Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sermon: Christmas – 2016

25 December 2016

Text: Titus 3:4-7

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“When the goodness and the loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.”

This line from St. Paul’s letter to Titus explains Christmas to a T, or should I say, to a cross.  For notice what word St. Paul opens with: “When.”

The word “when” means at a point in time, a specific point in time, a precise moment of God’s choosing.  God doesn’t deal with us as if by magic, but rather in the material manner of our existence – in space and in time.

And this “when” is why we commemorate this event each and every year at a point in time, a specific date of the feast of the Lord’s birth.  We celebrate today, the “when” in St. Paul’s proclamation of the “goodness and loving kindness” of God our Savior. 

The Lord does not show us goodness and loving kindness (which is literally: philanthropy – love toward humanity) in a vacuum.  But rather, in fulfillment of prophecy, when the time is right, God comes to us physically in space and temporally in time.  And He comes to us as a single fertilized human egg in a woman, a daughter of Eve, whose sin has been propagated to the human race – with the exception of the Son of Mary, who has come into our flesh as an act of kindness and philanthropy, as both our God and as our Savior.

Inside Mary’s womb came the one whom Mary would call her “God and Savior.”  For as St. Paul says, Jesus is “both” our God and our Savior.

And notice that He “appeared” per our text.  He didn’t remain hidden in Mary’s womb.  Rather He came as a blazing light into a dark world, calling sinners to repentance, and calling forth repentant sinners into salvation, calling them to gather as the Church, calling them to rise out of their graves, calling them to everlasting life by His Word.

He appeared at a specific point in time in kindness and philanthropy with a purpose, carrying out the eternal plan of the eternal Father, in order to save us, to rescue us from the death we deserve and the damnation we have earned, replacing it with the life He has by virtue of His divinity and with the salvation He gives us by virtue of His death upon the cross.

And He saves us, dear friends, “not because of works done for us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.”  This is the very meaning of grace.  He saves us at a specific point in time, at a specific place, using human flesh, motivated by goodness and loving kindness as our God and Savior, and this salvation He accomplished by grace, by His love for us and certainly not because we deserve it, because, dear friends, most assuredly, we do not.

This is why we need a Savior to come and rescue us.  And this is what Christmas is all about!  Like a paratrooper dropped behind enemy lines, He has appeared in hostile territory to rescue us: His beloved people whom He refuses to abandon.  And He extends us His nail-scared hand, which we take by faith, holding on by means of the strength He Himself supplies, for He saves us “according to His own mercy” – not by anything in us.

St. Paul further explains how this happens: “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”  We are washed clean in Holy Baptism, for this same Jesus whose birth we celebrate, was Himself baptized.  And He sent out His apostles with the great commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

God uses humble water to wash away sin.  God uses a humble baby to atone for sin.  God uses a humble mother to bring forth the Savior from sin. 

So much of this true message of Christmas is lost in the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, but also among us Christians as well, dear friends, when we sell Christmas short, and neglect the connection between our sin and our Savior, between the manger and the cross, between the Lord’s miraculous emergence from the virginal womb and from the virginal tomb.

All of this is packed into our celebration of the Lord’s birthday.  For we celebrate birthdays of our loved ones precisely because we are happy they were born.  We rejoice in their coming to our world and their existence among us.  We love them, and so we feast and rejoice. 

Let us, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, “rejoice in God my Savior,” in His timely and fleshly birth, in His goodness and loving kindness, in His being God and yet Savior, in His salvation of us not by our works, but by His grace and through the washing of regeneration of baptism,

For the one laid in the manger will be hanged upon the cross, and then once more laid down, this time in the tomb.  And the same divine love and power that rescued us from sin, raised Jesus from the dead, as the greatest Christmas gift of all: the very life of Christ, the life that brings us to eternal life.

That, dear friends, is the message of Christmas.  Our Lord took flesh and our Lord saved us.

“So that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Merry Christmas!  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

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

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