An Advent Midweek Sermon Preached at Zion Lutheran Church, Gwinner, ND.
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our readings for this evening are from this past Sunday’s Divine Service. As you can recall from this past Sunday we looked at Jesus as the one who was born into humanity and then journeyed towards our sin on the cross. On Sunday we heard that Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God who was born into this world for sinners. Indeed, we heard that two-thousand years ago Jesus approached your sin in His birth and He approached your sin on the donkey as He rode into Jerusalem towards the Cross. Upon that Cross-a cross that should’ve been for you and me, a Cross where you and I are not only unable to pay for our sin but a Cross that we are totally and utterly afraid of—Jesus encountered your sin and mine, bore it upon Himself, was forsaken by the Father, endured hell, and then said, “It is finished.” In summary, the very sin that causes us to step back from is the sin that Jesus stepped towards and into when He was born in the manger. The very sin that we try not to own is the sin that Jesus owned is the sin that Jesus owned, as His own, on the Cross.
Now, with all of that said, let us take a step backwards. We spent time this past weekend talking about this Advent and Christmas Season from the perspective of Christ. Tonight, I would like to briefly look at the Advent and Christmas Season from our perspective. In other words, we spent time talking about Christ’s actions, but now I want to focus on you and me and our relationship to Christmas itself. (When I say “Christmas,” I am referring to this whole season; the season of Christ coming to mankind and His very birth.)
Many years ago my family and I had a wonderful time giving my grandfather a lump of coal for Christmas. Yes, that is all he got. No shiny present and no Christmas card. A lump of coal in a cardboard box! While he took it well and we all enjoyed the laugh, the idea of giving a lump of coal to someone for Christmas clearly shows that they are not deserving of Christmas; that they don’t qualify as a worthy recipient of Christmas.
With that said, have you ever thought about who Christmas is for, who is worthy to partake and be a part of Christmas; is Christmas for you? As you all know, our Santa Clause story teaches us that good ol’ Saint Nic comes only for good boys and girls, those that are found on the nice list. Bad girls and boys that do not make the nice list may, like my grandfather, be left with a lump of coal. Therefore, Christmas from the perspective of Santa Clause is for people on the ‘nice list,’ people who are good throughout the year. Remember the well-known lyrics of, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town?”
He’s making a list, And checking it twice; Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.He sees you when you’re sleeping.He knows when you’re awake.He knows if you’ve been bad or good,So be good for goodness sake!
So, my friends, what list are you on today? As you answer that question, keep in mind that God’s holiness demands perfection in thought, word, and deed. God does not judge on a curve, and our trying does not count for anything. Jesus says, “Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the Kingdom.” (Mat. 5:20) He also says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48) To be placed on God’s good list, one must be able to fulfill (in thought, word and deed) all the good and righteous requirements of the 10 Commandments. Thus, let me ask you again, what list are you on? Have you loved the Lord your God with your whole body, soul, and mind? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself?
It is obvious that you and I are indeed on the naughty list. Thus, according to Santa Clause theology, Christmas is not for you and me, for Christmas is only for those on the good list.
Thankfully the Gospel of Matthew speaks on the Christmas story saying something quite different than the Santa Claus story. In Chapter 9 verse 13 Jesus says that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners. We also read in Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” The Gospel of Matthew clearly says that a child was born and they called Him Jesus. The name of Jesus embraces His entire purpose. He is the one who is to be our Savior. He is the one who came to save who; those on the nice list? No, Jesus came to save us from our sins; He came not to call the righteous but those who are sinners, those on the naughty list.
There is an old theologian named Fredrick Wisloff (I actually quoted him on Sunday) and in his little book titled, “Hvil eder litt,” he states the following,
“Had there been no sin on earth, there would have been no Christmas. Had there been no sinners, there would have been no need of a Savior. For this very reason the Christmas Gospel is a message for sinners. And only those who acknowledge their sins can understand the true meaning of Christmas.”
This Christmas as we jokingly ponder who will receive presents from Santa based on our status on the naughty and nice list, we can take comfort that God’s Christmas Gift of Jesus Christ is for people on the naughty list and ‘only’ for those on the naughty list. In other words, as we think about the texts in Matthew, we can recall that Jesus came not to call the righteous but sinners. God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us, while you and I were still sinners. This. Is. Glorious News!
Rejoice my friends for this Christmas Season, God does not meet your sin with a lump of coal, but the Christ child whose name is Jesus.
“The name ‘Jesus’ is the hope of the world; it is the radiant dawn over a generation living in the night of sin; it is salvation and victory for the sinner, it is release for him who is in captivity; it is hope, it is a future, it is eternity. With Jesus something of heaven comes to earth.”
Yes, in Jesus we not only have the forgiveness of sins but are also gifted, clothed if you will, with His righteousness. Thus we are declared as no longer those among the naughty but righteous; righteous saints for Christ’s sake and because of Christmas that is for us.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
 Fredrik Wisloff, Rest A While: Hvil eder litt (Oslo, Norway: Lutherstiftelsens Forlag, 1963), 360.