Well, that concludes our time of communion. Good morning, and yeah, Merry Christmas Eve to you all. My name is Forest, and if you've traveled a long, long way to be with us today, welcome family and friends. And if you're new to us, we want to welcome you as well. I'm sure a lot of people are out of town today as I look around; it's a little thin. It's great to have people traveling in from all over. I don't know who's won the furthest travel contest, but it's probably my in-laws Mike and Terry Fontenot from Perth, Australia, who are here with us. They traveled 10,000 miles, so I want to welcome them. They had a trip to Sedona planned, and they timed it quite well. My family came down with the flu right around that time, so if I sound like I'm in middle school at some point in the sermon, I apologize. I am recovering well, and it's been a while, so don't worry; I can fellowship; you are safe. But some of my family is not here today because of that. It is almost Christmas Day, and of course, Sal, thank you for poetically and very heartily reminding us of the gift of Jesus this Christmas day that we're going to celebrate. Wedin's, thank you. It's great to have you down here and cheerfully welcoming us and reminding us of all the good things over many years that God gives us.

You can be turning to Luke Chapter 2; we're going to be wrapping up our series here, "The Spirit of Christ." We've been emphasizing the often overlooked character of the Holy Spirit in the Christmas account, and today we're certainly going to hone in more, of course, on the birth of Christ in Luke Chapter 2, verses 1 through 40. So you could be turning there with me.

You know it is Christmas Eve, there are many traditions around Christmas. Who here does one present on Christmas Eve? Anybody here do that? Not a few people in the crowd do that. And then you get to open all the other presents tomorrow, and usually, it's not a very good present; it's like a pair of socks or something, you know, typically in that tradition. Well, I grew up pretty well. My Christmases were in Detroit, Michigan, where my parents are from, although I grew up in Ohio. We would go to Detroit every Christmas, and my grandparents on both sides lived like 10 minutes from each other. My dad's side was Catholic, and my mom's side was Methodist. So my dad's side really celebrated more on Christmas Eve, and my mom's side more on Christmas day. So I got to open a ton of presents on Christmas Eve and then the next day a ton of presents on Christmas Day. Whether your tradition is one of a small present today and many presents tomorrow or vice versa, I hope my sermon will feel like many presents today and many presents tomorrow. But hopefully, at least, I can get you one small present here from the word of God.

Last week, Ryan Weekley did a great job talking about Mary's announcement and her song and all the ways we can be humble and grateful and worship Our God. Hopefully, you're doing that today. That was chapter one. Chapter one ends with John the Baptist being born as was prophesied about to Zechariah and his mother, Elizabeth, and of course, he's named John by his father who immediately gets his voice back, and then Zechariah joins in on the savior's coming to town musical and has his own song to close out chapter 1.

Then we're going to pick it up here. We're going to read a little bit this morning. So Luke Chapter 2, we're going to read the first 40 verses here and look at a couple of ideas here along the theme of the spirit helps us see. The spirit helps us see. So turn to Luke Chapter 2 as I said, let's read together here verses 1 through 40. I know this is hard for our often entertained ADD minds today, but we're going to try to get through 40 verses here and get a few ideas from it.

Luke Chapter 2, verse one: In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Luke notes that everyone, it says in verse three, went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there in verse 5 to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child, as we read about in chapter 1. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them.

Verse eight: There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, watching over the flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

Verse 12: This would be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in clothes lying in a manger.

Suddenly, in verse 13, a great company of the Heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."

When the Angels had left them in verse 15 and gone into heaven, the Shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. Good idea."

Verse 16: So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

Verse 21: On the 8th day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Verse 22: When the time came for the purification rites required by the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: "Every firstborn must be consecrated to the Lord" and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of doves or two young pigeons.

Verse 25: Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.

Moved by the spirit in verse 27, he went into the temple courts when the parents brought in the Child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the law required. Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in sight of all the nations, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and glory for Your People Israel."

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. Then in verse 34, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against so the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed, and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Verse 36: There was also a prophet Anna, the daughter of Penu, from the tribe of Asher. She was very old. She had lived with her husband for 7 years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

Coming up to them in verse 38 at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the Redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth, and the child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him.

