Saturday, December 24, 2005

Sermon: Christmas Eve

24 Dec 2005 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: various

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

All of history is divided into before Christmas and after Christmas. We use the terms BC and AD to indicate whether a year is Before Christ, or Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord). Even in non-Christian countries this convention is followed. In places that are outright hostile to the Christian faith, the same numbers for years are used – history is still divided between before Christmas and after Christmas, yet the artificial terms Before the Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE) are used. They think they’re being clever in removing Jesus from the very reason we divide history this way.

But the joke is on them. For there is some divine truth in their terminology! On the first Christmas, at the birth of our Lord, when God took on human flesh – this is indeed the beginning of the “common era.” For now, God and man have something in common that they did not have in the BC era – humanity. Human flesh. For almighty God “put our human vesture on and came to us as Mary’s Son.”

This commonality, this communion between God and man, between God and us, is especially remarkable because we had rejected God. Eve gave in to the serpent’s temptation while Adam watched and later participated. Adam and Eve wanted something that was not theirs: commonality with God. They wanted to bridge the gap between the almighty Lord and lowly humanity by their own deceitful act. They wanted commonality on their own terms. And since that day, we have been a fallen race, “banished children,” people sitting in darkness, cursed, and mortal.

And how does God react? In the fullness of time, in the reign of Herod in Bethlehem, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” He, the “Savior of our fallen race,” the “brightness of the Father’s face.” And thanks to that light, we no longer sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. We, “the people that in darkness sat, a glorious light have seen, the light has shined on them who long in shades of death have been.”

Instead of destroying us “poor miserable sinners,” God became one of us, taking the name “Jesus” – “because he will save his people from their sins.” By our sins, we have made ourselves enemies of God. And the “stump of Jesse,” the one born in royal David’s city, has come to crush the head of his enemy. But he has not come to crush us! For we are no longer his enemies – because we have commonality, we have communion, we share our flesh with Immanuel – “God with us.” He has come to make peace with us, and to make war against the devil. He has come to crush the serpent’s head, and to undo the curse of darkness mankind had been under those many millennia before Christ, before the common era, before God took flesh to become our savior.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters: this is why we celebrate Christmas! This is why the devil seeks to destroy Christmas! The incarnation of God into human flesh is the greatest event in history – it separates every human endeavor into two halves – and it made commonality, union, communion with God possible – on his terms, not on ours.

In ancient prayer books, four words in the Nicene Creed were printed in capital letters: “And was made man.” For centuries, Christians around the world would kneel for these four words. “And was made man” is the greatest of all mysteries. This divine commonality that unites God and man to where they can never be separated again. And we continue to kneel before the Lord as did the magi presenting gifts, only we, dear friends, kneel before the Lord to receive his gifts – the gifts of his very flesh and blood, the gift of his humanity we take into our own bodies. God not only became human, but man became divine.

So celebrate the mystery with joy, feasting, worship, commonality with those with whom you share flesh and blood. And remember that you not only share flesh and blood with your kith and kin, but also with God himself, whose very flesh and blood becomes your flesh and blood today and every day when the divine commonality of God and man is celebrated through a holy and mysterious communion. Jesus is still incarnate, still among us, and still saves us from our sin and darkness, from our separation from God, and from death itself.

“Haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe the Son of Mary.” We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Student Daniel Berg said...

This is my first time trying this blogging (not even sure if 'blog' has a verb form) so please bear with me. I read your Christmas Eve sermon for 2005. My name is Daniel Berg. I am a Seminary student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and am currently beginning a Dogmatics paper on the distinction between the incarnation and humiliation of Christ. I am trying to find any sermons having to do with these topics. I was wondering if you had any advice as to what books to read or places to find good sermons on the web (I am extremely internet illiterate). I enjoyed your sermon very much. Thank you for posting it. I trust that the Lord has been with you since Katrina and I pray that he continues to support your ministry.