Christmas Eve


This evening, we leave the world behind, and we travel together on a long journey.  It is a journey that leads beyond Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and gift giving.  This journey leads us to the quiet, sleepy town of Bethlehem.  

We stand with the shepherds, huddled around the manger.  We stand, straining our eyes to see in the dim shadows.  We try to catch a glimpse of this Child–the Child whom all creation was awaiting, the Child foretold by all the prophets.  The Savior of the world, incarnate in human flesh, has come!

Main Body

“So they went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger….  Then the shepherds returned to their flock, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.  For everything had happened just as they had been told” (Luke 2:16, 20).

What would it have been like, standing there with the shepherds?  You would hear the voice of an angel: “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born for you” (Luke 2:11).  You would hurry to see this Child who was born in such meager means, yet born the King of the world.

Yes, the shepherds did something surprising that night.  The shepherds hurried off–immediately.  They didn’t waste time, bickering over the quickest route.  They didn’t clean up from working in the fields, trying to remove the overpowering smell of sheep from their bodies.  They didn’t run to get extra food.  They simply hurried off, leaving everything behind–including their flocks–unprotected, with no one to stand watch over them.

They went because they had to see what the angel described.  This miracle, the child, their Messiah, was born of the Virgin.  There was nothing in the world that would keep them from seeking Him.

Would we have been so quick to hasten to the Child?  Are we prepared for this Child who has come?  Are our hearts and minds prepared for the infant King?  Are you ready to learn from the shepherds?  Are you ready to drop everything and immediately go to see the Child–Emmanuel, God with us, Christ the Lord?

When the shepherds arrived to see this glorious Child, they found a family in disarray, an unprepared Mary and Joseph.  There was no room for them in their ancestral family’s guestroom.  Other relatives were already there.  The shepherds saw no light and no fire in the dead of the night.  They did not wrap the Child in a royal, purple silk but rough pieces of cloth.  They did not lay Him in an ornate, gold bed but a stone-feeding trough.  No princes or kings were standing nearby to offer their praise and worship.  Only the cattle were lying still in their stalls.

That’s what the shepherds saw.  That’s what they hurried off to see, just as the angel had said.  It wasn’t glory and power by the world’s standards, but the glory of God incarnate in an innocent, humble, and helpless child.

This night, the shepherds teach us a powerful lesson.  In their simplicity, they simply went.  Through the angel, they heard the Lord’s proclamation.  They knew that His Word and promises were brimming with salvation, even when they looked humble, frail, and foolish.

After the shepherds had seen the Child, after they had spoken to Mary and knew of His greatness, they went home.  They simply went home.  They went back to being shepherds.  Despite the miracle the shepherds had seen, they still had their everyday work to do.  The smelly sheep still needed their shepherds.

All of us might think–or hope–that these shepherds would have decided to do something different.  They were, after all, the first outsiders to see the Christ-child.  Surely, there were others to see and the greatest story of all to tell.  But no, they returned home.  Indeed, in their simplicity, the shepherds teach us so much about our daily life in Christ.

Maybe all of us should be more like the shepherds.  We should hurry off to see this Child and then return home to do what God has given us to do.  They were changed, yet different because of the Christ-child.  We, too, should be changed, yet different, because of the Christ-child. 

Yet, like the shepherds, we should continue to serve God by serving others in the vocations where He has placed us.  For that is where we make our difference–not in ways the world may see as glorious–but in everyday tasks.  Like the shepherds, through such tasks, we humbly serve, letting the light of Christ shine to others in our lives.

And so this Christmas Eve, we travel with the shepherds to see this King of glory–the King of the Jews–the Child who came to bear our sin and be our Savior.  With all our sins, with all our fears and anxiety, the Child still seeks to come among us.  Not only in the manger so long ago, but He still comes to us this day.

This is the true miracle of the incarnation: that our Lord still comes to us.  And He comes in ways that seem humble, weak, and even lowly.

The Christ-child still comes among us.  He comes in the preached Word, for where His Word is–there also is His Spirit.  He comes in Holy Absolution–forgiving our sins and remembering them no more.  He comes among us in ordinary water that is joined with His Holy Word–water that now brings the gift of faith.

Jesus also comes to us in, perhaps, the most humble and lowly way of all.  He still comes in bread and wine that He proclaims to be His body and His blood.  Jesus comes to us in such a meek and lowly way that even many in His Church refuse to believe this, and mock His continuing incarnation among us.  But in His Supper, Jesus still bids us to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of our sins–for life and salvation!

That is how our King comes to us today.  He comes in ways the world may never understand.  He comes in ways we may never understand—but, by faith, we know and believe them to be real and true!  And when we see our Savior, when we receive what we can only see with the eyes of faith, we, like the shepherds, are changed.  Like the shepherds, we are prepared to return to our own homes to glorify and praise God.


In a few days, the glitter of Christmas will be over.  We will take our decorations down, put the gifts away, and life will go back to normal.  What then?  We do what the shepherds did.  We continue to come to Christ as they came to Him.  We continue to live out our vocations as they lived out theirs.

Like the shepherds, we continue to hasten to meet our Messiah and Lord.  For, even today, Jesus still comes to us.  He comes to us through His Word and Sacraments in the Divine Service.  And like the Shepherds, the Lord has blessed each of us with opportunities to serve Him and our neighbor.  

Indeed, we have much reason to rejoice.  For in every Divine Service, Jesus still comes to us.  In a real sense, every Sunday is a Christmas, Christ’s Mass, where Jesus still makes His dwelling among us.  That’s why we sing the angel’s song throughout the year: “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” 

Knowing that Christ still comes among us as He says, let our lives then live in that joy and celebration, not only on Christmas, but on every Christ’s Mass.  Amen.