"The Spirit Helps Us See" is the title of my Christmas Eve sermon for you today. We've already read the first couple of chapters of Luke's gospel. You know the Holy Spirit in Luke's gospel, like Elizabeth early on in chapter one, the Angels over and over, one and two, the Shepherds now as we just read in Chapter here at the temple, Simeon and Anna, a prophet and a prophetess, all see Jesus for who He truly is and they start the long and glorious proclamation of Jesus as Savior of the world. And we're still right, we're still thousands of years later tomorrow we're still celebrating that beautiful idea, amen.

You know, as we said a while ago, as we were studying out the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is kind of the shy part of the godhead. He doesn't want to make it about him; he wants to make it all about Jesus. In John 16:14, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would glorify Him. And it's interesting as Luke closes out this account of Jesus's birth, he closes out at the temple courts. This is about 40 days after Jesus would have been born according to Leviticus 12; you had to make an offering at the temple for your firstborn child. So they're there making that offering, and Simeon, of course, it says in verses 25 to 35, he's the Holy Spirit is upon him in verse 25, verse 26, it was revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he got to see the Messiah, and he sees Jesus, lifts Him in his arms like that, you know, symbolizing King moment and tells all, you know, this beautiful light, you know, for God's people has come and a light for the Gentiles as well. Simon, with the help of the Holy Spirit, saw Jesus for who he clearly was. And this Christmas, that is our challenge. It shouldn't be our challenge, but that is our challenge, isn't it? To still see Jesus for who he clearly is. Out of all the things that we're going to partake in and think about the next couple of days, that is the most important thing, is it not? To see Jesus clearly for who he is.

But it is tricky sometimes. It's tricky sometimes to see clearly. You remember just a few weeks ago, I ped up my illusion art for you, something that was very popular in the 90s. I don't know if it is now. If you change your focus on the screen here, you can actually, you cross your eyes and kind of uncross your eyes, you can actually see it's not just a bunch of pictures of hot peppers; it's actually the image of a fire-breathing dragon.

I know someone, Darren, told me he could see it; one of our ushers, I don't know if anyone else can still see it, but you know, it's not so easy sometimes to see what we're supposed to see. Thank you, Ryan. It's tricky, right? It's tricky. But the Holy Spirit is meant to help us see clearly who Jesus is. And this picture might be a little easier to see. You know, there are over 200 titles and names given to Jesus when you take all the Old Testament titles and proclamations of who the Messiah will be and all the things the New Testament says about them. And this has most of those 200 in this image that kind of gives you a picture of Jesus's face, although we don't exactly know what his face might have looked like. You know, there are all kinds of titles, and in this passage, we just read, of course, are two of the most important. In verse 11, you know, He's called a savior and He's called Messiah. And actually, there's a third, right? He's also called Lord. He's also called Lord. Today, I think we need to get rid of the Santa hat off of Jesus, you know, get rid of the presents sent out in His name. Put our smartphones away because they tend to make us dumb. Not worry too much about the Netflix or Hallmark movie that we need to watch. We just need to see Him clearly. That's so important today, that we see Him clearly. And the good news is the spirit will help us see. So today, just two wonderful ideas here from this text that I think the spirit wants us to see about Christmas Day and about the Son that came through that beautiful day for us to save us from our sins.

