December 24, 2023, Jesus Is Here … Anything Can Happen, Christmas Eve

Image by Chris Tolworthy via Flickr

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
The Centering Prayer:

Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN O Little Town of Bethlehem
Gaither Vocal Band – O Little Town Of Bethlehem
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwfkGj51S2c

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Joy To The World
Joy to the World performed by Casting Crowns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0Gd84Ab6k8
or
Phil Wickham – Joy To The World (+ Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee) (Live from Anaheim)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLEfxk4gKz4

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Jesus Is Here … Anything Can Happen 
Text: Luke 2:6-15, Mark 9:14-29  
Series: Christmas Past, Present & Future

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 2:6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Mark 9:14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

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HYMN O Come All Ye Faithful
O Come All Ye Faithful with Lyrics – Martina McBride
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3egGjeiWEA

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Merry Christmas Eve. And here’s the point for today. When Jesus is here, anything can happen. When Jesus is here, anything can happen. Luke chapter 2 verse 10, “And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.‘” You can summarize that in three words. Jesus is here.

And so year after year, since that day, the preacher says to the people, “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people, for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus is here. No more waiting. No more hoping and yearning that someday God will help us with all we deal with. Jesus is here. And not only that, Jesus is still here. Jesus is Emmanuel, a word which means God with us. One of the names of Jesus Christ, God with us. In other words, Jesus is here. And because Jesus is here, anything is possible.

And as you let that process through your mind, you know where it ends up? What do you want? What is at the center of your heart? What is your deepest wish and hope for your life, your world, your family, your neighborhood? What do you want?

It’s always astonishing to me how anybody can go to a department store and sit on Santa’s lap and speak very honestly about what they want. But we find it hard to pray and ask God for what we want. Friends, if you’re human, you have hopes. If you’re human, you have dreams. If you’re human, there’s something that you want, for this world to be better.

How does that happen? Jesus.

For all these Sundays in December, I’ve been talking to you about my addiction to Hallmark Christmas movies. And I shared with you a couple of times why I like them so much. The first reason I like them is that family comes together. But the other reason I like them, and it’s very personal, I live in a small town. And I’ve lived in this small town now – this is my 10th year with you. I love small towns, but I love small towns even more when they’re small towns like in a Hallmark Christmas movie, to where families get together, but not only that; the whole town is family. No one gets left out at Christmas. The whole town is family.

And when I imagine the perfect Christmas present that I could ask Jesus for, it would be for our town to be like a family, a family that cares. A place in the present day where neighbors truly be neighbors to each other. Because whatever the trouble that’s going on in someone’s life, what your neighbor most needs is to live in a neighborhood where people care. And they know somewhere deep down inside that Jesus loves them, but they’re not always so certain that we do.

What the world needs most is a savior, and we know that that’s Jesus, but what does Jesus need most? The pastor of the world’s largest church in Korea, Yonggi Cho, once summarized what it meant to live in the kingdom of God, what it meant for people to do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. As he said, what Jesus needs is people who will pray and obey. That pretty well sums it up.

We just sang this song, “Joy to the World,” and the phrase in the song that means so much to me is “No more. No more. Not here, not in our town, not where we live. No more will we let sins and sorrows grow. But we will pray for joy to come to our world, our town, our neighborhood, and that’s the kind of Christmas we want.” Now, it takes a little bit of use of your imagination, but all through the scripture, all through the gospels, you will find little bits of the Christmas story.

So I’d like to change our focus right now from Bethlehem and mangers to a sort of Christmas story that happens in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus goes up onto the top of the mountain to be with God. And he takes Peter and James and John with him up to the top of the mountain, and they spend time with God. Peter feels so blessed, he wants to build little cabins and stay up there forever.

But finally, Jesus says, “It’s time for us to go,” and as they come down the mountain, they come down into a situation of trouble. Mark chapter 9: “When they came to the other disciples, they saw a great crowd about them and scribes arguing with them.” In other words, there was a big fight beginning to happen. Verse 15: “And immediately, all the crowd, when they saw him, when they saw Jesus, they were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him and he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you for he has a dumb spirit and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.” These are the symptoms of the disease epilepsy … but here comes the reason for the conflict. Here comes the reason for the disagreement. Here comes the reason why the scribes are arguing with the disciples and criticizing them. The man with the son says, “I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were not able.”

When Jesus sees the crowd coming and he sees that it’s just only going to get worse and the man, the father, is still talking to Jesus. And he says, “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” His father is in real trouble. He needs God’s help. And Jesus said to the Father, “If you can?” And then He says these profound words, “All things are possible to him who believes,” and immediately, the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Friends, that’s a prayer. I believe. Help my unbelief and help my son. And Jesus has come down from high above in the presence of God to be on earth with people who are in trouble. You see why I say this is like a version of the Christmas story. Jesus Christ has come to be with the people who most need his help today, the people who are praying, “I believe, help my unbelief.” And Jesus, of course, helps this child, and the child is made whole and well, and God’s will is done. And it’s like a Christmas present because it comes from Jesus. Now, here’s the thing, friends. You and I are called to follow Jesus. And we are the ones who do his work today. He has decided to live within us and to minister to the world through us, beginning with the neighbors that are around us.

