The story is told of a grandfather who was babysitting his 5 year grandson. At bedtime the little boy was gotten ready for bed, they read a bed-time story together and then the grandfather went downstairs and began to read a book. Later that night a loud thunderstorm happened and the little boy was awakened in the night and was afraid. He called down the stairs, Grandpa, would you come up here, I am afraid. His grandfather answered, ‘Don’t be afraid, God loves you and is with you.’ The boy replied, “Yes Grandpa, I know that God loves me and is with me, but I want someone with skin on to be with me.”
That is what happened on Christmas, isn’t it? God sent humanity himself with skin on. One of the names Jesus has is Emmanuel which means, God with us. In our gospel reading we hear the Angel tell the shepherds, “Behold I bring you good news 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.” Jesus is born and it is wonderful, right? People today are a little jaded and perhaps a little cynical. Many people think that this is simply a nice little religious story. Sweet baby Jesus came down from heaven and it was all good. He grew up and told people that God loves us and so there it is. He came to earth, he was killed, he rose from the dead, and then he went back into heaven.
And then, so what? What difference does it really make? After all, wars still go on. People still are cruel to each other. At this point in time, there are people who are hungry. There are people who are dying of various diseases. There are people who are in great pain. There are people who are lonely and broken hearted. So what difference did the life of Jesus make? If he was the Messiah indeed, how did he save humanity? If God is so great and Jesus is his Messiah, then why do we still have all our problems that we have? One would have thought that with the coming of Jesus he would have taken care of world hunger, and established world peace. Sicknesses and suffering should have become a thing of the past, simply a distant and dim memory. But they aren’t are they? Suffering and pain are still very much with us along with all the other problems humanity has.
So how did Jesus save us? What help has he brought to humanity? There is a line the musical Camelot that King Arthur sings to a young boy and in it he tells the boy to remember that once there was a shining moment in history called “Camelot.” Is that what Christianity is all about? At Christmas time do we simply remember baby Jesus and that he was this really wonderful fellow?
The answer of course is “No.” So how did Jesus help us? How is Jesus a Messiah, how is he one who saves us? First we need to think about from what do we need to be saved? What is the most important area in our lives which needs help? Most of us look at our health or our finances, or our circumstances and see where we want God to help us. But those areas are not the ones that are in the most danger. The one area we need the most help is our souls. Jesus once said, “What does it profit a person if he or she gains the whole world but loses his or her soul?” You see, we could be as wealthy as Bill Gates, we could be as healthy as an Olympic runner but what then? You and I are still going to die. The fact is, no gets out of here alive. You and I still need to face God one day. According to the Bible, life doesn’t simply end when our bodies die. Scriptures teaches us that once we die, we face the judgment of God. At that point being healthy up to the day of our death and having lots of wealth won’t matter anymore. What will matter? With eternity in the balance what will God take into consideration? We need some serious help here.
This is why you and I need a savior. We need someone to step in for us at this point in our lives. We need someone to put his arm around us and say, “This one is mine.” This is what Jesus came to do for us. He is the one who saves us at our most vulnerable place, our souls. He is the one who will step up beside us on Judgment Day and say, “This one is mine.” The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to the world. This is Jesus who is born this day in the city of David. He gave this son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God gave humanity his Son Jesus so that we could believe in Jesus and have a way to God the Father. This is what we see on Christmas Day. We see God sending us his Son to save us. Why would he do this? He does it because he loves us. He wants to open a way for us to come back to him. And he wants not just that have help on Judgment Day; He sent Jesus so that we can have life even now. We can even now experience God’s love in our lives.
The fact is that we all struggle with anger and criticism and frustration and worry and fear. These are matters of our soul. Our souls desire peace. We each have warring feelings within us that prevent us from finding peace and experiencing it. This is where once again we need a Savior. We need to experience God’s love and as we experience his love we ourselves can be changed.
Some years ago there was a woman who over Christmas time took into her home a family that had been evacuated from a severely flooded area. Since this woman had six children of her own and lived in a comparatively small house, her friend asked her why she had volunteered to take this family in.
She explained that at the end of World War II, there was a family in her home town in Germany was left in great poverty. On Christmas Eve the mother of this family said to her children, “We are not able to have much for Christmas this year, so I have just one present for all of you. Now I will go get it.” She left for a little while and then returned with a little orphan girl and announced, “Here is your present.”
The woman went on to tell how the children of this family welcomed the little orphan girl with affection. This little orphan grew up as a full member of that family; she grew up as their sister. The woman paused and then she added, “I was that Christmas gift.” She wanted to be able to give to this family of evacuees what she had once been given. The Bible says, “We love because God first loved us.”
God shows us his love for us through Jesus. He shows us his love for us in sending us a Savior that will stand with us on that final day. But He is not our Savior only on that final day. Through understanding his great love for us we can be transformed so that we are able to love him and love others. Through understanding his great love we can have peace in our souls.
It is Christmas Eve. Tonight for just a couple of minutes we step away from the world with its worries, its despair, and its pain. But those will be back won’t they? These troubles are with us and all around. That’s why we celebrate this day. You see it was this evening so many years ago that God came to us. The hope of the world came to save our souls and to show us how much we are loved. God of course had always been here. But now, now in Bethlehem, he came to us with skin on.