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Posts Tagged "Luke 2:1-20"

Just the Beginning

December 24, 2019
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 for this blessed Christmas night comes from our Gospel reading, where Luke records, And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

“Clothes make the man.” I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before. It’s certainly a phrase you want to remember when you have an important meeting of some sort. You dress to impress, right? Put on your best duds, shine up your shoes or heels, fix up your hair, make yourself look better than presentable – you want to make yourself look good. Whether it’s for a job interview, meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, or dressing up for such an occasion as tonight – coming before the Lord in His house to receive His gifts, you want to look your best. You want to dress to impress.

But the way we look … doesn’t always reflect who we are. You may look good as you are dressed to the nines … but know the ugliness in your heart, knowing that you should show your family more love than you do. You could paint your face in beautiful and majestic fashion … but all the mascara and eye liner in the world cannot hide the depression and sadness that hide behind such lovely painted eyes. Power suit, power tie, power steering … and yet you feel weak and abjectly powerless as your life crashes down around you. Sure, dress to impress, but we know that more often than not, what we wear and how we look is literally and figuratively a façade.

That’s definitely the case here tonight, as we consider this newborn child in our Gospel text. From the looks of him, He doesn’t look like anything special. Yeah, newborn babies are adorable, but you see them often enough. If anything, based on looks, you might feel pity for this child: a newborn, wrapped up in some makeshift swaddling clothes, lying in a food trough because that’s the best that His destitute parents could provide for Him. There was no other place to lay this little one, because they were in an enclosure usually reserved for a family’s livestock, and the animals are present. From all appearances, this child looks like just another unfortunate wretch, born to unremarkable parents. There’s nothing special about how He looks. But looks can be deceiving, as we all know to be true. Because this night is not like any other, and this child, however modest and humble He may look in that moment, is anything but ordinary. What we are seeing this night, in this text, is the beginning of the end.

Let’s face it, this world is broken. It has been ever since Adam and Eve, at the urging of the devil disguised as a snake, broke the singular law God had given them in primordial Eden. In the wake of the cataclysm that followed, remarkably, there was a word of hope, a promise given in the midst of the devastation. Presumably within earshot of the now-fallen Man and Woman, God tells the deceiving serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 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.

Somewhere further down the timeline, a descendant of Adam and Eve was also given a promise. At 75 years old, Abram and his wife Sarai had never had children (not for lack of trying or hoping), and yet the LORD tells him, Go from your country, and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Even further downstream, we hear prophets proclaiming promises about this offspring of woman who will crush the serpent’s head and bless all families of the earth. Nathan spoke God’s Word to King David, saying, When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Isaiah says how this offspring of David will be born from a virgin, how His name will be “Immanuel” (meaning God with us), how He will be a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse (David’s father). Jeremiah prophesied something similar, how God would raise up for David a righteous branch, a King who will reign and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. … And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” Micah mentions the specific city where this offspring of David would be born – there, in the same little town of Bethlehem from our Gospel text!

This ordinary-looking child, squirming and wiggling as little ones do in His makeshift cradle, is the fulfillment of all these promises, and others, from across the centuries. All appearances aside, this unassuming newborn holds within His tiny heart the blood that will be used to save us.

That’s something we often forget in the joy of Christmas. As we look into the stall, into the face of Mary’s firstborn son, we forget that this night … is only the beginning. As the shepherds return to their flocks in the field, praising God after seeing everything the angel told them to be true, life went on. This child, Jesus, grew up just like all children do, becoming a man. His words caused people to marvel at His wisdom; and the miracles He performed seemed to undo, in part, the curse of sin, but He didn’t look like anything special – certainly not like the regal son and heir of David’s throne. In fact, there were many who hated Him… despised Him … wanted to kill Him.

Tonight is the beginning, my friends, but it is only the beginning. Tonight, we see Mary’s little boy, freshly born, laying in the manger. With the shepherds who hurried to see this thing that has happened, which the Lord had made known unto them, we coo and fawn over this unassuming little one, not because of how He looks, but because of what He has come to do. We forget Jesus was born at Christmas for a reason: to save all of humanity from the curse of sin, to be the fulfillment of all those prophets’ holy words … to die for us. These tiny hands grasping for Mary’s and Joseph’s touch ... would be pierced through. His precious brow, which His parents kissed innumerable times … would bear a crown of thorns. His tiny, pulsating heart … would spill His blood out onto the ground through innumerable cuts and wounds in order to atone for, make payment for, your sins, my sins, the sins of the whole world. This is only the beginning, my friends, of a love for us wretched sinners that is so deep, so holy, so divine, that we cannot help but marvel. Unassuming as this night may seem, it is the night that the Creator of the universe was born in His creation … and was the beginning of His saving work for us.

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

Tags: Luke 2:1-20

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

Peace on Earth?