The first idea here is that Christmas Day is a day of days. Christmas Day was and is a day of days. Luke's gospel here in the first four verses gives us some very vital information regarding the birth of Christ and the things that we are familiar with, of course, because we know the story quite well. First of all, in verse one, it says it occurred in the days of Caesar Augustus. And the days of Caesar Augustus. What's interesting is a census was taken, right? Every 14 years, Egyptian records from this time, because the Romans ruled that whole area, give us a lot of insight about these facts about the census that Luke actually brings out in his text. So Caesar Augustus did what every ruler would do in the Roman Empire. Every 14 years, they would take a census, and it was done, number one, for taxation purposes, but number two, for the military conscription. Every son had to serve in the military. Now, the Jews were exempt from the military service, but they, of course, had to pay the tax. We also know from the Egyptian records, like Luke says in verse four, they had to go to their hometown, Bethlehem, where they were registered in the census. So Mary and Joseph, of course, leave Nazareth and take about a 3-day journey down to South of Jerusalem there in Bethlehem. So Luke gives us more details behind Jesus's birthplace, while Matthew's gospel is more clear on the date of the birth. He puts it around Herod's death, about 4 to 6 BC. But there's no specific day mentioned in the gospel text. December 25th historically didn't come about until about the 4th Century under the Roman ruler Constantine that they decided December 25th is probably the day that Jesus is born. Luke is much more concerned, though, about what happened on that day than when it exactly happened. Birthdays are kind of a modern Western concept. They didn't celebrate those like we do back then. So Luke records the angel telling the Shepherds of what has just happened. Of course, that's the most important part of this particular text. And what do the angels tell the Shepherds? "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord." So the angels are quite clear today in the text today on a day, on an actual physical earthly day, it happened; the savior of the world was born on a particular day. And as I said, the Jews did not celebrate birthdays then because, of course, they didn't have social media. So how would they have kept track of all the people's birthdays and know when to wish people happy birthday, like we all do now? But whatever day it was, it's still a great and wonderful and glorious day because it's the day God became flesh and entered our story as one of us. What an incredible miraculous idea that God entered the world on a certain day. That's what we celebrate on Christmas Day, amen. That day that God chose to be one of us. Now, we don't always see the greatness of a day. You probably had many days in your life that seemed ordinary but were actually quite extraordinary when you look back on them, like the day you met your spouse or the day your child was born. This is one of those days. It's a little sneaky, perhaps. You know, the angel uses the phrase, of course, "good news." I bring you good news in verse 10, good news that Jesus has been born, and that Greek word is where we get the English word gospel.

As we get transliterated word "evangelize," you and "euangelizo" is actually the word there, the good news, the gospel. What's interesting is before this time, this is only used by the Roman Emperor, and Caesar Augustus in particular when his reign was occurring. It was a very peaceful time in the Roman Empire, and he said, "I am the good news, I am the gospel for the people because I'm bringing this great peace to all of the Roman Empire." He used this word "gospel" a lot for his own rule to describe it. Meanwhile, in an obscure corner of his Empire, this little baby was born that no one really noted. A few Shepherds, a few Magi, a few Angels, right? No one really noticed what was going on. But it's interesting 2,000 years later, how many people are going to mention Jesus in the next couple of days, and for every day for the rest of their lives, but how few people even mention Caesar Augustus? Probably the only time you've even thought about him is as you just read Luke Chapter 2, or maybe you read a Roman historian's book this year, and they mentioned the reign of Caesar Augustus. What a seismic shift of the meaning of good news was Christmas day. It was a day of days, as John Piper says. It was a day planned in eternity before the creation of the world. Indeed, the whole universe with untold light years of space and billions of galaxies was created and made glorious for this day and what it means for human history. You know, it's unfathomable, all the plans that came together on that particular day thousands of years ago in Palestine. Colossians 1:16 says all things were created through him, referring to Jesus, and for him. And one of the things that I didn't even think about as I was studying this that kind of blows me away is one of the reasons God created the Earth that we're here on today was to send his son Jesus into it. I mean, that's pretty wild to think about that. That one of the purposes of the creation of the Earth was for God to send his son to us so that he might be with us.

