CAUGHT IN THE MOMENT
Isaiah 9: 2-6
Hebrews 1: 1-4
LUKE 2: 1-18

 CHRISTMAS EVE 2017

Merry Christmas …”Unto us a child has been given … unto us a Savior has been born!”

It’s the TRUTH … not ALT FACTS … not made up news not motivated by some social media meme creating teenager in the hills of Russia … not waiting for us waiting to just discover this year. Jesus was born 2000 years ago!

CHRISTMAS and JESUS have never left us; don’t be fooled by the loud voices my friends CHRISTMAS and JESUS have been strong since the very first Christmas and only diminish in the minds of those who want to live lives that are not connected with God.  It’s our faith that may have wavered and diminished.

Some who might not think their faith matters and have dismissed it with other <things> because they have been too busy to take on the message of Jesus Christ.  They have lessened God’s Son for the world.

My friends MERRY CHRISTMAS! It feels so good to say that!

Jesus Christ is ALIVE …. We are not waiting for someone who has never arrived; a new birth.  It’s the story that’s been told for many generations. It’s the story that we need to share over and over again with our kids.  It’s the story that “our POPS” told us when we were young …. [Speaking o Charlie Taylor’s father, in his late Eighties, who almost died this summer and who flew in from California this weekend to be with his family.] how old was he when you first taught him about Jesus …  how many years ago were you teaching Charlie and your children? It’s amazing; it’s what all parents should do!

Those of you who have brought children here tonight … thank you so much. The tradition of bringing our children on Christmas Day means so much.  Your children so desperately need to sense Jesus and the message that Jesus Christ brought.  We cannot keep Jesus from our kids; from the future generations … we need the light of the star to shine on them so they could go forward with Jesus.

The need for our world for people to take on Jesus Christ … we are so desperate for that reality.  We are desperate for hope. It’s all there … it’s all there for all to see … We need to look to the cross … we need to look to the Good Shepherd … we need to look to the Babe in the manger.   And, it’s a Merry Christmas.

Tonight, I was sharing with my friends over there … a need to tweak where I was going with tonight’s message.  I lost a dear friend this year … those who know me know that I lost lots of friends this year.  It has not been an easy year for me.

Paul O’Neill came into my life back in the 1990’s … he’s the same age as me; he’s young … he’s 31.  Paul went to be with the Lord this year; this past April … he was my age.  We did not expect to lose Paul this year.  Those of you who don’t know Paul by name can look at the bulletin for my tribute to him and you might be able to figure out who he was. When I first met Paul through a mutual friend Paul was just a rock and roll guy.  He had an idea to put together a stage show that would go around the world with an orchestra playing some classical music and some rock n roll music some lights and fireworks with dancers and singers and it would all be about Christmas.

Got to remember when I met Paul because of a mutual friend … I said to him, “You are going to do what?  A rock n roll road show about Christmas?  About Jesus?  You have got to be kidding me.”  No, I wasn’t that skeptical but I was a little skeptical.

Paul said, “You know what?  I can do this.  I have faith in God and Jesus Christ.  It’s about time someone made a difference and showed that the moment of Christmas is more than just about presents or “that other individual” who is said to show up at people’s homes on Christmas morn. “

Paul wanted them to discover God at Christmas.  They needed to hear that Christmas was about the Son of God.  He was caught in the moment for Jesus.  That was 20 some years ago.  Since then TRANS SIBEREAN ORCHESTRA has performed for millions … millions of people with the message of Jesus Christ because Paul’s faith had challenged him to create a show … and now TSO has shows on the East Coast, the West Coast … the middle of America … Europe and the world.  Telling the story of Christmas … music that shares the truth of Jesus as the focus not someone dressed in red.

And, here’s the odd coincidence … just how small a world this is.  Back in my high school days there was a boy named Bob Kinkel who had his life changed by a music teacher who recognized Bob’s talent; Bob could play with excellence and sing really well.  He suggested that Bob go back to his church and ask to play the piano, and Bob did, he went to his church and played.  And, later in life Bob met Paul O’Neill and Bob became part of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Two friends with strong faith in Jesus reaching so many people in an unexpected way.

