Monday, December 24, 2007

Sermon: Christmas Eve (with Lessons and Carols)

24 December 2007 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Isa 7:10-14, Mic 5:2-4, Isa 9:2-7, Matt 1:18-25, Matt 2:1-12, John 1:1-14

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“In the beginning,” we are told in the Book of Genesis, “God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s how Scripture begins, the first verse of the first book. But we also know more about “the beginning” from St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning,” the Evangelist proclaims, “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The same Word through which God created all things is at the same time Himself God. He is the second person of God. He is the light that “shines in the darkness,” the Light through whom all things were made, but also through whom “all… might believe.”

For this “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!” In Bethlehem’s “dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light.” “Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.”

But the mighty Creator doesn’t come in a golden chariot with thousands of soldiers and weapons of mass destruction, rather He slips into our space and time as a humble baby. He is born not to a mighty queen in an opulent palace, but rather “away in a manger” to the one we hail as our “Most highly favored lady,” “gentle Mary” who meekly bows her head, whose soul magnifies the Lord and whose spirit rejoices in God her Savior.”

And this “Mighty God,” this “Everlasting Father,” this “Prince of Peace” who rules with “judgment and justice” is none other than the “little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” The very stars which were created through Him then “looked down where he lay.” The Creator has now become the Redeemer. Through his humble birth in the “little town of Bethlehem,” though “little among the thousands of Judah,” the entire world will be blessed, for “He shall be great to the ends of the earth.”

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The Prince was born to bring you peace, of Him the angels sing.” His creation that has fallen into wicked rebellion is being reconciled with her Creator. Fallen man is being redeemed by a Man who would fall under the load of the cross, but would never fall into sin. Mortal man is being raised to immortality by Him who would conquer death by death, and rise to life again.

For He is not only Immanuel: “God with us,” He is also Jesus: “God saves” – and “He will save the people from their sins.” Yet this Savior lies in a manger, and animal’s food trough.

“Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian fear, for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you, hail, hail, the Word made flesh, the babe, the Son of Mary.”

The Word made flesh is worshipped by His creatures who can now encounter Him in space and time. The “wise men from the east” “haste to bring Him laud” to “bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh.” And though these are humble gifts to bring the one through Whom all things came into being, He receives these creaturely offerings, just as He receives us, the very creatures for whom he has come to be born and to die. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe on His name.” “True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us.”

Dear Christians, we worship this Man because He is God, and we have access to God because He is a Man. We come to this sanctuary week after week, year after year, to receive His gifts and to join the “heights of heaven” who “adore Him; angel hosts His praises sing.” For “powers, dominions bow before Him, and extol our God and King.”

“In the beginning was the Word.” And yet, that Word doesn’t remain in our distant past. He is here with us in the present. Just as He came humbly in a food trough born in Bethlehem, which means the “house of bread” – He continues to come to us humbly in food, in bread and wine, creaturely gifts He has created and redeemed. Every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a renewal of Christmas, of Bethlehem, of the Word made flesh, of our redemption,

And He will be with us through the end of the age. “He is Alpha and Omega, He the source and ending He. Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see.” Even into the eternal life He offers us through the gift of Himself, whose body was not only to lie in a food trough and would hang on a cross, but will be held before your eyes and placed into your mouth: “The body of Christ, given for you.”

To those who believe, those who have been baptized, those who eat His flesh and drink His blood, those who have been redeemed by the Word made flesh, Christmas is a glimpse into the eternal celebration of eternity, for we are being created anew, perfect, without pain and suffering, without blemish or death – with no merit or worthiness in us, lest we should boast. And so for all eternity, we who have been rescued by this Child born of Mary, we humbly offer:

“Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and O Holy Ghost to Thee, hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unending praises be. Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal, victory. Evermore and evermore! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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