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Simple Joys

December 24, 2019
By Rev. David French

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” At least that’s what the song says. Now don’t get me wrong. We Christians have the only reason in the world to celebrate. Yes, we do all the shopping and baking, the coming and going, all the traditional things, but in our hearts, we get it. We know that Jesus is all we truly need. But, being people, we have a way of making the simple complicated, especially at this time of the year. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the purchasing and giving of gifts or family get-togethers or office parties or decorating the tree or putting up lights or sending out Christmas gifts or cards. 

It’s kinda sad, but some people can’t wait for “the most wonderful time of the year” to be over, and that includes pastors. Worship services at this time of the year can also be more complicated, with the extra people and moving parts, if you will. And then there are the often unrealistic expectations that we, who lead the services, put on ourselves. You see, Pastor Heckert and I both want this to be our best sermon, one that makes you feel like Jesus is just wrapping His arms around you. And being Christmas Eve, we want you to enjoy the richness of the gifts God gives to His children used in worship to glorify His Son as we gather in His name on this holy night. And, that’s a good thing.

A lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort so you might know the joy of hearing the message in word and song of the one thing needful, that is, the simple message that the forgiveness earned by Jesus is daily offered to you as a gift. And while we don’t always have all the bells and whistles that are a part of our worship this evening, you will always find the simple truth of Jesus and the forgiveness He earned and offers to you.

So this evening, like every other time I step in this pulpit, you’re probably not going to hear the best sermon you’ve ever heard. I’m not going to try and “wow” you with my insight, and I doubt you’ll hear anything you haven’t heard before. It is, after all, Christmas Eve. No, this evening I’m going to keep things simple, back-to-basics if you will, uncomplicated. This evening, we’re going to ignore the wisdom of man and stay inside the box.

I assume you’re familiar with the idea found in some of the largest companies in the country. You know the one ... if you want to be successful in our day and age, if you want to make the biggest splash with people ... you need to think “outside the box.” That it is working in the world simply can’t be denied, but does the wisdom of the world add to or take away from the life of the Church?

It seems to me that if we were to get outside the proverbial Christian Christmas box for our celebration, we wouldn’t have very much to celebrate. We certainly wouldn’t have Christ in our Christmas celebration. That would mean we’d have to ignore the reason this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. My friends, if we get outside the Christmas box we have no reason to be here. I mean, the reason you and I are here are the words of an angel, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” And what that means is that Christ is our heavenly Father’s plan to save humanity ... through the forgiveness of sins, freely offered to all. This is found in one very well-defined and easy to locate place. Simply put, in the person of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word never points us anywhere but to Christ for our salvation. He didn’t direct the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night to the highest mountain tops, the most prestigious universities, or the most ornate and grand palaces. When the angel sent them to see the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah, He simply sent them to Jesus, the Christ of God, who began His earthly life’s mission of saving mankind as an infant lying in a box among the livestock in a lowly stable in the city of Bethlehem.

Luther once said, “… we show love to one another with our words or with a hug or a kiss, but God shows His eternal and unconditional love to us by hanging flesh on a cross.” Dear children of the one true God, the birth of this child who will one day offer Himself to be sacrificed for our sins, that flesh hanging on a cross, is the essence of our celebration this evening. 

We aren’t here to celebrate the fact that a cute and cuddly little baby was born, as wonderful as that is. No, what we celebrate and are humbled by is the fact that our Creator himself came down from heaven and took on human flesh so that He could save human flesh by paying the debt of sin we owe to Him with His own holy blood, and so, bring us back into a right and everlasting relationship with himself. That is, God kept it really simple and uncomplicated by doing it all himself and having it written down so that all people could see and hear and, by grace, believe that He actually lived and died for us.

It’s true God in His wisdom chose to dwell within a virgin, the simple box, if you will, that is the human body; a simple box containing the Son of God in the flesh and blood of a simple baby – a baby who grew to be a man with the sole purpose of offering His sinless flesh and blood on the cross of Calvary to be sacrificed as a peace offering for your sin and mine, the payment demanded by His and our heavenly Father. A payment that His resurrection proves has been accepted.

You see, to understand the true meaning of Christmas, you have to also know the pain and suffering of Good Friday and the joy of an empty tomb on Easter morning. It all fits together as one simple plan. God’s plan of salvation was at work during the entire life of Jesus, from womb to resurrection, and for all of eternity. And the good news is, nothing has changed, which means He is still calling and pointing us to Jesus and to Him alone. 

You see, our salvation is still firmly rooted in the simple “box” who is Jesus the Christ. He continues to come to us bringing gifts of forgiveness and life in simple yet still well-defined places. He points us to the simple “boxes” of His Holy Word and Sacraments.

Dear children of God, do you want to see what God’s almighty and unfailing plan of salvation looks like? Do you want to share this wonderful Gospel message of eternal life and forgiveness with others? It’s so easy even the youngest of children believe it. Simply look inside the box that God Himself points us to. Look to God’s immeasurable gifts that are contained in the simple “box” of God’s Word made flesh. This evening, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, keep it simple. Look no further than the simplicity of the manger, the simple box of hay that cradled the Savior of the Nations who is our Lord and our Savior. He is Jesus, the son of God and son of man and the Savior of us all. 

In His name, Amen.