Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sermon for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve - 2017

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
So many stories, so many songs, all driving together towards this one simple and beautiful truth; when mankind was at its worst and in trouble, God came down to help. God comes, and He comes to help, to rescue, to save. When we stupid humans get messed up with sin, when the world goes sideways, when everything is messed up – God Himself comes down to save us.

He didn't have to, or so we think. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes because they were sure, absolutely sure, that God was not coming for them in love, but rather that He was coming to smite, to punish, to destroy. That it would be easier to just scrap the whole thing and just start over – too bad for Adam and Eve, too bad for you and me. That's the way our sinful minds tend to work – add up the costs, subtract the current value – and sorry, total the car, cut your losses, it's just cheaper to tear this all down and build something different from scratch. But that's not the way God thinks, that's not who God is. He is the creator, the very Word by which Adam and Eve were made – and when the LORD comes down and sees Adam and Eve pathetically hiding in the bushes, He actually has pity upon them. And the LORD makes them a promise, even as they shiver in terror. He looks at the old serpent and says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” You don't get to keep them, Satan. The day is going come when I myself will be born, and I will crush you Satan – that is a promise.

And the LORD held to His promise. That's what the entire Old Testament is – God continuing to repeat His promise to His people, even as they run around like tom fools most of the time. God continuing to pour out love even on lousy sinners who just make things worse – but fear not! Your son will live, Abraham, because I myself will be the sacrifice! Fear not the darkness, for I am the light of the world, and I come to free you from sin! Fear not, for even though the kingdom of Israel has dried up, I myself will come to be the King of Kings, and you shall dwell in my house forever, and the old serpent will bother you no more! Through generation after generation – the promise still was proclaimed – and still it was ignored, disdained, brushed aside by so many. So few were grateful, so few were thankful. Most actively fought against it. And again, if the sinful world could have seen, they would have guessed that this indifference would have just caused God to call the whole thing off! Not going to thank me, well, no more presents for you next time! Harrumph! But that's not who the LORD is – God is love, persistent, full, strong, burning love – love that has to show real and true love, love that has to keep His promises because there is no way on earth that He would break His promise to you.

So finally, when the time was right, the LORD sent one of His messengers to a young woman named Mary. And Mary was told, much to her surprise and awe that she would be the mother of the Messiah. That even though no man had yet to touch her, God Himself would be born of her womb. It will be clear, Mary, that this is not just mankind fixing itself, but no, this is God Himself becoming man, the LORD coming down to be with us, to step into the breech against sin for us, to fight for us, to love for us, to obey for us, to die for us, and to rise for us. God with us – Immanuel. The LORD saves – Jesus. That is what this child – true God and true Man - would be.

And you know how the story plays out. We sing beautiful songs about it, pretty Christmas cards have it illustrated, generations of kids acting as Joseph and Mary and Shepherds and Angels. Joy to the world! Joy and Hope and Peace! Yet do we pause to ponder how astonishing that Joy is, that Hope is, that Peace is – or do we take it for granted? “...because there was no place for them in the inn.” Long, weary travels with no good place to rest – that's not typical of joy. “There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Stuck at the bottom of the social rung, shuffled off to third shift and left there to stay – that's not typical of hope. And telling King Herod that another King has been born – that's not the most peaceful sort of thing either. Confusion and weariness and isolation and hardship – that's what's going on in all these texts – and yet, when we hear them, when we sing them – Joy and Hope and Peace.

Not just because it's a cute story. It's really not. Go ask a farmer how “cute” their barn is right now. Go ask a mom how “cute” child-birth is. Or dealing with a wicked king or oppressive taxes. No, everything that is swirling around in this old familiar story is really sort of lousy – and yet, we are right to look at this story and see joy and peace and hope. Because God has fulfilled His Word and come down to rescue us.

When the Lord sent that angel to Mary, He was thinking of you. He was. Because no matter how messed up or strange or frighting or dull and tiresome things would get here in this world because of sin and sinners, Jesus was determined to save you. To do everything required to win salvation for you, to give this salvation to you. And this will be what we hear the next several months – how this child grew for you. How He was baptized for you, so that your baptism would join you to Him. How He fought off disease and demons for you. How He instituted the Lord's Supper to give Himself to you over and over. How He died for you, how He rose for you. All of this for you, seeing and knowing you, you right here, sitting on a pew here in Herscher, Illinois. The first Christmas happened because Christ Jesus saw you – and yes, saw you even with all your flaws and warts, even the ones you hide from everyone else, even the ones that are hidden from you – the first Christmas happened because Christ Jesus looked upon you with love and was determined to do everything required to win you salvation, to win you eternal life, to see that you would be by His side forever.

And that is why we see this story as joy. It's joy that conquers over the strife and hardship of this world. That is why we see this story as Hope – it is a Hope that is solid and sure because God has said so, and He Himself gets things done. That is why we see this story as peace – a peace that surpasses all human understanding, that goes beyond anything that sinful man could expect. Christ Jesus your Lord comes down from heaven to win you salvation. And we see it again for the first time this Christmas Eve, God in man made manifest, the wonder of the ages that causes angelic armies to sheath their burning swords and instead sing hymns of praise. Behold, my brothers and sisters in Christ – you Lord comes to save you, as He had promised He would. A joyous and blessed Christmas to you all! In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +

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