Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sermon: Christmas Eve – 2011

24 December 2011 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.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way” says St. Matthew.

The “in this way” part means that we are being told the circumstances. For the circumstances of this birth and of this Person are what make the story not only interesting, but historically unique and relevant today.

Sadly, a lot of people aren’t interested in history. We live in a world bombarded by information overload, so much so that information that is older than the latest tweet or status update is long forgotten. And sadly, a lot of people today question why the Christian faith is relevant to their lives. And so, the world largely sees this Christmas story – this narrative of the birth and life and death and resurrection and coming again of Jesus Christ – to be irrelevant. And this is why Christmas has been created in modern man’s image.

In the quest for relevancy, modern Christmas is largely a holiday without holiness, a Christmas with Christ surgically removed, a Christ’s Mass where the Holy Supper is largely forgotten, having been replaced by large meals and parties and drinking binges and family squabbles.

But listen to God’s Word, dear friends: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”

Did you catch the little word “now”? The birth of Jesus is supernatural, but it isn’t a myth. It happens in the “nowness” of time. It happens in a place. It happens according to God’s plan revealed through centuries of prophets. Jesus is physically born of a mother – but this birth is anything but ordinary.

This is the miracle of Christmas, dear friends, that God, the Almighty Creator, takes on creaturely flesh in space and time, becoming a mortal in order to die, for the purpose of giving us mortals immortality!

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”

This miracle is relevant, dear brothers and sisters! It happened in the “nowness” of time, and because of that, is timeless. The latest news about the polls in Iowa will be forgotten. The recent bloodshed of shoppers over tennis shoes in a shopping mall will be forgotten. The many wars and political struggles around the globe will be forgotten. Our sadnesses, pains, sicknesses, anxieties, and even death itself will be forgotten. “But the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

For “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In our fallen world full of deception, full of lies and broken promises, full of advertisements luring us to buy more and more stuff with false promises of happiness, in a world where truth is considered either relative or subjective or non-existent, we have the Truth, dear friends! And that Truth was born that first Christmas, the “way, the truth, and the life,” the Truth that is not just factually correct, but true in the sense of perfect, straight, a true and correct image of what man was created to be, a Man who is the Truth because He is the very Creator of man! And He is “full of grace.”

This “grace” does not mean that Jesus can dance like a ballerina or catch a football like a hall of fame receiver. It means that He bears the fullness and the goodness and the mercy of God Himself – in the flesh, in our flesh, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the reclamation of our flesh – and He graciously offers these gifts as gifts, without price and given in love.

For “He will save His people from their sins.”

This had long been prophesied and foretold, though centuries upon centuries, far longer than our technological gadgetry and changing wants and whims of the flesh last. No matter how much our technology changes and improves, our greed, our lusts, our hatreds, our self-absorption, our petty-mindedness, our desire to make ourselves seem bigger than we really are, our laziness, our dishonesty, our desire to control others, our gossip, our covetousness, and our indifference to others is always the same. It has been the same since the fall in the Garden of Eden, when and where the Lord promised the coming of the Messiah to save us.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the birth of Jesus in space and time, the Word becoming flesh in order to save His people from their sins, is not only relevant to us today, it is the only relevant thing. Nothing else matters. All other “good news” is meaningless by comparison. For this good news – this Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, of redemption, of a new creation, of forgiveness, salvation, peace, and eternal life and eternal communion with God – is the reason why Christmas is such a time of joy to those who confess Christ as the living God in the living flesh.

For “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”

God is with us, dear friends, with us! He came into our flesh, lived in our flesh, suffered in our flesh, died in our flesh, and rose again in our flesh – so that we too might rise in our flesh. The angelic song of “Peace on Earth” is not just a Christmas card sentiment or feel-good slogan to sell trinkets – rather this peace is a gracious gift of the grace-filled Prince of Peace – a gift hand-delivered to us where we are, handed over to us by the same hands that shared His body and blood with us “on the night in which He was betrayed,” when He was “handed over,” the same hands pierced by nails, the same hands shown to St. Thomas and the twelve, the same hands raised in benediction over His people as He ascended to the Father – the same tiny hands caressed by the hands of His virgin mother after His miraculous birth. “God with us.”

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Amen.

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

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