We talk about the magic of Christmas, you know, the magic of Christmas. Maybe you're feeling the magic of Christmas, amen. That's awesome; I hope you do. Family, gifts, time off from work, and food, amen, and all those things. But the magic of Christmas truly is that God became flesh and made his dwelling among us on a particular day and time in a particular moment in history. God came that near to us in the birth of his son. Christmas day should be a day that gives us hope, that gives us faith, that gives us a step-back sense of awe and wonder about the miraculous work of God in our lives and in this world. It should be a day where we remember the good news about Jesus. It should be an easy day to remember the good news about Jesus, but it's so easy, it's so easy as a year ends, it's so easy in the busyness of Christmas to start to think about the bad news and the challenges and the hardships. And here in Luke Chapter 2, there's a lot of bad news. This poor engaged couple has to travel three days, a pregnant woman on a donkey, probably, you know, three days down to Bethlehem, 9 months pregnant, of course, you know, the birth occurs while they're not at home. You know, some pagan King has decreed that they need to go and be counted in the census, and then and then the baby is born, you know, probably there are more animal Witnesses than eyewitnesses to the birth because they're staying in the kind of the front porch of the house in the lower area where the animals are stored, and there's very little room for the baby, even in the house. It's probably all the families there, you know, visiting because they have to come back for the census, and Joseph and Mary arrived late. The Jews were not inhospitable at all; that would be a sin, so it wasn't their Hospitality that they lacked. They just didn't have a whole lot of room, and there's nowhere to put the baby, so we'll put them in the manger, which is just a little feeding trough for an animal. Not exactly something you might want to buy for your newborn child to be put in. So, you know, Jesus is born naked and screaming and cold in a feeding trough. There's just a lot of bad news in the story, but what shines out is the good news. Isn't that kind of how life often works? You know, I don't know how your 2023 has been, or how you're feeling right now, but there's always challenging things; there's always hardships. There are two things that speak to us in life: Beauty and affliction. And at Christmas time, it could be a time where we hopefully can see the beauty, but sometimes we can just feel the affliction at the end of a year and the challenges and the hardships. And it's just so easy to be cynical; it's so easy to turn on the news or scroll through the internet and just be cynical and be people who come in here with Tidings of bad news rather than Tidings of good news. But the Christmas message reminds us, you know, on a day of days that we can find good news no matter what we're going through or what we're facing. Where can the birth of the Savior shed some light over the darkness in your life today? Where can it bring a little bit more light, a little bit more hope, a little bit more good news to your life?

What is this story trying to tell you today about your story and how God is working despite what you can see, despite what you maybe even can't see, despite the darkness? Do not let the light of Christmas be drowned out. There is so much light and so much good on that day of days. Christmas was a day of days.

The other thing is it was a day foretold. In verse four in the text, it says, Joseph, of course, went to his hometown where his family was from, Bethlehem, right, the town of David. Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem. To this day, anybody here been to Bethlehem? I know my in-laws have. Anybody else been to Bethlehem? Some people. All the Woodins have been to Bethlehem, yes. So it's actually a real town you can still visit it to this day. Jesus was not born in Middle Earth, he was not born in Narnia, he was not born in a galaxy far, far away; he was born in an actual place at an actual time, like Luke said in the beginning of his gospel. He did a very careful investigation. It's pretty fascinating to think about that Christmas came on a certain day in a certain place, Bethlehem, the city that Micah prophesied about over 500 years before Jesus was born there.

Micah, you know, the other scripture on the screen there, it says, "But you, Bethlehem, though you were small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." So this is prophesied about in the Jewish scripture. A similar period in Israel's history, a contemporary of the prophet Micah, is the prophet Isaiah. You know Micah talked about the location, well Isaiah talked about the power, and it's a very familiar passage that a lot of people quote this time of year.

Isaiah 9:6-7, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."

How many songs, poems, sermons, prayers, and most importantly, changed lives were set into motion on the day Jesus was born? It was a tiny little drop of greatness from a human standpoint that has turned into a tidal wave of greatness over time. I mean, it's unbelievable to think about it. Modern society has been transformed by the birth of Christ. A subtle example of this, I learned this a while ago, and I use it when I share my faith on campus, is the word "university" and the word "professor" are Christian in origin. I know a lot of universities and professors aren't proclaiming Christ today, but the actual origin of that whole institution is Christian. It was Christian thinkers and men who decided that they should profess the truths of the universe to others, and that began the first university and professors.

How many schools today, how many hospitals (because most hospitals have their origin in Christian thinking), how many charities have you know were started in his name and by his followers since that incredible day some thousands of years ago? Christmas day is a day to remember and celebrate because it reminds us that God is deeply involved in human history, so much so that he chose an exact day and an exact place for his son to enter into the world to save us.