December 24, 2018
By Rev. David French

 

Love, a living and breathing love, that’s what Christmas is all about. Christmas isn’t God giving us a definition of love. Christmas isn’t God holding out the possibility of love before our eyes. Christmas isn’t even about God telling us how much He loves us. Christmas is a living and breathing love, God’s love born of flesh and blood. No matter who we are, for anyone who has ever asked the question, “Does anybody really love me?” Christmas answers with an angelic voice, “Yes, God Himself loves you.” He loved you enough to send His only begotten Son to carry the burden of your sin to a cross and there paid the debt you owed with His own precious blood.

In other words, God’s love, from the manger to the cross through this very night, is a love that is both living and active. But this evening we consider just one fruit that springs from the love that God has for you as we focus on just three words from the song the angels sang on the night when Christ was born, the words “peace on earth.”

When God had finished His work of creation on the sixth day, we read in Geneses, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Man was at peace with God, with himself, and with the world around him. But that peace was short lived.

We read in the book of Revelation about that time, “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

But Satan didn’t just leave, he brought his war from heaven to earth with him, to Eden and there our first parents fell into his trap and at that moment, the battle both for and within you and me began.

But as we read, on a night like this one the angels who gathered over the fields of Bethlehem sang of peace. They sang of peace because the child whose birth we celebrate would be our peace.

But what can a helpless baby do? This is an all-out war, and there can only be peace when the enemy is conquered and the stain of our sin is removed. How can one child put an end to a war that had shaken the earth pretty much from its beginning? The answer given by the angel and the reason you‘re here is that this is no ordinary child. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

You see, this child does not just bring us peace. This child is our peace. Paul writes, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Only behind the veil of the law is God seen as a stern and unbending Judge, but in Christ the heart of God is revealed and there we find a loving and merciful Father. To know God as our own heavenly Father - this is the peace that we all need, and this is the peace that all who confess this child as their Lord have been given. It’s true we don’t always use the gifts we’ve been given, but in Christ you have indeed been given the given the gift of peace with God.

And His is a gift that keeps on giving. Because we’re at peace with God, we also find there is peace of mind and peace of the heart. Now, I understand there are many who are on the road to hell who appear to be very happy. Many who are completely satisfied with themselves. Of them the Scriptures say their stomach is there glory and their end is destruction. But there are also those who are desperately searching for some sense of peace in their lives.

My friends, you can look where you will for peace, but in the end, it is in Christ alone that true peace is found. As He comes to us in the means of grace, that is His Word and Sacraments, we receive by the faith His word and sacrament creates and sustains, forgiveness for all of our sins.

In Christ we can look at ourselves, and we don’t have to pretend that we don’t see what we really see. We are sinners, but keep looking, because on this night a light came into the world, and in that light who is Christ, we can see we that while we are indeed sinners we are at the same time His forgiven saints.

All who confess this Child as your Savior have by grace though faith been declared free of all sin and guilt. You have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and you are clean. Certainly, we know who we are, we know we are weak and full of excuses and far from what even we want to be in thought, word, and deed, and yet still God in His mercy washes us clean in the waters of our baptism and makes us a new creation. And so the life you now live, you live in the One into whose name you were baptized; the One who promises He will never leave or forsake you, the One who on this night was born for you.

But again, His is a gift that keeps on giving, so we, all of humanity, are also offered peace with each other. “How can that be?” you might ask, when since the time of Cain and Abel we’ve been killing each other, and in all honesty, it’s not getting worse. It’s been this bad since it started.

I mean, it was less then a hundred years after the angels sang this song that the armies of the Roman emperor, almost within sight of the fields where these angels sang, destroyed the temple of God, looted the holy city of Jerusalem, and filled its streets with blood.

We understand from Scriptures that there will always be wars and rumors of wars until the very end of time. We also understand the reason for our wars is that we do always resist Him and apart from the child born on this night there can be no peace, not with God, not with ourselves, and not with our neighbors.

Now, I know that simply being reminded that all you need is Christ is probably not going to change how you feel inside as you leave here. But then our peace is not a feeling. Our peace is living and active flesh and blood. Our peace is not feeling good about God, being happy with yourself, or pleasant to your neighbor. Our peace is Christ.

As we grow in Him, so grows our peace; and the way we grow in Him is to be in His word, to gather with His people, and to come to His Table. Christ comes to bring peace, but to meet Him, we must go to where He has promised to be.

I understand that when your world feels like its falling apart, to be told that all you need to do is come to church sounds hollow and superficial. But that’s only true if you seek a peace which is nothing more than a feeling.

This evening we gather to celebrate not a feeling, but the birth of a living, breathing child who is Christ the Lord. And so, this evening we sing with the angles, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Dear children of God, be at peace, for God is with you and His favor does rest on you who worship the child born in Bethlehem this night for you.     

In His Name, Amen

Tags: Luke 2:1-20
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