Christmas Eve – 2019 – Luke 2
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
It was the most normal and typical thing in the world. “The time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths.” To all appearances, this would have been the most typical thing in the world. A mother giving birth. Happens all the time. They put pictures of new babies up on the board at Riverside all the time. And the fact that you are here means that one day a while ago someone gave birth to you. And plenty of kids were born today. In fact, we just sent a bunch of beautiful blankets up to the birthing centers at Riverside and St. Mary because still today you have a kid who is born and they get all swaddled and bundled up in comfy blankets to keep them warm.
We know that Jesus being born was special – but just pause for a moment and consider just how typical and normal this birth looked to be. Now, remember, typical and normal doesn't mean “easy” or “ nice” - far be it from any man to call any childbirth “easy”. But there you have a Boy born in the normal, typical fashion, just like billions of people before and after Him. If you had been in that manger watching the birth – and you wouldn't have been, because they were in the manager so Mary could have some privacy. (The “Inn” wasn't a Hampton inn with a bunch of private rooms – it would have been a crowded mess – so head on out to the barn and have some privacy, and if anyone comes snooping around I'll give them the back of my hand.) But if you had been watching that birth, it would have seemed like any other one you might have gotten to see – and then a mother and her child, the bonding, the care. Utterly typical.
And of course, the Shepherds were having an utterly typical, boring night, out there in their fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Oh, what a boring job – hours, days of tedium only interrupted if wolves or bears attack. Night shift shepherd was a lousy job – and there the shepherds were, the low guys on the totem pole at work, slogging along, when something utterly untypical happens. And an angel of the LORD appeared to them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and they were filled with fear. We don't understand how fearful this would have been – we love angels – we have angels all over the place, on our tree tops. The Angels were the mighty warriors of God – and normally if they showed up, if you saw them, it meant you were dead meat. Even today if the mobster says that he'll “send you to the angels” that means you're dead. But more than that – there's the glory of the LORD – the awesome presence of God that people couldn't abide in the Old Testament – the glory that departed Israel over 600 years early – even Moses was fearful in that glory cloud – and these are just humdrum shepherd... of course, Moses had been just a humdrum shepherd when God appeared to him at the burning bush. An awesome, fearful thing – would have terrified any of us.
And yet, this most terrifying, fearful thing ever - “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Don't be afraid – it's good news I bring. It's gospel – it's life and salvation and joy and wonder for all people. Why? Because on this seemingly utterly typical night, the most wondrous event in all creation heretofore has taken place. All the promises of the Old Testament – the promise of God to be with His people, to come to be their Savior – well - “For unto you” - to you, for your good shepherds – is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD. God Himself has been born. That typical baby boy is also in fact God Almighty – God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God. And how will you know Him? Not because He's glowing, not because there are Angels singing to Him – we'll sing here in a moment, because this really is cool and we angels have been waiting to see this play out – but this will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manager. Yeah, it's that normal looking Kid – the one in the barn. You'll see Him. But before you go, there's a choir piece. And the angelic armies – that's what a heavenly host is, an army – this angelic army sheathes their flaming swords and breaks out into a song of joy and peace and salvation. Utterly astonishing – most wondrous than we normally take it for.
And the shepherds go and see, and they tell Joseph and Mary about the angels, and Mary is left there to treasure this all up in her heart – because this had to be a ton to take in. And the shepherds glorified God and praised Him – and then life went on. And that boy, Jesus, grew in wisdom and stature, and lived perfectly for us, and fulfilled the Law of God for us, and in order to be our Savior, He went to the Cross and died and rose, and what the Angels had proclaimed to the shepherds was fulfilled and true. The Savior had come, and Salvation was won.
There is, in reality, nothing more mind blowingly awesome than how our God wins us salvation. He becomes man, and He suffers, and He dies. This is heady stuff, this is the sort of thing that befuddles the brightest and most brilliant of people, that still causes our heads to spin if with think about it too much. God Himself wins forgiveness! Jesus wins everlasting life. The powers of hell and death and Satan are undone by this little Child born in Bethlehem.
And yet this, the wonder of the ages, a mystery so profound that angels break out into song over it – it comes to each of us here, my dear friends, in such simple, typical, normal ways. This salvation that Jesus won – you don't have to go on some long dangerous trip for it (although if you've traveled back home for Christmas, we're glad you're here). This salvation is not some costly thing for us where we must slave and save our lives away to earn it – oh it cost Jesus but for us, it is free. And it is given out to us and to our brothers and sisters in faith all around the globe in hundreds of thousands of Churches in the most simple ways. The Good News the angels sang is still proclaimed – Christ Jesus has come and won you salvation. The gift of Baptism, where you are joined to this Christ Child and given all that He has – and you don't need a golden font or frankincense to pull this off – just simple water and Jesus' Word. The Lord's Supper, where this same Jesus who was born on Christmas comes to you and gives you His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins – and all that is needed is again simple bread and wine and Jesus' own Word.
And why all this? Because the mystery of the ages is this – that God Himself came down from heaven, and now salvation is freely open and given to all, in the most simple, commonplace ways. Wherever there are people – there will be water, there will be bread and wine, there will be someone to speak the Word. Because this Jesus is for all, even for us here today. Therefore, in the Name of the Christ child, born for you, a most hearty and profound and yet typical and normal Merry Christmas! In the Name of Christ Jesus, our New Born King +