Christmas day is a day to remember that God is in and around our everyday ordinary lives. You might have a particular favorite Christmas hymn. One of mine is "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and when Frank Sinatra sings it, I love it. But I'm not going to do that today, don't worry. That would not sound good. But I love the lyrics in "O Little Town of Bethlehem" written by Philip Brooks, an American Pastor who visited Bethlehem in the 1800s. As he visited Bethlehem, he wrote this song, which is a very famous Christmas song today. He says in the first verse, "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark street shineth the Everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all those years are met in thee tonight."

The prophets, like modern real estate agents, were concerned with location, location, location. The location of Jesus' birth mattered, for it was predicted according to Micah 5, and we just read that, of course. But I would ask, in light of Christmas day, to think of a different location today for all of us, not of Bethlehem. We need to think of where our hearts are in regards to Christ. To slow down today and think about where is your heart in regards to Christ? What is the location of Christ in your heart? So, really think about that today. That's a very important question that we all need to ask ourselves because Brook's song in the third verse says, "How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his Heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin where Meek Souls will shall receive him still. The dear Christ enters in." The idea of this text that I think Brooks is referring to here.

Of course, verse seven there is very little room for Jesus when they arrived in Bethlehem. There was no room in the guest room, it says in Luke 2:7. As I said, they would have had to stay in the lower part of the home, probably because there was no room where the animals would be put at night. And that's why Jesus had to be put in the manger because there was nowhere else to lay him. Some traditions say there was no room at the inn, but Luke 10:34 is a totally different Greek word for "inn." When the Magi visit Jesus, they enter the house in Matthew's gospel, so it was definitely a house there in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. So, it's not that his relatives were not hospitable because that would be wrong in their culture; it was just too crowded. They seemed to care, but there wasn't much room for Jesus. And in the end, of course, the only room the world would really have for Jesus would be on a cross. It would be on a cross. Our savior could not have come to us any lower, traveling poor, fit into the worst accommodations, lying in an animal trough for a bed, and he died as humbly for us as he was born.

When we see our savior like that, and Christmas reminds us of Jesus's humility, I think it should challenge us in our humility toward him. How much room do we really make for him in our hearts? How much have you crowded him out this year? And what has crowded him out in your life? The danger for many of us is we are so crowded today with so many things; we don't have room for what really matters. And Christmas is the time to think about what really matters. We can easily say, "Well, hey, I'm here at Christmas Eve service; I didn't stay home to bake the ham." Well, I served him in this way. Well, I attend church regularly. Well, I give a lot of contribution. But the danger is the more we start thinking that way, the more we start to crowd Jesus out with all the things we do for him. Even as religious people, we can do that. Christmas is a time to take a step back and think, "Is my life just full of too many things to be full of Jesus? We need a little bit of Christmas, I agree, but we need a whole lot of Jesus, and Christmas Day is the time to remember that.

If you're not a Christian, Christmas Day can be a time for you to seek him. I mean, think of the predictions we just read about, the exact time, the exact location that was prophesied about long ago. Maybe Christmas is a chance for you to really see that Jesus really is the Son of God, that he came not just to help you have a good holiday; he came to save your soul. Please study the Bible with our church and find how he can become not just a nice idea but the savior of your life.

And church, we've made room for Jesus, but have we started to push him out again? Why? Why are we crowding him out? Where are we going? What are we doing? If there's not enough room for Jesus to reign as Lord and savior of our lives, this is so easy to do. For me, you know, 2023, when I look back on it, you know, it was a very hard time to lead for many reasons, internally, externally, and just the culture that we live in, in this day and age. And for me, when things get hard, what I do is I put my head down and I get to work. That's just my nature, for better or for worse. And coming to the end of 2023, I had a lot of time to reflect as I lied on my bed sick with the flu. It was just so convicting to think how easy it is to crowd Jesus out in His name. Which, as a leader in the church, I can easily do that. I can be like the priests in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. I've got important things to do, but there's the good right there that I should do, and I pass it up because I'm doing, quote unquote, more important things. I can easily be like Mary and Martha as Jesus goes to visit their house there in Bethany. You know what is Mary doing? She's running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to get the food prepared and have an awesome meal for Jesus. And what's Mary doing? She's just sitting at the feet of Jesus, not worried about the less important things. So, this Christmas is such an opportunity for me, and I hope it is for you, to take a step back, to slow down, and to learn to have that rhythm in our lives. And that's what I want to do in 2024. I want to have that Spirit every day, not just on the holidays. I want to have that rhythm in my week. I want to be like Mary, you know? I want to be like the Good Samaritan and stop what I think is really important and deal with what's right there in front of me in the Name of Christ.

