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Posts Tagged "Luke 2:1-14"

Questions

December 24, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

 

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this night is from our Gospel text, wherein St. Luke records the events surrounding the birth of our Lord Jesus in Bethlehem. That is the primary focus of our meditation this evening, dear Christian friends…

When a child is born, there are questions we typically ask. Parents ask, “Is he healthy?” “How much does she weigh?” Grandparents ask, “What did you name her?” “Who does he look like?” Nurses and doctors closely examine the child and want to know, “Is he alert?” “Are her lungs clear?” We expect these kinds of questions.

But there are some questions we never expect to hear at the birth of a healthy child. Who would ever ask, “Do you think he’s going to be a drug addict or a wife beater?” Or, “What cemetery do you think she’ll be buried in?” Or, “What will cause his death?” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, the book of Ecclesiastes says. And the season for asking about a person’s sin and death is usually not at his or her birth.

I bring this up because our last hymn did ask a bit of an odd question about a Child, newly born, in Bethlehem: What Child Is This? If you don’t know the story, it sounds kinda rude, actually. However, upon closer examination, it is a fitting question to ask because this Child is born in a most unusual way. His mother is a virgin. His birth is announced by heavenly hosts praising God. There are signs in the heavens indicating His birth which will, in the course of time, draw Magi from the East. So, What Child Is This? The glorious answer is proclaimed by an angel to shepherds who were watching over their sheep: I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

What Child Is This? This Child is no less than the YHWH Himself, the King of creation, Lord of heaven and earth. He whose voice can destroy the cedars of Lebanon … now coos softly in His mother’s arms. The same Lord who told the shepherd Moses to not come near for His presence was too holy now invites shepherds to draw near to Him as He lies in a manger, a helpless Child. Moses hid his face from the Lord, but now shepherds behold the Lord’s face in the face of a baby. The Unapproachable One is now approachable. The Intimidating One is now inviting.

That certainly is good news. But what makes God’s appearance in human flesh good news of great joy is that He came in order to redeem us. The Lord of creation became part of His creation in order to restore and recreate what man had broken. The Immortal One … was born in a specific time and place to unite Himself forever with His mortal creatures.

The reason why it is good news of great joy is that, at this Child’s birth we do ask a normally unthinkable question, “How will this Child die?” For this Child … was born … to die. This was God’s plan even before the Child was born. This is what the heavenly angels are talking about when they say His birth will bring peace on earth. This Child will die because of us, and He will die for us. “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through; the cross be bourne for me, for you.”

The prophet Isaiah said, “To us a child is born.” The angel said, “Unto you is born this day . . . a Savior.” Unto us, whose worldly passions conceive and give birth to worldly thoughts and ungodly living. Unto us, whose sinful hearts give birth to cruel words and harmful deeds, even against those who love us the most. Unto us, whose very natures hate God. Unto us—poor miserable sinners—this Child is born.

So repent humbly, for your sin and mine is great, and rejoice all the more greatly for His holy birth upon this holy night! Rejoice in His birth, yes, but also rejoice for His holy death. For already at His birth, His cross, death, and burial are foreshadowed.

What Child Is This? This is the Child who had a Mary at His birth and several Marys present at His death.

The Child who had a righteous Joseph at His birth and a righteous Joseph, from Arimathea, help Him carry His cross up Golgotha’s hill.

The Child who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger at His birth and was wrapped in a shroud and laid in a tomb.

The Child whose birth was honored by wise men bearing myrrh and whose death was honored by faithful women bearing myrrh to His tomb.

This Child is the great light that has shown on us who dwelt in a land of deep darkness.

This is a real human Child who has a real human Body. A Body which was beaten and broken, tortured and mutilated; and when death came, a Body which was wrapped up and laid in a tomb. But on the third day, His real human Body came back to life, the firstfruits of the resurrection of our own human bodies.

“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” in this Child. So let’s do something that is normal at the birth of a child. Let’s examine closely this Babe, the Son of Mary.

The prophet Isaiah said all authority would be upon those little shoulders. This Child used His authority to free you from hell and destruction.

He has the lips of the Wonderful Counselor, comforting your troubled conscience with the most wonderful counsel you could ever hear: “I forgive you all your sins.”

He has the hands of the Mighty God who created heaven and earth. He set aside that power and might to have His hands nailed to a cross, to extend mercy to you through His Holy Meal.

He has the arms of the Everlasting Father, arms that spread out on a cross to draw you to Himself, to wrap His arms around you in Holy Baptism, and to welcome you home as prodigal sons and daughters.

He has the royal head of the Prince of Peace. But His head was crowned with thorns in order to place on your heads the crown of glory.

“The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Today that salvation is again extended to you as a gift from this Child’s altar. It’s Christmas, and Jesus is giving you the best gift—His very Body and Blood, in, under, and with bread and wine, broken and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. It is a gift that renews your zeal for good works and inflames your love for Him and one another. What a wondrous gift of love!

