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December 27, 2015

Sermon  Luke 2:13 . . . It’s a Miracle:  Angels”


“It’s a Miracle:  Angels”

Luke 2:13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

“Miracle on 34th Street,” is a Christmas film, first shown in 1947, that tells the story of a bearded old man, a nursing home resident, named Kris Kringle, who fills in as Santa in a downtown New York department store.

And as the story goes, the one who was supposed to play Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade showed up drunk.  So Kris offered to take his place instead.  And since he played the part so well, Macy’s offered him the job as the toy department Santa.  

But his supervisor, played by Maureen O’Hara, began to have second thoughts.  It was bad enough, she thought, that he had the delusion that he was the real Santa Claus, but when he started telling customers to go shop somewhere else, that was going too far.  But when Mr. Macy himself heard about it, he thought it was a good customer-service “gimmick,” so he told Kris Kringle to keep his job.

The story ends as Kris is taken to court, as his lawyer proves he’s the real Santa, and everyone lives happily ever after.  It’s a miracle on 34th Street.

We love miracles.  We believe in miracles, especially at this time of year.  In fact, there’s even a book called, Christmas Miracles.  Authors Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson gathered a collection of nearly fifty stories that help us remember the mystery and the miracle of Christmas.  

In the words of Donald Piper, “The existence of miracles in our lives is the assurance that we’re not alone and that our heavenly Father looks out for us in our hour of need and even in what might seem to be a trivial situation.  It’s up to us to open our eyes and recognize the miracles that happen in our lives and to be grateful for them.  Always.”

If truth be known, the very first Christmas was filled with miracles.  An old man named Zechariah was tending the incense in the Holy Place when, all of a sudden, an angel named Gabriel came to say that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son.  “He will prepare the way for the Lord,” he said.

Then when Zechariah refused to believe, the angel made him mute until, nine months later, he wrote, “His name is John.”

That was a miracle.

Then, six months later, Gabriel came again, this time to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph.  He said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  For you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.  He will reign over the house of Jacob.  Of His kingdom, there will be no end.”

“How can this be,” she said, “since I’m a virgin.”

And the angel answered, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

That was a miracle.

And now, in the fields of Bethlehem, as shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night, there was yet one more.  For suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.  For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

What are angels like?  Probably nothing like Charlie’s Angels, Angels in the Outfield, Touched by an Angel, or It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the Bible, angels are dazzling, bright and shining.  And they come with a clear and earth-shaking message.  “Fear not,” they say, “for behold I bring you good news.”

You can look almost anywhere in the Bible and you’ll find angels.  They were there at creation, singing for joy.  That’s what it says in Job chapter 38:  “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

When Elijah fled for his life in the wilderness, an angel came to give him strength.  When Daniel sat in a lions’ den, an angel came to shut their mouths.  When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood in a fiery furnace, an angel stood in the fire beside them.  And when Jacob dreamed his dream, with angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven, he said, “This is none other than the house of God.  This is the gate of heaven.”

Now here, as Jesus steps into human space and time, angels come once again to say, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

It’s interesting if you think about it.  Christmas is the only time in the entire Gospel story when angels sing.  They’ll give Him strength when Satan tempts Him in the wilderness, and when He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.  They’ll share in the joy of His resurrection and when He ascends to His Father in heaven.  But now here, in the fields of Bethlehem, in the silence and darkness of a world gone mad, choirs of angels burst into song.

And why do they sing?  Because God has come to save us.

And what do they sing?  “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

“Peace on earth,” they said.  A peace that the world can’t give.  A peace that lies sleeping in the lap of His mother.  A peace that’ll transform and abide.  A peace that will have no end.

Was there ever One who was both a human child and a divine Son?  Was there ever One who would crush Satan, yet was wounded by him; who is the Judge of all, yet was judged and condemned by men; who is the Savior of all, yet was crucified by men?

There was never another who died and was buried, yet lived; who saved others, but could not save Himself; who had no sin, yet all sin was poured out on Him; who was the King of Glory, yet wore a crown of thorns.  There was never another who was the Prince of life, yet died on Calvary; who was as old as His eternal heavenly Father, yet a newborn baby boy; who poured out seas, lakes, and rivers from His hand, yet with a mouth parched as dry as a desert cried, “I thirst.”  There was never another who was both the victim of a Roman cross and the victor of a Jewish grave.

Yet there in a lowly cattle stall is Jesus, our Lord, our Savior and King.

Fifty-four year-old shift leader Luis Urzua checked the time.  It was about twenty minutes to two in the afternoon.  For just a moment, he felt the earth shake.  It wasn’t that unusual.  He and his group of thirty-two men were deep underground, extracting gold and copper from a hundred year-old mine.  But five minutes later, when it rumbled again, he knew something was wrong.  He said, “The mountain doesn’t collapse on its own.  It always gives you a warning.”

And a warning it was.  For barely a quarter of an hour later, at two o’clock that afternoon, the mine collapsed, trapping all thirty-three men, a half-a-mile underground.

At first, they tried to escape through the ventilation system, but the ladders that should have been there were gone.  So Urzua gathered the men in a secure room, a “refuge,” to assess the situation and to hope and pray for rescue.  And as they watched and waited, they all took time to pray.

Seventeen days later, workers above ground were finally able to bore a hole through earth and rock to break into the mine.  A few days later, they sent down solid food.  That’s when the miners sent up a note that read, “We are well in the shelter, the 33.”

Soon, the rescue became international.  Latin America, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States all pitched in to help.  Even NASA sent two doctors, a psychologist and an engineer.

Finally, sixty-nine days later, rescuers drilled a hole wide enough and deep enough to send down a capsule.  And one-by-one, they saved every single one.

In the words of Chilean President Pinera, “You are not the same after this, and Chile won’t be the same either.”

On Christmas night, in a little town called Bethlehem, our Savior Jesus stooped down, way down, to our depths.  He was born in a stable and laid in a manger.  In time, He will die sin’s death and crush it’s curse.

And because of Him, our lives will never be the same.

We thank You, dear Father, for the news angels were once privileged to bring.  Grant that we too may rejoice with shepherds and wise men to know that this One, born to Mary and Joseph, is our Savior and King.  This we ask in His name.  Amen



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