Christmas Eve – 12/24/2014
Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-20
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
Going about darkness walking about in Death
On this night of nights we gather about in this place because long ago a virgin was with child. Betrothed to her Joseph, Mary of the house and lineage of David, was found with child. She knew no man, not even Joseph, before conceiving. And she knew no man, not even Joseph, before giving birth. Mary was pure and Joseph was righteous.
On this night of nights we gather about in this place because long ago this blessed virgin Mary, gave birth to her child in a stable in Bethlehem. While this tale of event is cause enough for joy we gather tonight because this is no mere tale. This is history. This isn’t just history, this is salvation’s history. What sort of salvation? The prophet Isaiah sets the context foretelling long beforehand that a virgin would be with child and give birth to son. Why such a prophecy, because as Isaiah says in our text tonight, “the people walk in darkness?”
On this night of nights we gather about in this place because we walk in darkness. The darkness of Isaiah’s oracle is the darkness of death. We walk in death all the day. It is the death pronounced on our kind since the garden. It is the curse spoken over humanity because of sin. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, neither is Isaiah.
We know this. We see this. We feel this. And we remember this even as we try to ignore it.
Most if not all of you have attended at least one funeral this year. For some that was the only other time you attended a church.
Most of you have visited your doctor this year. For some that was the only time you considered the weakness of your flesh, your mortality.
Most of you will gather for a festal meal in the coming days and the absence of loved ones will haunt you, . . . and . . . some will feast alone for the first time in a long time.
Statistically 1 in every 113 people on the planet will die before next Christmas. Most of you will be here to celebrate again in 2015, . . . some of you will not. The sad reality is that we all walk in darkness.
Caesar’s Quest for Life (Money, power, etc.)
Mary and Joseph walked to Bethlehem. Why? Because Caesar said so. A decree went out that all the world should be registered. Registered for what? Registered for TAXES! Caesar wants his money. Caesar’s money is his light and his life. Without it he is nothing.
Too many of us walk in darkness just like Caesar; coveting and taking and ruling and hoarding and filling our hearts with people and possessions that cannot give life. This is life in the darkness. We’re all out to save ourselves, we’re all out to please ourselves, entertain ourselves, gather for ourselves precious memories all in an effort to fill our buckets and check them off our list. Let’s be honest for once. We make a list and we check it twice and we don’t care if we’re naughty or nice. In the darkness everything and everyone in our lives becomes a means to an end. We get so caught up with living the good life that pursing the good life often comes at the expense of family, friends, neighbors, our fellow man. We get so caught up with the journey, the walk itself, that we neglect the reality of where we’re going. Which is why we fill our days with the wrong things. Which is why as a people we’re tired, and we’re angry, and we’re cold. In the darkness death rules our days and the sting of death is sin. We die because of sin, sin we have and sin we do. This darkness is because of sin, sin we have and sin we do.
no matter how broad our search,
no matter how deep our contemplation,
no matter how great our riches,
no matter how exhilarating our journey, none of us here tonight can change that. In the end we all die, just like Caesar, because in the end we’re all sinners.
The Grace of God APPEARED – The people of have SEEN a great Light
Beloved, your God, the God who formed you in the womb, does not want you to die. He takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner. But would have you repent . . . tonight! For the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On this night, this night of nights, the grace of God APPEARED! “While they were there,” scripture says, “the days were completed for her to be delivered. And Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.” The grace of God appeared in the flesh, born of a virgin, for you! He is the end of your quest and therefore the eternal end of all who believe on His name. For there in the midst of the darkness the light of the world is born. He is God of God and light of light. The fullness of the deity is pleased to dwell bodily, lowly, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
He is the one come to search for the lost.
He is the one come to bind up the broken.
He is the one come to give rest to the weary,
Heavenly food to the hungry &
Living water to the thirsty
He is the one come to heal the sick and raise the dead.
He is the one willing to touch you with life-giving flesh.
He is the one come to speak words of tender mercy and steadfast love to your heart.
He is the one come to baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.
He is the one come to take away your sins.
For He is the one come from the Father to take your place, die your death, and be your resurrection. He is the One who is to be crucified, dead, and buried. He is the One, the only one, to suffer the sting of death and to be raised on the third day scattering the darkness with His Life for the world, for you.
And tonight, on this night of all nights, He is born. He is small. He is lowly. His approachable and He can be held in the arms of His beloved and in the hearts of His faithful. He is Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
Unto YOU is Born this Day – God’s gift of life in Christ
For this reason angels appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The world does not notice the miracles of God. Therefore Heaven breaks in and announces His birth. Angels appear and proclaim the good news. “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” The wonders of this night may seem small and insignificant on the surface but they are certainly not to be a secret. Having heralded their King the whole heavenly hosts then burst into song. And how could they not? These angels marvel that God is now flesh and blood to save sinful mortals. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Heb 1:5-6 ESV).
Oh the wonders of it! The creator has joined Himself to creation never again to be separated. The Lord of life is cradled by a virgin. The bread of life is laid in a feeding trough. The light of the world shines in the darkness and the darkness does not understand it, the darkness cannot overcome it.
This is all for you. In Jesus, and Jesus alone is there life and salvation from sin and death and hell. Salvation is a gift received not a wage earned. It is a work of God made flesh, not flesh supposing itself to be god. It is purchased with blood, holy blood, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Jesus’ is come to forgive . . . you.
Let us GO unto Bethlehem
This proclamation is given in order to bring about a response. The Angel preaches to the Shepherds about a child who is born in the city of David. He mentions the city so that the shepherd go there. He mentions the manger so that they know where to look for Him. And notice how they respond. They go! “Let us go unto Bethlehem and see this Word which has happened, which God has made known to us!” The shepherds go to Bethlehem because Jesus is there. The Shepherds look for the manger because God wants to be found and adored in the person of His Son. The Shepherds hurry to worship because wherever Jesus is He is there giving the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. And so . . . what do they find? They find Jesus exactly where He was promised to be.
Beloved in the Lord, On this night of nights we gather about here in this place because here in this place it is always Christmas, Christmas and Easter, every day, especially on Sundays. Here in this place a messenger proclaims to you the great things the Lord has done for you and your salvation. Here in this place that same messenger tells you where to go and where to look for Jesus. He is always where He’s promised to be for you. Jesus is in the water to cover you with His death and resurrection and swaddle you with His perfect righteousness. Jesus is in His Word to speak tender mercies to your heart. And Jesus is there, on that altar, hidden beneath bread and wine with His body and blood to unite His life-giving flesh to your mortal flesh. Here in these things in this place the grace of God appears to save you. You cannot be saved while sitting at home. If you fill your days, especially your Sundays, with things that perish, so also do you fill your hearts. And you will die. Therefore, do not be like Caesar chasing after money and power. Do not be like the world using and abusing each other for fun on the journey. Do not be like the rest of the world attending church for the death of friends and family yet never attending to their own souls.
But join these poor shepherds and hasten to the Lord in His house where He promises to be for you.
Join with angels and archangels and marvel at the Love of God made flesh, the love of God for you in His Son, the child born of Mary, Jesus. He will save you from your sins.
Join with the saints of old rejoicing in the One who conquered death for all people.
Join with fellow believers and let your praises ring throughout these halls and throughout your lives.
Join the myriad of the redeemed in worship of the Son whose birth we celebrate tonight. Merry Christmas! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!