Church friends, visiting, may Christmas help us to seek and find Our Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit wants us to see Christmas day was a day of days, a day foretold. The Holy Spirit wants us to see, like Simeon, the good news, the good news a savior has been born to you, a savior has been born to me. And that is the good news of Christmas. Amen. And you know, and again, practically to close out our time here, you know, I think one of the practical ways we can really know we're finding Jesus as our Savior and Lord is, do we have peace?

Life is a battle. I mean, CS Lewis said the Earth is just enemy-occupied territory, and so I think we want a false sense of peace sometimes. As Christians, we want everything to line up perfectly, and you know the Red Sea is spiritually parted, and the Christmas meal just comes together, and no one's fighting at the dinner table, and New Year's Eve is just full of fun, fireworks, and wondrous joy for the new year. That's what we all want, but we rarely get that because we are in a spiritual battle. You will get some moments of that in the next 24 hours, I hope and beyond, but you understand what I'm saying. But Jesus came as our peace plan, and He wants to use the church to bring that peace to the world.

I love what the Angels say there in verse 14: "Peace to those on whom His favor rests, peace to those on whom His favor rests." You want to see more peace in 2024? Well, we've got to continue to seek Him; we've got to continue to walk with Him; we've got to continue to be with Jesus. Christmas day is a chance for us to find that peace and to be reminded of that way of life that we can find in Christ, that we can be at war with whatever and we're going to be at times, but we can have peace in our hearts.

It's just an interesting time; 2024 is almost upon us. There's a war in the Middle East right now, a very serious one obviously, and still war in Ukraine. I was reading an article; Bethlehem is not even celebrating Christmas because it's in the West Bank, and the Christians are trying to be very sensitive to the Palestinians and what is going on, which I thought was very kind. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, he ministered under and opposed Hitler's terrible rise in Germany, and he eventually lost his life in that opposition. He wrote this during some of those dark days in Germany about the beautiful light, the beautiful peace that Christmas Day can bring, and I'll close with this, but we've got to see it, we've got to see Jesus, we've got to see this day for what it is.

He says this, and I hope I can see it this way: "And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, security in abandonment. No evil can befall us, whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives."

Let's find the spirit of Christmas as we close out 2023 and look for that incredible faith and power that only Jesus can bring. An incredible ease that we won't just find at Christmas but all the days of our lives as we follow Him as Lord and Savior. Let's go ahead and pray, and we'll close out with some announcements and one more song. Please pray with me.

Father, we thank you that we can slow down and reflect. I pray, God, for those in the room today who are suffering, maybe they feel lonely or they feel hopeless or they feel dark. I pray that they can see the light of Jesus in the story of His birth, that they can see the love of Jesus in the ultimate birth that led to a death that He died for them, that they can live a new life, that they can find life in Him. I pray, God, that people today can find the light of Christmas if they're feeling dark.

I pray, God, for those of us who are comfortable, maybe on this Christmas Eve, help us be humble and hungry for more of you. Help us not crowd out Jesus like they did in Bethlehem. Help us to bring Him back to the center of our lives. And for those in this room, God, who don't yet know Jesus as Lord, I pray, God, today they will seek Him, they will ask to study the Bible with our church, and they will seek Him, God, and find Him as He is not far from each one of us, as the Christmas story tells us.

God, we love you, we thank you so much for this time. Bless everyone's travels and plans this holiday season. Bless the end of 2023, bring us a faithful and peaceful 2024. We love you, God, we thank you, pray this in Jesus' name, amen.