Christmas 2022. Jesus makes the difference

The annual open-air Carols by Candlelight service had been disrupted by a thunderstorm. Everyone moved into the Church. The service required the participation of a number of folks to take the scripture readings.

The minister welcomed everyone and opened in prayer. At the end of the prayer, he quietly moved into the background, without introducing the first reader, who silently came forward to take the reading.

A little boy in the front row of the congregation opened his eyes and in shocked dismay turned to his mother and said, Mummy, where’s God gone?”

When we think of how highly commercialized Christmas has become, one might well ask, “Where has God gone?”

Carol Service – Photo by Blue Ox Studio:

Matthew 1:18-25


Because of God’s amazing love for our fallen world He sent His Son Jesus Christ, to invade our world. His coming made a significant difference to the lives of many at the time.

  • To a young engaged couple – Joseph and Mary.

The news of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy threw Joseph’s life into turmoil. Our loving God put Joseph’s mind at rest about marrying Mary, by sending an angel to explain Mary’s pregnancy.

Mary probably dreamed of a happy married life, with Joseph, her carpenter husband, in a comfortable furnished home. Her unexpected pregnancy certainly changed things.

Emperor Augustus’ census forced Joseph and his young wife to make the long tiring journey to Bethlehem at the height of her pregnancy, where there was no accommodation available at the local inn.

The pregnancy, birth and infancy of Jesus certainly made a difference in the lives of his earthly parents.


  • There were the Shepherds

Out in the fields the  shepherds received a glorious heavenly visitor with the news that a Saviour had been born.

Later in Bethlehem they found the couple with their special child. “As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about Him. “ (Luke 2:20 CEV)

For some time into the future their lives would have been different as they excitedly told their story.

  • Also the Magi

They spotted a new star, which for them indicated the birth of the king of the Jews. They put everything on hold. Packed their bags and headed for Jerusalem to worship this newborn king. A journey from the east which would have taken them almost two years.

For the Magi the birth of Christ made a huge difference. It called for a sacrifice of both time and treasure.

He also made a difference for: Simeon,  and Anna as we saw in Advent 1.

Christ’s coming definitely made a vast difference in the lives of all of the folk involved in Christ’s birth and infancy.


 Throughout His three year ministry Jesus continued to make a difference in the lives of those He came into contact with. Sick were healed, dead were restored to life, and many demon possessed were set free.

The fishermen, Peter, James and John and others, became “Fishers of men”.

Tax Collector, Matthew was transformed from the writer of tax records to the recorder of Jesus’ teachings and miracles.

Another Tax Collector, Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and return fourfold any money that he had extracted dishonestly.

A prostitute, Mary Magdalene turned from her sinful lifestyle and became a faithful follower of Jesus.

Christ’s coming made a difference in the lives of many who met Him during His earthly ministry.


Down the years Jesus has made a difference in the lives of  many others.

A diving accident in 1967 left Joni Erickson Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Through faith in Jesus she has overcome her handicap.

Niki Cruz, a former gang leader opened his life to Jesus and now has a successful ministry to gangland youth.

Charles Colson jailed for Watergate-related charges. Became a committed Christian, a leader in the Christian right movement, and author of at least 20 books.

As they have opened their lives to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, Christ has continued to make a difference down the centuries  


How about you?

  • Is He someone you acknowledge or greet only once in a while?

  • Is He someone you perhaps only call out to in times of trouble and crisis?

  • Are you a truly different PERSON because of Him?

God has not gone, as the little boy thought, God has come! He came into our world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ – Emmanuel – God with us! He continues to ring the changes in the lives of those who put their trust in Him.

As we move on from Christmas, make sure that the celebration of  Jesus’s birth has made a difference in your life. In the year that lies ahead don’t  live  your life as if He had never come.

Advent 4. The Angel’s Story

 The fourth Advent candle represents love. In some traditions peace. It is called the “Angel’s Candle.” 

The group ABBA sang a song titled “I believe in angels”.

Do you believe in angels?

Did you know that there are 196 references to angels throughout scripture commencing in Genesis and ending in Revelation?

