Sermon for Christmas Day

Text: Luke 2:10-11
The angel said to them (the shepherds), "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David's town your Saviour was born—Christ the Lord!”

A baby brings change

Bret Harte wrote a short story entitled The Luck of Roaring Camp**.  In 1850 Roaring Camp was the meanest, toughest of all mining camps that boasted that there were more murders and thefts than anywhere else.  In amongst all the men there was one woman.  She died while giving birth to a baby boy.

The story goes something like this. The men put the baby in a candle box, wrapping him in some old red flannel.  When they looked at him, they decided that it didn’t look right, so they sent one of the men into town with the task of buying the best cradle, lace, blankets and whatever a baby needs, no matter the cost. 

The men decided to adopt the baby and held a kind of christening service and named him “Tommy Luck”.  From that moment things began to change. They noticed how filthy the cabin was where Tommy was placed with the miner who took on being his “mother”.  So those hardened, tough men got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floor, they white-washed the walls, fixed what need fixing, hung curtains and brought in new furniture to match the rosewood cradle. 

Then they realised that babies need a lot of sleep and so they had to stop the loud talking, arguing, and brawling.  They had to change their drinking and smoking habits and abandon all kinds of profanity and expletives.

The miners regarded changing shirts or washing themselves as totally unnecessary.  Very soon, the general store brought in new stocks of soap, shaving gear, after-shave, mirrors, new shirts, and the miners appeared every afternoon in a clean shirt and shining faces to hold the baby.

During the day they took the baby boy and placed him on a blanket and put flowers around him near to the place where they were panning for gold.  It became legendary how one tiny baby boy had brought about so much change to the meanest and toughest bunch of men.

Today we have come here to celebrate the birth of another baby boy and his impact on the Roaring Camp of our world.  His birth was announced to another group of rough and tough men who lived on the edge of society and the news of the birth of this baby changed their lives forever.  An angel announced to these shepherds that a child was born who “will bring great joy to all people”.  Unlike the baby born in the mining camp, the birth of this child was for all people; he was born to bring peace and joy into the hearts and lives of all people on earth.  Because of this one event, in a humble stable, in a tiny town in some faraway Roman province over two thousand years ago, the world has never been the same.

We are living in our own Roaring Camp. 
We have seen evil do its worst as 3 people were gunned down for no good reason – 2 police officers and the other a neighbour. 
We see evil do its work as conflict continues in various parts of the world and people are made homeless as bombs rain down on their homes. 
We see evil at work as 50 million men, women and children are forced into slavery in our world today.
We see evil at work when the most vulnerable – children, the hungry, the refugees, the weak and dying are denied basic needs because of greedy and uncaring governments.

We have our own Roaring Camp here in our own country.
We are aware of the ongoing and increasing amount of violence in homes where the safety of the innocent is placed at risk.
We are aware of the increased dependency on drugs and alcohol, the frequency of sexual abuse and the failure to pass on to the younger generations respect and care for others and their property.
We are aware of the way sin crabs a hold of us and we become involved in saying and doing things we know are not God’s ways.

Today we celebrate God taking the extreme measure of sending his Son to save us all from the roaring mess we find ourselves in. 
At Christmas we note that God is serious about sin and its fatal consequences.
Christmas highlights the aching heart of God for his people as he sees them suffering the effect of sin every day of their lives.
Christmas tells us that God rolls up his sleeves and is ready to get down and dirty and do something about the horrible things that evil is doing in the lives of his children.
Christmas highlights the overwhelming love that God has for us and is ready to do anything to save Roaring Camp from itself.

So God acts – but in a strange way.
He does something no-one expected.
A virgin gives birth to a son in a little insignificant town. She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in manger in an animal shed. God came from heaven and was laid in a manger of hay.  That sounds almost too ridiculous.  God gets serious about sin, and he comes as a fragile baby!!!

