Advent Midweek 2 – Rediscovering Birth
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
This evening, our focus in the midst of our theme of Rediscovering Christmas is “Rediscovering Birth.” We all know the famous line in the Christmas Carol – the cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes. That’s how it was, wasn’t? Surely no noise from either Jesus or Mary interrupted that silent night. Don’t get me wrong, I love those hymns as much as the next guy, and while they do point to the truth that Christ Jesus comes to bring peace and calm to the world, they take a bit of poetic license to do so. And the problem is that we today will take that poetic license and run with it, to where the birth of our Lord is reduced to a sappy-sweet Christmas Card picture. We clean things up, we sanitize them so much that we are in danger of forgetting what Christmas, what our Lord’s birth actually is.
Birth in this fallen world is a messy, messy thing. Oh, we can talk about how beautiful it is, how wondrous it is, and there is truth there – but it is a messy thing. The proof of that – fellas, did any of you try telling your wife while she was in the middle of a contraction about how child birth was such a beautiful, wonderful thing? Nope. While there is beauty and wonder – in the moment, it is harsh and painful and messy. And our Lord’s birth was the same. Listen to how Isaiah describes the coming of the Lord: “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” and “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” Oh, indeed, it is a wondrous thing that Christ is born – but where does He come? He comes to those who were in anguish, to those who were in deep darkness. When Christ Jesus is born, He is born precisely because He is coming to us, to people who are stuck in the middle of lives made messy and painful by sin. He comes bearing the full weight and burdens of the difficulties of life so that He can win us freedom and forgiveness. And to do that, He comes in the normal way – born amidst pain and suffering and fear and anguish. He comes as our brother, He comes to share in the same burdens that we share in.
And His birth was for a purpose. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” A familiar verse – in fact, this is my favorite part of Handel’s Messiah. And it puts things in a different perspective. This birth of our Lord – it wasn’t simply so that we could have a nice cute picture on the wall – the story doesn’t end with Christmas time giving us a warm fuzzy feeling. No, when our Lord was born, He was born to be put to work. The government shall be upon his shoulder. He is going to bear the burden of ruling, of saving and defending His people. And how shall He do this – when the government is upon His shoulder literally, when that shoulder carries the burden of his own Cross. He comes to be the Wonderful Counselor – who preaches the Good News of salvation, yet remains silent when accused before Pilate. He comes to be our Mighty God, healing the sick, casting out demons, yet showing His true might in letting Himself be crucified. He is the image of the invisible Father, the One Whom the Father sent to win us peace with His own death upon the Cross. This birth isn’t just a little happy time – no, Christ is born for a purpose, a purpose most wondrous. To go to the cross and suffer and die so that we might live, that we might be born again.
However, when we think about birth this night, we should not just think about the birth we celebrate on Christmas Day – when we talk about birth in the Church, we should also think on the fact that you have been born again, that you have been baptized into Christ Jesus. And again, a Baptism is more than just a cute photo opportunity. It is the beginning of our lives in Christ. And that beginning came with pain – not for us, but for Christ. Paul in Romans writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.” When you see Christ upon the Cross, you are seeing the labor pains of your own birth, of your being born again – pains that He took upon Himself to shield you from. Again, consider our reading for this evening, something that should be familiar for you learned in your catechism days: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” This is what our Lord has done for you – His work, His love, His salvation was all brought to you, poured over you in the waters of Holy Baptism. You were regenerated – that is – re-born. You were renewed in Him. You are no longer what you were before you were brought to baptism and faith – you are a new creation, one who is promised life everlasting in Christ.
And while you do not receive this life because of what you have done, because you have this life, you will work, just as our Lord Himself was born and worked for you. Listen: “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” Just as Christ was born on Christmas so that He might serve you, you have been born again in Christ so that you might serve your neighbor. These things are excellent and profitable for whom – for people, for the people around you. To be a Christian means that we are totally free and forgiven, but also that we are given over to lives of love and service to our neighbor. Why? Because you are joined to Christ – you are part of His Body and He is your head, and where He goes, you will go as well. The body goes where the Head goes – and thus, just as He served and showed love, so too you will end up showing love and service to your neighbor. You have been born for a purpose, the purpose of loving and caring for your neighbor.
And like anything else in this fallen world, that can be hard and messy and painful. Just the way it is. When you show love, often you will be reviled in return. Same as happened to Christ. Of course it will be the same, you bring His light and His love into the midst of a world of darkness – indeed, you bring Christ to people in the middle of their darkness – and sin and Satan and the world will fight you tooth and nail. But as you see this, as you struggle to show forth love, as you devote yourselves to good works that often don’t come out as good as you would want them to – remember this. You are alive and have life not because of what you have done – but you are alive and have life – indeed, you have been born again because of what Christ has done. He Himself came to face down all the pain and sorrow of the world – and He even does so now through you today. And in Him, you do have life, life now – life that will finally be totally free and joyous in the world to come. Birth in this fallen place is messy, but because Christ Jesus has come, you too have life, life that this world cannot snuff out, all thanks to be God. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +