Now there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks by night. And suddenly the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were paralyzed. The angel said fear not I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Now this will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. Then suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest!”
We began a journey on Christmas Eve. The journey begins and it seems like everyone wants to go and see Jesus. The promised Savior born and suddenly the angels in heaven come down to earth and they’re so excited that they go tell the shepherds that we’ve all gotta go see this thing that has happened. Then the star in the sky signals people from thousands of miles away. Shepherds, angels, priests, the Magi, it feels like everyone wants to see Jesus. God’s promise fulfilled is the draw and man and angel alike come together with excitement.
If you’ve ever been in your car on I 95 on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, you know that you are clearly not alone. The opportunity to spend a few days somewhere else and leave this area or a while is one that many many people share at exactly the same time and so the crown on the interstate builds.
If you’ve ever attempted to go to Potomac Mills on the day after Thanksgiving you know well that the allure of the discounted good is one that draws a crowd together well.
Jesus started out life bringing excited crowds together and he doesn't miss a beat once he is in ministry. The Gospels tell us that the crowds around Jesus as he moved from place to place preaching and teaching grew and grew. The people saw Jesus as a powerful prophetic preacher. They saw Jesus cleanse the unclean, befriend the lonely, heal the sick, cast out demons, and leave every place he went better than he found it. So the crowd looking for their own miracle, or their own cleansing or a message that once again restored their longing heart grew and grew. Jesus was again, just like his birth, the draw.
The crowds around Jesus built and built right up until, well, yesterday. As he enters Jerusalem, it seems as if the whole world comes out to celebrate him and follow him. Then he teaches day after day in the temple and the crowds were right there. THe excitement must have been simply amazing.
Then he is arrested, and the crowds are nowhere to be found. The disciples try and defend him but quickly scatter, and the once celebrated always followed Jesus, is alone. He’s alone on trial as he is surrounded with a crowd once again, but instead of “Hosanna”, now they shout “crucify him” He is alone as he is beaten. He’s alone as he carries the cross. He is alone as he is nailed to the cross and is mocked and his closest friends are in secret and largely far off. He is even alone, more alone than we could ever possibly imagine, when he cries out my god my god why have you forsaken me? He is alone as even the unity of the trinity seems lost.
You know right from the beginning, God says it’s not good for man to be alone. He knows that perhaps our greatest fear is being on our own. He knows that we are never more alone when we cave to temptation and we sin, because in sin we are believing that we know best and we push God away. So if we look inward and find perhaps that one sin that we struggle to let go of, in that sin, we feel alone.
Jesus took with him to the cross all the sin of all the world. He was alone with the complete sum of the world’s brokenness. In Jesus words we see what that sin did to him. It left him alone.
As we conclude our text on this day, Jesus is right there, all alone. He lays in the tomb alone in death. In fact I think one of the things that we fear most about the idea of death is that it looks like the ultimate example of being alone.
You know there is a longstanding Jewish tradition that dictates that when you visit a grave you leave a stone behind. In fact in Jesus day already these stone piles were serving as headstones or markers where nothing else could be afforded or was available. The general idea is that the grave is one lonely place and it gets perhaps a little less lonely is your presence is marked with a stone, something solid, something lasting...but still lonely.
Jesus has one more thing to say as he hangs alone on the cross. It is finished. This changes life and death. This looks back on our sins which remind us the we could have, should have, ought to, and “It is finished looks back” at the loneliness of the law and instead it is finished sees the Gospel. And the Gospel says DONE.
Now our tradition is a little bit different than stones to mark a grave. We mark the graves often with a carving or a shape that looks like the cross. The cross is the final place where Jesus, abandoned by nearly everyone hung his head all alone and died. It was then, the ultimate symbol of loneliness. The cross is now though, a marker in time and space that has redefined life and death. Now we no longer go to the grave lonely and alone, we go to the grave in the arms of Jesus, who carries you resurrected to heaven. It’s there that we see, we are never really alone. In fact if you were the only person who ever lived he would have suffered and died just the same to change life and death for you. Now in death we are not alone, we are drawn closer to Jesus than ever before, because of his lonely work on this day, changed everything out of love for you.