“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
Talking about Christmas we remember Christmases past. We remember our families. Christmastime is family time. It’s a family celebration. The eternal Son of the Father is born of the Virgin Mary. As God promised through Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,” and, “Unto you a child is born, unto you a Son is given.” God gives the world the gift of his Son. How much must God love us! As the hymnist puts it:
Should we fear our God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave
His most precious treasure?
To redeem us he has given
His own Son from the throne
Of his might in heaven.
As we take to heart what God gave us on that first Christmas, let us turn our attention to four key words in this familiar Gospel account of Christ’s birth:
First: a Savior.
It’s the story of a baby being born. We all love babies. God gives us babies to bless us. We know that children are blessings from God, not because we love them, but because God’s Word says that children are blessings from hirn.
But our greatest need in life is not met by being blessed with children. We are sinners. We need a Savior from sin. We don’t need a sweet little baby, wrapped up in cloths, lying in a manger. We need a Savior wrapped up in cloths, lying in a manger. We need what the Bible says we need, Before the angel, God’s messenger, preached about the baby in the manger he identified that baby as the Savior.
The reason we don’t have peace on earth and goodwill toward men is not because of Islamic terrorists, fatherless thugs, greedy capitalists, tyrannical socialists, abortionists, warmongering politicians, or anything else we can safely identify with someone other than you or me. No, the reason the world is wracked by war, murder, violence, and immorality of every description is because of the evil in the human heart that breaks out into every kind of actual sin imaginable, and that evil lies within our hearts, every single one of us.
We need a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. We need him to fulfill the law we broke. We need him to die for us to suffer and remove from us the penalty of our sins. It is our selfishness, our lovelessness, our lust, our greed, and every sin into which they flow that must be washed away. We need to be forgiven by God. We need more than a baby. We need a Savior. You do. Don’t look any farther than your own sinful desires and how you have obeyed them instead of your God. Then admit what you are. You’re a sinner who needs a Savior and if you don’t have a Savior from sin you will be condemned to hell forever.
Second: is born.
Oh, what wonderful words! For you see, a Savior is born. Not just a baby! My wife has had twelve babies, and I love them all, but none of them could save himself, much less anyone else, from his sins. They were all born dead in sin and in need of the washing of rebirth God provides in baptism. But when the Savior was born a wonderful miracle took place. God became one of us.
The Bible calls it the mystery of godliness. God is manifested in the flesh. He whose almighty power rules the universe, guiding the course of planets, determining the weather all over the world, and mapping the flight of the birds, becomes a little baby, dependent on his mother for the most basic necessities of life. He whom sin cannot touch joins us sinners to bear our sin in his own body. The transcendent God, in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning, comes to us where we live. He comes in such a way that we can know him, trust in him, and receive from him the very treasures of heaven.
God is the Savior. God is born of a virgin. The heretics deny it. How can the almighty God become a helpless baby? How can the omniscient God learn how to talk? How can the omnipresent God weigh about eight pounds and lie in a manger? How, how, how — what foolish questions! How can God do anything he does? Who are we to put God on trial as if he has to explain to us how he does what he does? It’s not a riddle we figure out. It’s a mystery at which we bow our knee and keep our minds captive to God’s Word that reveals it to us. The Savior who is born is Christ the Lord. He is the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is the Word by whom all things were made.
God is man, man deliver,
And the Son now is One
With our blood forever.
Third: to you.
He is born to you. God has joined your own flesh and blood, so that your Creator is now your brother. He came for you. Christ makes the most exclusive and the most universal claims. He makes exclusive claims. He says that he is the only Savior sinners have. There is no forgiveness of sin apart from him. He alone has the authority on earth to forgive sins. He is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to heaven. Apart from faith in Jesus Christ, nobody can be saved. Jesus makes exclusive claims about himself.
And he makes universal claims. Nobody is left out. Have you thought, do you think, have you ever wondered if perhaps you were not included in the message of the angels, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men?” Your sin was greater? Your faith was too feeble? You made one mistake too many? You tried God’s patience beyond endurance? Or maybe God has better things to do than be concerned about you.
Listen to the angel. He talked to shepherds. God chose shepherds. He didn’t choose the religious leaders, the preachers, the theologians, or the lay leadership of the synagogue. He chose working men without a lot of money, power, or prestige. Talking to the shepherds is like talking straight to you. To you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
When God the Son, the eternal Word, the second person of the Holy Trinity, took upon himself human flesh and blood, assumed our human nature, body and soul, was it not your nature he assumed? Did he not become your brother? If he assumed your nature, then he redeemed you. He lived the holy life God required of you and he did it for you so that you would be given the benefit of that holy life. And he died your death, bearing your sin. He has set you free.
Ah, if you knew me and what troubles me, you would not say he has set me free. But I don’t need to know what troubles you. I need to know only him who came into this world to deliver you from them. He tells the truth. He said, “Whoever sins is a slave to sin, but if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Fourth: this day.
That day was two thousand years ago. But Jesus has never stopped being who he was when Mary gave birth. The Church calls her the mother of God. Why? Because the child she bore was God. Was? More than was – is! “I am who I am,” Jesus said. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is and will always be he who he was when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
Eternity has entered time and stopped it in its tracks. Time is like an ever rolling stream. It goes on and on and brings us all closer to death. It appears that the world is heading toward ruin. And it is. In looking back to Christ’s first coming at Christmas we look forward to his second coming to judge. As surely as he redeemed the human race at his first coming, he will judge the human race at his second coming. We will stand before the Son of man. He will judge the living and the dead.
But in the meantime, time has stopped for us Christians. We aren’t driven toward death by this implacable enemy we call time. The birth of Christ defines our present. Christmas is the ongoing reality of our lives. In our worship, in our faith, and in our lives the fact that God is now one of us permeates all that we believe and confess.
Every day we live our lives here on earth, we live in union with him who became our brother to live among us. His name will be called Immanuel: God with us. Not just passing by to say hello. He remains with us. He is born in our hearts and there he takes up residence. We even have a fancy theological term for it. It’s called the mystical union. Christ is joined to his Christians. Wherever we go, he goes. Whatever we do, he is there. He lives in us through faith. He stays with us. He was holy, righteous, and sinless from conception onward. His birth was sinless. That birth sanctifies us and our children as he remains Immanuel.
He is born to you today. He is born to Christian mothers who have lost unborn children to miscarriage or stillbirth. His innocence conquers our sin and our children’s sin from his conception to his death on Calvary. He is born to children struggling with their Christian identity, wanting to be what God called them to be and being tempted toward another direction. He is born to those who have wandered away from the truth, from church, from confessing him, and he calls them back to himself because he never stops loving them. He is born today and every day in the hearts of his Christians, as they daily die to sin and rise to the new life that Christ alone can give.
Thou Christian heart, whoe’er thou art
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God’s own Child in mercy mild joins thee to him:
How greatly God must love thee! Amen