Christmas, 2020

Ephesians 2:19,  “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

One of the many new realities this year has been social distancing. It has affected everything from schools to businesses to churches to stores.

What is called social distancing mostly refers physical distancing. Most socializing almost always involves physical proximity and it is physical closeness that can lead to the spread of the virus.

But there are other kinds of distancing. Spiritual distancing is also a reality. It’s very simple. God is holy and perfect. We are sinners. We are all infected with the virus of sin. No matter where a person is in the universe, sin causes the greatest distance that can be.

One of the ways to deal with distancing is to wear a mask. Our health care workers are able to get close to those with COVID because they are wearing masks and lots of other protective equipment. Sometimes the virus still gets through so we continue to pray that God would protect our health care workers.

Sometimes we get the idea that if we just wear the right mask, we can hide from God, keep God at a distance. If we just have a nice enough mask, enough protection, we can hide the guilt that our sins always cause.

But God sees right through all the masks we wear to hide our sin and guilt.

The Good News is that, because of his love for us, God could not accept the spiritual distancing caused by sin so he sent his Son. Through Jesus’ death on the cross our sins are removed so God is no longer distant from us. Instead he adopts us as his beloved children.

Only on the cross can we see the full impact of our sins. Our sins are not just minor infractions that can be overlooked or covered up with a self-made mask. Our sins caused the death of Jesus on the cross.

But he died willingly for us because he loves us. And it all began when he took on our human flesh and was born in Bethlehem. The whole purpose in Jesus being born was so that he could die for us on the cross.

I read somewhere that some people are not that upset that they will not be getting together with family for the holidays this year because there is always tension when the family gets together.

I would say in all my years of ministry, sadly, one of the biggest changes I have noticed is the prevalence of family strife. Of course family strife has always been around – there’s plenty of it mentioned in the Bible – but it just seems to be more common these days.

How much impact would it have on our families and communities if everyone knew that in Christ their sins were forgiven? How much impact would it have in our families and communities if everyone looked at each other as someone for whom Christ died?

As you know, if you are of the same family, and no one in the family has COVID, you don’t have to wear masks. Through Christ we become family members of God so we do not have to wear masks when we are in Christ.

As it says above: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19.

Since in Christ we are members of the household of God, we sinners don’t need a mask to be in God’s presence.

With our COVID masks, as soon as we encounter someone outside of our immediate family we need to put on a mask. Sometimes Christians get the idea that since we are Christians we need to keep separate from the rest of the world so they don’t somehow infect us.

That is not true at all. Yes, we still need to be diligent about wearing our COVID masks, but the Good News of Christmas is meant to be shared with all. It was from the very beginning as heard again about the shepherds telling the Good News of Christ’s birth.

Luke 2:17–18 “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

Rather than worrying about getting infected from unbelievers, we need to infect them with the unlimited love of God in Jesus.

But it also needs to be pondered. After we are told that the shepherds told the Good News we are told that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The Bible never tells us anything unless it is important. So just as it is important to tell the Good News as the shepherds did, it is also important to treasure and ponder the Good News in our hearts. Let it sink deeply into us. Through Jesus we sinners don’t have to hide or wear a mask with God. We are full members of the household of God.

In our hectic, busy world we could say, “Who has time to sit quietly and ponder anything?” Well, Mary had just traveled to Bethlehem, been sent to a stable to stay, given birth and been visited by shepherds. If she had time to ponder surely we do too.

The Savior’s birth that we celebrate tonight is the beginning of the greatest coming together of all time. God and sinners are reconciled through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. Let us ponder this Good News and tell it to the world.

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