And we have used these two phrases on the screen as a call to worship many, many times over the last few years where the pastor says, “Lord, I believe,” and you cry out–
Help my unbelief.
That’s how it works, friends. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

And what you’re praying when you pray for that is to see the world as God sees it … where anything is possible because Jesus has no limits in terms of what he can do. We do put limits on Jesus. But if we saw the world as God sees it, we would see that there are no limits on what Jesus can do.

And because of that, the next phrase is this one. Lord, I obey.
And you say? Help my disobedience.

Friends, there’s always disobedience. There’s always some small way that Dave Kueker misses the target. Doesn’t quite get it right. Doesn’t say the right thing. Doesn’t do what’s most needed. There’s always some sliver or great giant mistake with regard to disobedience. But we can call out for God to help us with that. And when you pray for me, I wish you would pray exactly that, “Lord, help focus the preacher. Help guide the preacher. Lord, prune the preacher so that he focuses on doing your will.”

And following Jesus Christ in many ways is a repentance for two simple mistakes. And the simple mistakes are these. Number one, to believe that anything is beyond the power of God. And the second mistake is to believe that you and I can’t do better with God’s help. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Then of course, the disciples, the nine of them that were at the bottom of the hill, who tried to do their best, who were attacked by the scribes, who felt sad because of the Father’s plea for help that was not received. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” You see, they had cast out demons before. They had done healings before, but today they were not able. In verse 29, Jesus said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This problem cannot be solved by anything but prayer. And of course, remember where Jesus was. He went up to be with God and prayed, And then he came down the hill to do God’s will, and he was able when they were not.

Friends, you and I need to give some thought to charging the batteries of our spiritual life by spending time in prayer so that when we are needed, God will be able to flow through us. Why? Because God is with us. Jesus is here. Anything is possible. And so when we meet the father of this crippled child, when we meet the mother who has a broken heart, when we see a family that doesn’t have enough to eat, when we find a father or mother who are out of work and are having trouble paying bills, when we say to ourselves, “What do we want?” And we see the neighbors around us, we can add our prayer to their problems and ask God to work because we’re prayed up … because we’re ready.

When we look at everything that Jesus did, it’s possible that Jesus spent more hours praying than anything else that was a part of his ministry. And sometimes we need to charge ourselves up as well.

So a couple of weeks ago, we also reminded ourselves of that wonderful little thing they put on Christmas cards, One Solitary Life, that talks about how Jesus changed the world. And a paragraph from that saying that doesn’t wind up on the Christmas card is this one. I ask you to …

pause for a moment and think of this thing which Christians believe.
We are talking about great adventures,
about things that might not be possible, but yet we’re surrounded by God and miracles. But I remind you that there must be a great adventure in faith before there can be a great adventure in deeds or action. No one has ever done a great thing until he or she has first believed a great thing.

“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And so part of the lesson of Christmas, part of the meaning of Christmas, now that Jesus is here, Jesus is asking us to be people who today, at the Christmas of this year, are willing to pray and obey.

This sign has been out in front of the church now for about 2 months: “SEEKING A BETTER LIFE? INQUIRE WITHIN.” Because when you think about the people out there, when you think about them struggling with their situations, they are seeking a better life. And I hope you and I are also seeking a better life.

And then there are those two words, “inquire within.” And in a way, it’s kind of a joke because it’s not just inquire within the church building, but you can learn how to follow Jesus inside this building. But it’s also inquire within your heart and ask Jesus to guide you and live in your life.

And I am hopeful after 10 wonderful years of being your pastor … I find myself from time to time thinking, “What do people out there think about our church?” And I’m sure that there are a lot of things that people think about our church, and some of them are wonderful, and maybe some of them are not so wonderful. But the thing that I wish people thought about our church is that this is the church where the people worship whose prayers are answered.

What I wish people thought about our church was that this is the church where the people worship who pray for us and God answers their prayers.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, a church can become well-known for all kinds of things, good and bad. But when I pray in this new and upcoming year, I pray that we would be a church that seeks to see in our lives, in our world, in our neighborhood, the words from the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth. Thy kingdom come.” Lord, I pray that we would see that begin to be more and more true. And Lord, I ask that You would prune us and guide us so that our focus more and more is about bringing to You the needs of people, not just ourselves, Lord, but our neighbors. And seeing You heal and make whole and solve problems and fix what’s broken … from broken lives, Lord, to broken hearts … and help us to be praying people. Since, Lord, after all, Christmas has come, Jesus is here. And that as we pray and if we pray with faith, anything can happen … because since Christmas, Jesus is here. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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