In tonight’s bulletin I added some of the lyrics from Paul’s song BELIEVE.  Let me share the words of faith that Paul put to music: “I am the way; I am the light.  I am the dark inside the night.  I hear your hopes; I feel your dreams, and in the dark I hear your screams.  Don’t turn away.  Just take my hand and when you make your final stand, I’ll be right there.  I’ll never leave and all I ask of you … BELIEVE.”

That’s the problem with Christmas … people just don’t believe.  People just get caught in the moment and then it’s gone … poof.  The lights are on the tree … No God connection no Jesus …. There are presents to wrap and unwrap … do you believe?  In Jesus?  Paul believed to the very end and Jesus was there holding his hand as my friend left this world.  Bob Kinkel believes … I believe … do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

And, then there is one of my all-time favorites that I include in most Christmas messages … It’s Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas Story the pressure was on to have the best tree … the finest decorations … to be the popular one but when Linus takes the stage << JUMP UP ON CHANCEL >> he says TURN THE LIGHTS DOWN … turn the lights down … and in that moment he tells the world about Christmas … and he reads from the Gospel of Luke and he says that’s what CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT … THAT’s WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT.

So we come to worship … we come to praise … we come to try discover who we are supposed to be. And, it’s not about the next great present or whether we received something better or worse than our friends or neighbors.

This is the season to review our faith in Jesus Christ or perhaps to discover our faith in Jesus Christ for the very first time. To teach our children and our future generations that there is a difference in experiencing God’s love.

Those candles on the Advent Wreath … I discovered for the first time in my life actually have meaning.  I didn’t know what those candles represented for my entire “31 years” until last week. Pastor Dave discovered.

The first candle represents HOPE.  Hope in Christ … Hope in God  … We need to find hope my friends …. The prophet Jeremiah told us God is ready … I know the plans I have for EVERYONE because every human being is made in the image of God … There is hope if we BELIEVE ….“I know the plans I have in mind for you God says; they are plans for peace; not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope when you come and pray to me I will listen.”

So our Christmas journey we need to find hope … the light of Jesus gives us hope.  This world is wearing us down falling apart we so need that hope.

The second candle is for preparation.  That is a tough one … if you only have a connection with God tonight in church because it’s Christmas Eve so I hope and pray that you will want more than that; a connection to God and Baby Jesus.  You better prepare and it’s more than going to church once or twice a year; it means you need to have a conversation with God, read God’s Word, sing some songs of praise, listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the way home … You have to prepare.

The third candle is for joy.  It is right in the middle … there’s five candles the third candle is JOY … JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD HAS COME.  JOY IN DANCE! JOY In CELEBRATION!!  JOY and FEEL GOOD!!!! If you don’t feel good about God what do you feel good about?  It’s joy and its right in the middle … it’s the third candle of the wreath.

The fourth candle is love.  It goes with the rest of the five. If you have never read Scripture or you have never opened this book then you do not know that God in the Old Testament and the New Testament is all about love. Loving neighbors, loving friends, loving strangers, and loving God. Jesus teaches the two Commandments that matter NUMBER ONE Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength and all of your soul.  And, NUMBER TWO love your neighbors in the same way. The fourth candle is for love.

The fifth candle, the candle that stands the tallest, is the Christ Candle.  Jesus the Light of the World. We are here because it is Christmas Eve. We are here to celebrate the birth of the child.

And, yes we are about to sing SILENT NIGHT shhhh … Silent Night … Holy Night but when you go out into the world it is with the forcefulness of JOY to the WORLD.

So, when we pause in the moment … when we pause in the moment of Christmas you have hope … you have preparation … you have joy … you have love and you have Jesus.  If anyone can figure it out … and have the hope, be prepared, have the joy and the love while being focused on Jesus they can change the world by being such a difference for God.

I was blessed having Paul in my life … his faith stood out and he made a difference for God.  One more Paul story [[Point upwards]] sorry Paul … Paul promised me once that when TSO came to Philadelphia I could sing on stage with them … he never let me sing with TSO.  It never happened.

Take the joy … feel God’s love … be the light … and don’t hold back there is JOY in the WORLD tonight … be part of the real reason that started long before Macy’s had their first sale.

MERRY CHRISTMAS …

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