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And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  "And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger."  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Today, as we light the 4th Advent Candle, the Angel Candle, we celebrate the Angel's message and are reminded of God's love in sending His son. John wrote, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 KJV) Last week, as we lit the Shepherd's candle, we reflected upon the phrase, "for all the people." The good news that the Angels brought was intended for everyone-even the shepherds. Today we do not focus so much upon the intended recipients as we do the message itself-the message of love. It isn't exactly a Christmas Carol, but the final verse of "At Calvary" captures the message of the Angel's candle: "Oh, the love that drew salvations' plan! Oh, the grace that bro't it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary."
Yes, the hymn's focus is probably more appropriate for a Good Friday Sermon than a Christmas sermon, yet the "good news of great joy" was about a special birth that would lead to a special death. Later in the service we will further explore this truth as we consider the Magic of Christmas, but before we do, we're going to sing some Christmas Carols and rejoice in the "good news of great joy."
Personally, I'm not a big shopper. I'd rather click a mouse button and make a purchase over the Internet than stand in lines at stores, and yet, I love to go Christmas shopping. This year, Susan & I did quite a bit of shopping together, but I made several side trips on my own to buy gifts.
I've also savored every moment of our celebration here at the church and look forward to what is still to come. Our Angel Tree, birthday party for Jesus was the best yet. I love watching the prisoners' children come into our sanctuary and receive the gifts we gave them in the name of their parents and in the name of our Lord. And what about our Choir's ministry to us last week, wasn't it great? I also look forward to our Annual Deacon-led Christmas Eve service. I anticipate it being the highlight of my personal celebration.
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