Friday Evening Christmas Communion - Sermon Notes:
Well, we are thick into the Christmas season. People are scurrying about trying to do their last-minute shopping. Some are trying to decide if they will give presents to every Aunt, Uncle, Cousin and half-cousin they have. Others have decided to just send gifts to their immediate family or draw names. And soon, when Christmas Day arrives, Mothers and Aunts and Grandmas and a few Dad’s and Uncles and Grandpas will begin working on Christmas dinner. Then, all over the World people will sit down to celebrate Christmas dinner. And all over the World most of them will have lost sight of the One whom their meal is all about.
I would like to retell a story that starts in a very similar way to those Christmas dinners coming. It begins with people who are eating a meal having lost sight of the one it remembers. But this meal will end far differently than so many Christmas dinners. The people at this meal will have an astonishing revelation of the one they celebrate.
This is the story of the First Supper.
It was dark. So dark they could barely see where they were going.
And the physical gloom was just part of the problem. As they walked, their hearts turned to recent events.
“Never thought we’d see such sights Cleopas”. The shorter one said. Cleopas didn’t reply. He was fighting to forget what he had seen, heard and experienced just days before. Unable to control his emotions Cleopas finally said. “What do we do now?
A quiet groan was his only answer.
As they left the city they habitually turned down the path toward home. They hardly noticed the way. And they noticed less as a stranger joined them. “May I walk with you?”
“Of course.” The two said little as each struggled with their thoughts. They did not know that the object of their grief walked beside them.
They should have recognized Him. “But their eyes were restrained so that they did not know Him.” As they grew comfortable with the stranger they began to review the horrible events of the weekend.
“. . . and, Cleo, can you believe Mary and His Mother? I swear they are having an emotional break down!”
“Probably true,” replied Cleopas, “They were among his closest. And of course his mother was affected.”
“Yes, and don’t forget what he did for Mary. How he changed lives.”
The stranger’s voice reminded them of His presence
“What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
They were stunned! “’Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have you not known the things that have happened there in these days?’”
What things?!! Was this man born yesterday? “’The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people. And how our priests and rulers crucified Him after condemning Him to death? But we were hoping that He would be the one to deliver Israel! Besides that, this is the third day since all these things took place. And now some of our women came running to us saying that they had seen angels who said he was alive And some of us went to the tomb and found it empty, just as they said. But they did not see Him.’”
The two hung their heads and continued on in silence. They really didn’t expect a reply from the stranger. But then: “’You foolish people. And so slow to believe the prophets. Wasn’t the Christ supposed to suffer these things and then enter into His glory?’”
At that moment, the Sun of Righteousness began to rise. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
Listening intently the two felt their hopes rise as their companion quoted the Scriptures. Familiar passages burst with new light as they were applied to their Lord. The Messiah was supposed to suffer! He would be a sheep who healed sheep by his wounds! Could it be? Dare they hope? Was this just a cruel trick?
As the sun arced down toward the Great Sea, they found themselves nearing home. They paused as their friend finished his thoughts. As they headed up their garden path the stranger turned to go on.
“No! Please. Won’t you stay with us?” Cleopas begged. And so He did.
Supper was simple. It was the feast of unleavened bread so they had brought leftovers from Passover. After everyone was seated they handed the bread basket to their guest. And then He did something they would never forget. Slowly, methodically, he began to break the bread.
“That’s funny,” Cleopas whispered. Didn’t the Master . . .”
His words were cut short as the man stretched out his hands for the blessing.
There was something so familiar about how He . . .
They both started back in astonishment! Wide eyed, they stared at the gaping wounds in His wrists. Then, for the first time that day, they looked into His eyes.
Those EYES! Those EYES, those EYES, those EYES.
“Then their eyes were opened.” And He was gone. All that was left was a basket of broken bread. Looking at each other in amazement they said,
“’Didn’t our hearts burn with us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened the scriptures to us?’” “We must tell the others!”
Moments later they were racing back the way they had come. They paid even less attention this time than before. Along narrow canyons and steep gullies they ran.
One would stumble and then the other would trip. They hardly cared. All they could do was rejoice as they rushed toward the City.
“He’s Alive! He is risen! He’s the Messiah!” They shouted to the stars.
And though they could not see Him, He was there. Protecting every fall and keeping every step as they carried the news to His friends.
He was invisible, but like never before, they saw Him. Soon they would tell the disciples how they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Soon they would complete that first supper with their Lord.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples symbols of Himself. But it took the First Supper for them to see him in those symbols. The first supper after the cross, that is. Today, as we struggle through the distractions of this Holiday, we come together to pause and remember. We break the bread and drink the wine that reminds us of the One we celebrate.
But what happens after tonight? Will go from here to fall right back into the hurry scurry realities of the season? Or will we find time to still break the bread.
The bread I’m talking about is found in His word. I’m speaking of the Bread from Heaven. Jesus Himself. Because it was the breaking of that bread that most truly opened his disciples eyes.
I encourage each of us to experience the same. Take time to walk with Jesus this Holiday season. Ask him to turn home with you. Allow him to open the Word and reveal Himself to you. Allow yourself to discover Him again, broken for you.
And so, tonight and in the coming days may our eyes too be opened in the breaking of the bread.
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