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A Special Night

December 24, 2018
By Rev. David French

 

            A special night, that’s what this is, a very special night, and you know it. That’s why you’re here. You just heard the Christmas story again, but that’s not why you came. You knew the story. And it’s not just a thing you do once a year, but you look forward to this service. You can feel the peace even now as you’re sitting here. Not that everything in your life is peaceful, but for reasons that if you don’t understand I’d like to explain, you know as well as I do that right now there is peace.

            You’ve come because on this night what many call the Spirit of Christmas, that mystical reason to show love and kindness to others, was born in the flesh. That’s what the incarnation is. God in His essence taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. For many in the world, that mystery remains. For you and me, however, by God’s grace and the working of the Holy Spirit, that mystery has been revealed. You’re here because while you can’t explain it, you know that on a night like this one, a long time ago, something changed. You can’t explain or prove it, but you know in your heart it’s true. You believe that on this night God’s Son was born of a virgin. And like the shepherds long ago, you’ve come to see the Savior.

            My friends, I have good news for you. He’s here. The shepherds went to see the promised Savior and what they found was a child wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. This evening we find that same Savior not wrapped in clothes or in a manger, but this time we find Him cradled in the Scriptures and wrapped in bread and wine. The truly amazing thing is, as we approach His table, we are seeing what the shepherds saw as they approached the manger. The gift of God in all its fullness given for you.

The shepherds saw God hidden in flesh. We see Him hidden in the Word and Sacraments. But, we both see God as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. God in His essence is no more flesh and blood than He is bread and wine, but to save you and all on whom His favor rest, He has put Himself in both.

            But, why? Why would God do such things for the likes of you and me? Why? When we know in our hearts that while we gather to marvel at the birth of this child, we often fail to listen to what he says as a man. Can it be that we are here for the wrong reasons? Can it be that like the rest of the world around us we also have turned the birth of Jesus Christ into nothing more than an annual event about us? You and I both know in our hearts that we are all guilty of these and many other sins.

            And yet, even in the midst of what we know in our hearts and what God has always known about us, the gift was given then and continues to be offered now. Christmas is not about a day. Christmas is about our God who loves you with a love we can never fully understand on this side of heaven. Christmas is about the peace that is yours through the real forgiveness of real sins. Christmas is about Christ, who humbled Himself for you and me. It’s about the glimmer of light that has come into our world and into your heart that you might always live with the peace you feel right now.

               I can remember one time, when I was just a boy, going to my grandparents and seeing all the gifts under the tree. It was a very exciting time. A few days after Christmas, we were back at my grandparents and there was still one gift left unopened. I remember during the following summer, I was helping my grandfather with something, and he sent me to get whatever, and there I saw that gift still wrapped tucked in a storage space in the back of the garage behind what I thought was a whole bunch of junk.

            I don’t know what ever became of that gift, and while I don’t remember all the details, one thing I do clearly remember is feeling very sad about that unopened gift. And you know what? I haven’t changed.

            God in His mercy has given to you His only Son. He sent Him to do what you and I can not give or do for ourselves. He paid for our sins. He didn’t use gold or silver the way you or I might, but He paid for our sins with His blood. He looked at you and me, He looked into our hearts, and He laid down His life. I love the words of Christ in John 10, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”

You see, Christ didn’t have to die for you and me. He wanted to. He wanted to take all of your sins upon His shoulders to the cross and leave them in the grave. He wanted to bury them, that they might never again torment you.  He wanted you to have the gift of life that He gave to you in your baptism. He wants to feed you that you might grow strong in your faith. He wants you to know that His love for you will never end. Christ said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Don’t settle for one night. What you feel this evening is not the result of a number on a calendar, it is the work of Christ in you.

Come hear what this child has to say to you - for His words deliver what they promise; love, hope, joy, forgiveness, peace. Perhaps on this night the angels said it best: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

In His Name. Amen

Tags: Luke 2:1-20