We need to listen carefully to the message of the angel to the shepherds. “Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David's town your Saviour was born—Christ the Lord!” Remembering that shepherds were on the bottom rung of society at that time; they lived outdoors, they were poor, they were rugged types and probably a bit smelly; they were the first invited to see God’s answer to sin and so they went to see the baby the angel spoke about. 

If they had any doubts about this baby being God’s Saviour and the joy he will bring to all people, those doubts were completely wiped away.  We know because on their way back to their flocks they knocked on doors and tapped on windows, singing and telling everyone the amazing things they had seen and heard. 

Unlike the cute baby born at Roaring Camp who moved the men to change their outward appearance and manners, God had to do something far more drastic to bring about change in the hearts of his people who needed not just an external renewal – a soap and water renewal – but needed a deep down clean, in fact a complete makeover or regeneration. 

Talking about sin is not a popular subject especially when it comes to homing in on ourselves and how often evil takes control of our lives.  The evil in our hearts wants each of us to be selfish, greedy, one-eyed, care little for anyone else except ourselves.  This nastiness in us is so deep rooted that simply a cute baby will not cut it, not even a story about a cute baby in a manger in a cowshed, if that’s all Christmas is about. There must be more.

You may have heard about the play that asks the question, “What did Joseph do the day after Christ was born?”

The play imagines that since Joseph is a carpenter, he finds some wood, and begins making a crib for Jesus. And as he does, he ponders over what had happened the night before – the way people turned them away as he tried to find a place for Mary who was already in labour, Mary giving birth in an animal shelter and then finding a feeding trough in which to place their newborn baby.  He asks the question, “If they treated him like this when he is just a baby, how will they treat him when they find out he is the Son of God?”

The lights suddenly go off, and all you can hear is Joseph’s hammer hitting against nails and wood and the shadow of a cross flashes across the stage. How would they treat the Son of God?  Soon enough the sound of a hammer striking nails would again be heard as nails pierce his hands and feet.

From the very beginning of the Christmas story the shadow of the cross falls across the manger.  The manger and the cross belong together.  God made flesh in the baby of Bethlehem died for you and me.     

He died to give each of us the peace that comes from knowing that our sins are forgiven and the comfort that comes from knowing that beyond death is life in heaven forever. 

He died to change us – to give us new life, a changed heart that is loving, kind, understanding and forgiving, to live as God designed us to live. 

In a way the story about Roaring Camp is a parable about how the baby born in a stable of very humble circumstances can change the hearts of every person.  “Tommy Luck” changed the lives of each individual miner.  They changed their lifestyle, their habits, their behaviour because of the baby but some things didn’t change.  They became quite wealthy through finding more gold but selfishly kept everyone else out of “their” valley. Inside they were still greedy and selfish, though outwardly they seemed more caring and likeable.

In a way, the story about Roaring Camp and the men there, is a story about God’s grace, regeneration and the change that comes through knowing God’s grace in the child of Bethlehem, and that even though we are made new, we are still sinners. 

That’s us!  We are in this world – yes we are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection but we are still part of the sinful world that insists on trying to drag us back into evil, into selfishness, uncaring attitudes, unkindness, dismissing God and fearing death. 

With empty hands and sorrowful hearts, we come to the manger.  We kneel before the Saviour, we gaze on God’s love for us, and he fills our hearts with joy.  He has overcome everything that drags us down and fills us with guilt and regret and fear.  Jesus gave his life to give us forgiveness.  He died to reassure us every day that he loves us and no sin, no sorrow, no harm, no power can come between us and him – God coming from heaven to earth and taking on the frailty of humanity is our guarantee that God’s love for you and me is sure and true.

The story of Roaring Camp is about the change brought into the lives of the miners through the chance birth of a little boy.  Christmas is about God’s much greater and more extensive plan to bring change into our lives through the birth of his Son.

This baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger has come to bring God’s peace, God’s joy and hope to all people.

** You can read The Luck of Roaring Camp online at The Luck of Roaring Camp (

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

25th December 2022

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