavors are filled to over flowing with people who want to hear the words of the angel, first spoken to the shepherds as they watched over their flocks by night but also spoken to all of us – “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
I look out on all your faces and I am thankful you are here tonight. Many of you I know and many of you I don’t know. What matters is that you are here.
You have decided to be part of a worshipping community on Christmas Eve. You have made a deliberate choice to come to a place where you can hear the story of a young couple, forced by the empire of the day to return to their home village in order to be counted.
In many ways the story of Mary and Joseph should not have been noticed let alone retold down through the centuries.
The decree from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered must have affected lots of people. Who would notice one couple out of all the other people moving about? Yet it was through this couple that God chose to enter the world as one of us. Amazing.
It was through this couple that God chose to reveal the divine heart through the vulnerability of a new born child in order to save the world from sin and death.
What is it about Christmas that draws people in?
What is it about Christmas that draws you in? Do you ever stop to ponder that question?
What is it about this story that creates such a yearning in the broken and hurting hearts of people like you and me that moves us to hear it again and again?
Is it the vulnerability of God becoming human in a baby born in a stable because there was no room at the inn that captures our hearts and draws us in?
We can understand that kind of vulnerability and we can feel it.
We understand because this is something that resonates with what our lives are like.
We know the uncertainty of what lies ahead when a child is brought into this world and the hopes and fears we feel upon the arrival of a child of our own.
The vulnerability of God echo’s our own and it draws us into the story.
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The miracle of Emmanuel, God with us, God becoming one of us.
What is it that create this yearning we have deep inside our hearts for wholeness, for hope, for the very presence of God to come to us and abide with us?
Is it because there isn’t a one of us here tonight that doesn’t come with some sort of anxiety or heartbreak; “a yearning in hearts weighed down by ancient grief and centuries of sorrow.”
What does that look like for you tonight?
Are you beaten, battered and discouraged by the political rancor that oppresses us all and seems to go on and on and on with no end in sight?
Are you worried about your children? Are they struggling? Are they lost to you?
Is it your marriage? Has it lost its way and are you fighting to rekindle hope and love?
Is the weight of taking care of aging parents creating the tension of competing feelings at a time of year when you are yearning for simple peace and stability and a sense of normalcy?
Is our yearning a message from God that we need to look somewhere other than what the world offers to fill that void which cannot be satisfied by the things of this world.
There is a yearning, a yearning for the promised one, the firstborn of creation. There is a yearning, for the Lord who visited His own, and by his death for sin atoned, to bring us to salvation.
That empty space inside your heart, a yearning for peace, for love, for restoration is God’s way of telling you to invite the Christ child into your life.
Whatever you have been searching for to fill that empty space inside your heart, the angels are telling you that the message of Christmas is God’s story of searching for you and seeking you out. Even to the point of becoming one of us and one with us.
When the shepherds get over their fear and say, “let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us”, they are simply responding to the yearning that God put into their hearts to see for themselves this message of salvation that came into the world on that first Christmas.
Emanuel, Emanuel, within our hearts the yearning.
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
What God promised, the shepherds found, just as God said they would.
This same promise is for you and me. And like the shepherds, when you seek out the child of Bethlehem, lying in a manger, you will find Him. You will find Emmanuel, God with us.
There is a yearning that fills the hearts of those who wait the day of His appearing. There is a yearning when all our sorrows are erased, and we shall see the One who placed within our hearts the yearning.
You have come to the manger. Christ is here. Invite him in and He will satisfy and heal the yearning you feel for hope, for love, for salvation.
This is Christmas and for this gift we say, thanks be to God. Amen
 The Yearning – Craig Courtney