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Lessons for December 24 (On ZOOM) and 25, 2020 (Recorded), The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) 

Christmas Eve

The name Isaiah means "The Lord saves," a fitting description of the contents of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which deals with God's sovereignty, judgment and restoration of Israel and the world. It is named after Isaiah, a prophet who lived in the late 8th century B.C.E., and who was the author of the first thirty-nine chapters. Most scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was composed and edited over three or four major periods over several hundred years. All of the various authors attempt to persuade their readers to repent and choose justice and righteousness. As proclaimed throughout the book, the Lord's desire is not punishment but restoration. In Christmas Eve's reading from Isaiah, we again hear the promise of restoration through the new king, which in "real time" probably heralded the coming of King Hezekiah to the throne of Judah, but prophetically pointed to the coming of the King of Kings who would restore his creation and bring healing and peace to his people.

Isaiah 9:2-7: 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The Gospel of Luke was probably written down between 80 and 90 C.E, but there are indications that it was recounted orally for many years before that. It would have been as easy in ancient times, and perhaps more so given the Greek and Roman theater tradition, to have staged a Nativity play or tableau as a way to share the Gospel. It is thought that Luke and the Book of Acts were written by the same person, traditionally Luke the physician and companion of Paul, but there's really nothing other than the name Luke on which to base that; and it was common in ancient times, and understood by their readers, for authors to attribute their writings to people of note. It is likely that the author was an educated Jew who had become a follower of Christ. He or she certainly takes pains to show how the beliefs and prophecies of the Jews had pointed to the coming of the Messiah. The leading characters, including a courageous young woman named Mary, or Mariam, are all faithful Jews who know the promises of God and are ready when he returns to dwell with his people and usher in his Kingdom on earth. Mary's son, Jesus, the promised Messiah, faced down Rome, the domination system of the day (which had already destroyed the temple by the time the Gospel was written). Though he seemed to have been defeated on the cross, believers understand that when he cried out "It is finished!" Rome was finished, crushed; and not only Rome, but all evil, unjust systems, once and for all. Even the final enemy, death, depicted in the ancient world as a fierce beast who swallowed up the souls of the dead, has been swallowed up by the one it sought to destroy on the cross. Luke reassures us that no matter what happens in our lives, however bleak the outlook or frightening the world situation, the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. He also reminds us that, as citizens of that Kingdom, we are to worship God and God alone and practice justice and mercy.

Luke 2:1-20:

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Christmas Day

Luke 1:26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 2:1-7; Luke 2:8-12; Luke 2:13-14; Luke 2:15-20 (see above)