Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions

Saturday, December 24, 2022 – Luke 2:1-20

People of Peace, friends, and visitors – indeed, peace be with you. Thank you.

After four wonderful weeks of waiting through Advent, and waiting to see what this winter storm warning was going to mean, we made it to Christmas Eve!

It is good to be with you this evening, in the midst of your busy holiday plans, to hear once again the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke.

Show of hands, how many of you have heard that story before? If this is your first time hearing this story, welcome to this special story on this special day!

As a child, on Christmas morning my family would gather with our mugs of coffee or cider or hot chocolate, and listen to my grandfather read these same verses, year after year. The Gospel text for today brings me great joy, and yet reading this story once more also brings about other emotions as well.

You may be thinking, “But Pastoral Intern Kendall, didn’t you hear? The angel said this is ‘good news of great joy’! After all, Christmas really is ‘the most…wonderful time…of the year.”

“Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions” Jeske, Luke 2:1-20; p.1

Ah, but of course! Christmas really is a remarkable time each year.

Not just because of the myriad Hallmark, Netflix, and ageless library of Christmas movies. It’s not just the abundance of carols and seasonal songs, drink specials, or holiday sales. It’s not just holiday plans or travel, or taking time away from classrooms and workspaces.

No, for those of us who identify as Jesus-followers, this season of Advent and the arrival of Christmas, of course, is focused on the birth of lil’ baby Jesus:

“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. … Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace among those whom God favors!” (Luke 2:11,14)

Today is all about God the Incarnate, made known in the personhood of lil’ baby Jesus, coming to dwell among humankind. Emmanuel, God with us.

This all is indeed “good news of great joy!” So why do I feel more than just the happy feels?

For many, if not most of us, Christmas time is layered when it comes to our emotions.

There may be joy around being with family, while also grief around missing other family members and dear friends.

“Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions” Jeske, Luke 2:1-20; p.2

There may be fun times around gifts and presents and stockings, while also being aware of just how tight budgets are again this year.

There may be wonderful plans in place and Christmas wishes to fulfill, while also working around adjustments in travel, altered arrival times, and a need to manage expectations with family or friends.

There may be some dear loves you get to see this time of year, but we always remember those dearly departed saints who have gone on before.

While Christmas is indeed infused with Good News and “glad tidings” and merry wishes, I find Christmas to carry a bittersweet note throughout the holiday.

I really doubt I’m the only one in this room who has such layered feelings about Christmas time.

And yet, one of the beauties of our Lutheran tradition is that we often are invited to carry two seemingly-conflicted feelings simultaneously.

As Lutherans, we love to talk about being saint and sinner, about law and gospel, about the now and the not yet.

This evening, I invite you to lean into the bittersweet. In one hand, carry the “glad tidings” and “great joys”. In the other hand, bear the weight of your pain and grief that may be stirring in your heart or behind your eyes.

“Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions” Jeske, Luke 2:1-20; p.3

Hear, dear friends, the Good News of Great Joy this evening: whatever you bring to Christmas this year, God arrives regardless.

In the midst of your plans and preparations, God arrives.

In the midst of the most happy moments, God arrives.

In the midst of every tearful thought, God arrives.

And yet… to say that God simply arrives feels almost too…bland?

Not only does God arrive in the manger as lil’ baby Jesus, God straight-up interrupts; to make God’s plan and presence known.

Oh, Mary and Joseph, you’re traveling to fulfill your civic duty, and as a bonus, Mary is expecting? How about an interruption! Welcome, lil’ baby Jesus!

Oh, shepherds out in the fields, how are we doing this evening? Here comes an angelic interruption with some divine instruction! Do not be afraid!

Not enough? Here’s the second act, with a multitude of the heavenly host! “Glory to God in the highest!”

So, naturally, the shepherds take off for Bethlehem to what? That’s right, interrupt the holy family, with word of what God is up to on this night.

“Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions” Jeske, Luke 2:1-20; p.4

I’m always amazed by Mother Mary in this moment. Everyone who heard what the shepherds said were amazed. And Mary, mother of Jesus, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (v.19)

Those of you who have been following along with the biblical narrative for a while might not be so surprised at how much interrupting God does long before, during, and long after the birth of lil’ baby Jesus.

You’ll remember stories involving people like Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Ruth and Naomi, Samuel, and Jeremiah. Then of course there’s Mother Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah with John the Baptist, Saul who becomes Paul, and many, many others.

God often becomes known in the interruptions of our routines, tasks, and expectations.

This Christmas, as we take time to recall and return to God Incarnate in lil’ baby Jesus…Emmanuel, God with us…I wonder how God is arriving for you.

Maybe you sense the presence of God in the good times with great people this season.

Maybe you feel the warmth of God’s embrace as you hold dearly your grief, whether or not you choose to share it with others.

“Christmas Arrivals and Interruptions” Jeske, Luke 2:1-20; p.5

Maybe you’re keenly aware that God is present in the interruptions of the plans and routines of your day-to-day.

Maybe all you can do is ponder the words you hear today, not knowing where God may yet be revealed to you.

Wherever you find yourself this evening, however you arrive at the places you go this holiday weekend, hear this Good News of Great Joy: that from the birth of lil’ baby Jesus to the cross of Christ crucified, God continues to arrive and interrupt for the sake of all people.

So, friends, People of Peace, may God arrive and interrupt your Christmas plans to bring Good News of Great Joy, for you and for all people.


Now, let us stand or stand in our hearts as we sing our Hymn of the Day, one of my favorites, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”: #279 in the red hymnal

Liturgy © 2022 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.

Liturgy © 2022 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.

“Let All Together Praise Our God”; Text © 2006 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.

“Love Has Come”; Text © 1996 Living the Natural Way, admin. Music Services, Brentwood, TN. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.

“In a Far-Off Place, Jesus Comes”; Text and music © 2009 GIA Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. All rights reserved. Used by permission under OneLicense # A-706920.

Come, Let Us Adore Him with He IsExalted/Arranged by Carol Tornquist/Copyright 2000 Word Music, Inc./CCLI

Go, Tell It on the Mountain/Mark Hayes/Copyright 2006 Lorenz Publishing Co./One License