What Child Is This? This is the Lord who has saved you. So, “Haste, haste to bring Him laud,” “Hail, hail the Word made flesh,” “Joy, joy, for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary.” Born for me and for you. Merry Christmas.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Luke 2:1-14

Savior, Christ, and Lord

December 24, 2017
By Rev. David French

 

Jesus was born before there were birth certificates. At that time the idea of a birthday celebration was reserved for royalty. Most people had no idea when they were born or the exact date of their birth.

From time-to-time a person of common birth would grow up to become a person of historic significance. People would want to celebrate the historical significance of this person’s birth, but because no one knew the date of his or her birth, the cultures of the day came up with a formula for those whose birthdate was unknown.

This tradition proposed that the date of conception was the same as the date of death. So if a person died on January 1, they would say that he was conceived on January 1, and his birthday would be nine months later on October 1. In reality, they had no idea when the actual date of his or her birth was, but would celebrate their birth from that point on every year on October 1.

That’s how it was with Jesus. The early church focused on the day of His crucifixion and the day of His resurrection. By the time people thought it would be good to celebrate His birth as well they had long ago forgotten the date. But … they did know that Jesus had died on Passover.

The problem with Passover is that it always comes on a full moon which means it’s on a different day every year. And so the church did its best to figure out when Passover was during the year that Jesus died and set nine months later as Christmas.

As time went on, people started to notice that spring came a little bit later than it used to. At about the same time astronomers had figured out that an extra day needed to add to the calendar every four years in order to keep the calendar in sync with the seasons. Since there had been no “leap year” before they decided to add a dozen leap days in one year to get things back on track.

That led to the church having to decide: Do we adjust all the church holidays because of these extra leaps days, or should we keep them the same? The church in the East, decided one way and the church in the West the other. So, today the Western church celebrates December 25 as Christmas while the church in the East celebrates Christmas on January 6. The difference is twelve days or what we know as the Twelve days of Christmas.

Today we understand that the miracle of Jesus’s birth is the same miracle that takes place every time a baby is conceived. A single human cell within the womb of the virgin Mary began the process of dividing first into two cells, then four, then eight, for the next nine months. The unique thing is that even as one cell, God was present in all of His fullness.

And so Mary gave birth to God the Savior who would one day crush the serpent’s head lays sleeping in a manger. And satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh want to keep this child right where you see Him, that is in the manger. The last thing satan wants is for us to remember that this child who rests in Mary’s arms will one day hang from the arms of a cross as a sin offering.

The world works hard to produce a flashy, entertaining Christmas holiday. The world would be happy if the only image you had of your savior was that of a baby peacefully sleeping in a manger surrounded by His mom, dad and some adoring shepherds, and that’s all there is to it. The world would truly celebrate if the holiday of Christmas was all that you knew about Jesus.

And the world uses some of the best traditions to take our minds off the savior. The world would have us believe that getting together as a family is the main reason for Christmas, but it’s not. The world would have us believe that generosity is the main reason for Christmas, but it’s not. There are all kinds of good and noble traditions associated with Christmas and the world stands ready to push them all in order to divert our thinking from the true meaning of Christmas.

My friends it’s the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds that warns us about those traps. From them we learn that there is more to this child than just a baby in the manger. Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

The angel used the words: Savior, Christ, and Lord. Savior from what? Well the Scriptures teach that we’re all conceived and born sinful and would be lost forever unless delivered from that sin and the condemnation it brings. The angel wants us to know that this One who is born in the City of David is that promised Savior.

The title Christ means the anointed one. Here the angel tells that this new born in the City of David is anointed to an office. In fact, it’s the three-fold office, that of prophet, priest, and king.

As prophet He speaks for God. And who better suited to speak for God than God Himself. Even then Jesus is more than a prophet. When prophets speak for God they revealed promises of God. Jesus not only makes Divine promises, but He fulfills them as well.

The King is the One who reigns. As Christ, this baby born in the manger is anointed to reign over all things. The one who reigns makes the rules. But most Kings set themselves above the rules. Not so with Jesus He was as God reveals through St. Paul … born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

A priest is a mediator between God and man. He prays to God for the people. He also offers up sacrifices on their behalf. As the Christ, this baby in the manger is the one, true mediator between God and man. He not only prays for the people, but He is the answer to our prayers. He not only offers up a sacrifice for the people, but He Himself is the sacrifice for all people. When the angel proclaims the birth of Christ, he is pointing us to the cross.

The angel called Him Lord. That is the baby lying in the manger is more than just a human being. He is God in human flesh. He was anointed to fulfill the promises of the prophets, keep the laws of the king, and offer Himself as the sacrifice that washes away all sin. The angels carry with them the truth in a manger for all the world to see, is God in the flesh who has come to save His people from their sin.

see even on this night we are reminded that all of us are conceived and born of sin and walk the road that leads to death. But we are also reminded that it was on a night like this that God who took on human flesh and blood was born into His creation that He might walk that road of death and die in our place so that by grace we might live eternally with Him who was born this night for us all.

In the Name of Him who saves us, Amen.

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