Angels played an important role in the Christmas story as we saw in our last session.

Luke 1:26-35: Matthew 1:18-25

Photo by cottonbro studio:


We know from traditional readings at Christmas time of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds out in the fields. But angels were involved right from the the very conception of the Christ child.

An angel appeared to an unmarried teenage girl to inform her that she was to become pregnant. She would give birth to a son. Her child would be special, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,…” (Luke 1:32 NET)

She was understandably confused because she had not been intimate with any man.

The angel explains, “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 the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NET)

Ladies how would you react to such a message?

Mary’s response to this unexpected news was simply amazing. “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NET)


When Mary’s fiancé, Joseph became aware of his beloved’s pregnancy he was also confused.  But, “Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. ” (Matthew 1:19 NET)

Once again God sent an angel to explain to Joseph what had happened. Whereas Mary actually saw an angel, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream”. (Matthew 1:20a NET)

The angel explains. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20b NET)

The words of the prophet Isaiah were about to be fulfilled, (Isaiah 7:14)  “Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 NET)

When Joseph woke up his confusion had been cleared. So he went ahead and married Mary. However, they did not have marital relations until she gave birth to a son, whom Joseph named Jesus.


When Jesus was almost two years old they were visited in their home in Bethlehem by a group of wise men from the east. Unfortunately they had come via King Herod in Jerusalem. When they did not report back to him he sent his soldiers to kill all children under the age of two.

Once again God sent an angel to this special couple. “…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13 NET)

Joseph packed up their belongings and he and his little family fled to Egypt where they stayed until after Herod’s death. Then “an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream….Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19,20 NET)

Angels certainly played an important role in communicating God’s will to this young couple.


When God has an important message for us he pulls out the stops to make His will absolutely clear. God has a plan for each of our lives and it is His responsibility to make His will known to us. It is our responsibility to then obey.

Our passages also show God’s protective love of His own. At times we wonder at God’s protection when confronted by alarming situations. But we need to be thankful that because He loves us there are many other situations that God actually shields us from.

Within a few days we again celebrate Christ’s birth. Close the session by joining in a carol about the angels—Angels from the realms of glory.

And if you haven’t been following this series, you might like to take a look at the other posts.

Advent 3. Shepherds receive joyful news

On the third Sunday of Advent, a pink candle symbolizes Joy. This candle is also called the ‘Shepherds Candle’. 

Luke 2:8-20

Photo by Brigitte Tohm


If you wanted people to know that the promised Messiah had been born, you would surely choose the most influential person you could think of, wouldn’t you?  How amazing that God choose to share the joyful news of the Saviour’s birth first with a group of lowly shepherds.

Apart from certain Old Testament heroes very few people had actually seen an angel. Then one night an angel appeared to a small group of shepherds.


In those days, religious people for various reasons despised the shepherds:

  • They were regarded as spiritually unclean. Because their sheep required their constant attention they were unable to observe all the details of the ceremonial law. They could not observe the meticulous hand washings, rules and regulations.

  • They were regarded as unreliable witnesses and so were not allowed to give evidence before a judge.

On the positive side, these men and boys may have been special shepherds. There’s a strong possibility that they were actually caring for sheep, destined to be sacrificed in the temple.

It is a beautiful thought that the shepherds who perhaps cared for the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


Those shepherds may well have had a special relationship with God. David was a shepherd boy. He wrote many of his psalms out on the hillside, watching his father’s sheep, aware of God’s presence.

Regardless of whether they were in charge of the temple flocks or not, those shepherds would still have been regarded by most as the lowest of the low. Yet God chose them—despite their lack of education, and their poor living conditions. He gave them the amazing honour of being messengers of good news, in fact the best news ever.


Suddenly, unexpectedly “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them…” The suddenness and splendour of this appearance threw the shepherds into a state of panic, but the angel was quick to set their minds at rest, “Don’t be afraid!”

Having given them the good news of Christ’s birth the angel went on to give them a sign’ which would help them to recognize the baby. In Bethlehem that night there were probably several newborn babies “wrapped in cloths” but there would only be one “lying in a manger.”

