You are loved.

Everyone we have ever known, everything we have ever learned, every place we have ever been and every experience we have ever had would not have happened if it were not for our birth.

We can say the same thing about Jesus.  His crucifixion took all the sin of the world on his own shoulders as a sacrifice and offering unto God. His Resurrection, the day Our Lord walked out of that tomb, proved to his disciples and to the world his true identity and the power of God over sin and death. Everything that Jesus did in his earthly Ministry was of immense importance, but all of them depend first on his birth.

Everything has to start at its beginning and what a beginning we celebrate tonight and tomorrow. This birth changes the world through a dynamic inversion of authority, worth and love.

The inversion of authority is illustrated by Luke through Augustus Caesar, who established himself as the first Roman Emperor and proclaimed himself divine. Augustus rules over their entire known world with the greatest, most efficient and effective army their world had seen at his disposal.

Contrast that with Jesus, a helpless infant in a food trough. As the world sees him, he has no power, no authority. He’s helpless. Yet we know he has armies of angels and the power of Almighty God. He is the most powerful person ever to be born. He won’t control the world, but he will change the world, including eventually the Roman Empire.

To get at the inversion of worth, we must remember that this isn’t just about armies. Roman civilization, including engineering and governance and the economics of trade and taxation were and still are astounding. It was the apex of everything in history to that point, which produced wealth on an unprecedented scale. Augustus held control over all of it.

By the world’s eye, Jesus does not come into the world with any sense of worth. His parents are not married, and that is a big social concern for them.  He is born in a stable.  It was likely the lower-level of a standard Palestinian home.  They would have the animals on the ground level, bringing them inside at night for safety and security.  Nevertheless, it is where the animals belong, not people.  Probably doesn’t smell great. Jesus is in a livestock feeding trough in a small town because that’s the best his family can do.

And yet we know he is the most worthy, the most precious child ever born. He will give the world, the entire creation, his eternal gifts of grace, peace and hope. Augustus died and his empire crumbled over time, but Jesus’ kingdom is forever. Forevermore, when people call upon Jesus, he will be in the midst of them.

The biggest inversion is love. It goes well beyond emperors and empires.

Jesus clearly has a hard start.  But he is also clearly loved.  Mary loves him as a new mother should, and then some.  She knows how very special her little boy is.  His adoptive father, Joseph, loves him as well. He is watching over this baby and the Lord’s hand is clearly guiding him.

With most births all the love and attention is focused on the baby.

No crib for his bed, our little Lord Jesus is indeed in the feeding trough.  This helps the shepherds find him because not many newborns would be in the trough.

The shepherds, and I think we should stipulate they are good shepherds, the shepherds come as instructed by the heavenly host.  And as the angels said, there is great joy.  Great joy. That joy rings across the centuries into our own times.  This is the most celebrated birth in the history of the world.  Oh come, let us adore him! Christians around the globe worship and praise our God and king this night.  People exchange gifts with each other.  People give gifts to people they don’t even know. Some do anonymous acts of kindness. Charity spikes all over. It’s a big deal when you think about it; lights, decorations, stores actually close, people traveling everywhere. All because of, and focused on, one little baby.

And here we find the greatest inversion.

If there is one thing you can be sure of this night, it is that you are loved.

No matter what else may have happened in your life.  No matter how many times people have let you down, especially the people closest to you, you are loved.

No matter how hard things are right now – and we are surrounded by struggle and strife and death all the time – you are loved. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

You may have nodded off five minutes ago, you may not really grasp even a wisp of what I am saying, you may not understand what true love is.  It doesn’t matter.  You are loved.

Maybe you cannot see much hope that tomorrow will be any better or different than today – you are loved.

And last but most important of all – those who are not loved as they should be, people who suffer abuse and neglect and all the other evils on this earth, are loved by their creator.

Every person who has ever lived, every life that has struggled to exist for even a moment, every life known to God is loved by and through this little baby, this Jesus whose birth we celebrate tonight.

Do you love him?  Do you love him?  Do you love him?  He loves you more!

The heart that gives us the Christ-child is a heart like no other.  God’s heart loves you like no other and calls you to share that love like no other.  You know there are people out there tonight who do not know how much they are loved.  Who will tell them if not us?  Who will show them if not us?

Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift.  He is given for everyone. 

O Come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

AMEN