A heavenly choir praising God joined that one angel. In those days when a boy was born, the local musicians gathered at the house to greet his birth with simple music. Isn’t it wonderful to think that a heavenly choir took the place of local musicians when Jesus was born? That the angels sang songs for Jesus when the earthly singers were not available!


When the angels had left them the shepherds were quick to act. “They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word…The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…”

The joy of having seen the Christ child was something they could not be bottled up—they “spread the word.”


God has a message for each one of us. He will use whatever means necessary to get that message across to us. But we have to be listening!

  • We have to be reading His Word for Him to speak through it.

  • We need to be in Christian company—listening to His chosen messengers.

  • We must spend time in prayer – and have times of quiet before God.

Does God want to speak to you today?  He certainly does.

Let’s make this Christmas season a special one—a time when we hear God speaking to us. Let’s be available, and listening, for His personal message to us this Christmas season. Like the shepherds let us be ready to respond.

In closing here’s a catchy song about the shepherds to sing along with—‘Shepherd’s Song’.

And if you haven’t been following this series, you might like to take a look at the other posts.

Advent 2. Joseph wondered why?

On the second Sunday of Advent, the Peace candle is lit. Some traditions call it the Faith candle. Like the first candle, it is also purple and is often referred to as the ‘Bethlehem Candle’.

Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7


Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus Christ appears only briefly in Scripture. Yet during his brief appearance he teaches us some important lessons about being a true follower of Christ.

Try to imagine what it must have been like to discover that the woman you to are intending to marry has become pregnant. And she claims that she had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

Though Joseph did find this story difficult to accept, the power of his love for Mary overcame the confusion in his mind. So out of love he decided to quietly call off the wedding. (Matthew 1:19 CEV)

God came to Mary’s rescue and sent an angel to confirm that Mary’s story was true. Only then did Joseph begin to experience peace of mind.

Truly our hearts will never be healthy and at peace unless we learn to accept, receive and abide in God’s unfailing love through total obedience. Share on X


In several places we read that Mary wondered at the things that were happening. (Luke 1:29; 2:19) Joseph must also have wondered and had a number of ‘Why?’ questions.

Why didn’t the Holy Spirit impregnate Mary after our marriage?

Legally Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death for being unfaithful to her betrothal vow. Instead he obeyed the angel’s instruction to Go ahead and marry her.


Eventually, when the dust had settled, a government decree required them to make a long tedious journey at the height of Mary’s pregnancy.

Why Lord, Why did Caesar Augustus’ decree have to coincide with the end of Mary’s pregnancy? 

Joseph and Mary made that five-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to discover that all available accommodation had been taken up because of the census. They ended up in a stable amongst the domestic animals.

It was probably a cold, damp, dark, dirty and unhealthy cave, which served as a stable for the innkeeper, as well as for his guest’s donkeys. A hollowed out feeding trough or manger, was the only available cradle for the newborn child.

 Why Bethlehem? And a stable of all places ?


Once the census was over Joseph was able to get more comfortable lodgings in Bethlehem. But their peace of mind was disturbed yet again.

Just short of their infant son’s second birthday they were visited by the Magi from the east with amazing gifts for the one born to be king – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Their visitors had no sooner departed when Joseph was warned by an angel of Herod’s assassination plot to kill their child and they were forced to flee to Egypt until after Herod’s death.

Why was Herod’s scheme not thwarted before he could implement it?


Though Joseph’s involvement in the nativity story was a brief one, he is a model to us of obedience.

  • When and angel gave him a message from God in a dream to marry Mary he was ready to obey.
  • When Jesus’ life was threatened by Herod’s assassination plot, he had another dream involving an angel and he immediately packed up his wife and son and headed for Egypt.
  • Yet a third time after Herod’s death he was instructed in a dream to return with his family to Galilee in Israel.

How often do we pay any attention to our dreams?

Joseph experienced peace each time he obeyed God’s warning.

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. (John 14:23 NET)

Joseph’s love for Mary and obedience to the will of God played a major role in the Christmas story.

In closing I invite you to sing along with the carol ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem.”