Sermon for Christmas Eve 2011

Those of you who have accompanied us during the penitential season of Advent have heard plenty about the problem of mankind, which is your problem and mine, too.  The problem of sin.  You have heard that you stand condemned under God’s holy Law, and you have been called to confess your sin and to repent – not just once at the beginning of your Christian walk, but daily, as our Catechism says.

Because – because by the incarnation of His Son, God has provided a place of refuge for every sinner who repents, a place of refuge from the condemnation of His holy Law, a place where sin does not rule and where death does not win, of peace and reconciliation with a loving Father. God has provided the solution to our problem, a solution that centers, not in sins ignored, nor in sins excused, but in sins forgiven through faith in the Son of God who took on human flesh.

Tonight, tonight God’s solution is on display in vivid color and light.  For on this night we celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, and the night on which God’s Son drew his first breath as the Son of Man, and so began an earthly life that would win for us a heavenly life.

The Lessons tonight from Scripture will speak for themselves.  They are not hard to understand.

In the Lessons of Prophecy, from the 8th Century B.C., you will hear the Prophets Isaiah and Micah proclaim what God will do.  In the Lessons of Fulfillment, from the First Century A.D., you will hear the Evangelists Matthew and Luke declare what God has done. 

  • The story begins with a virgin – a young woman who has never known a man, who  becomes pregnant by a divine miracle, by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit, and she gives birth to the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. The eternal Father chooses to send His eternal Son into our flesh as a helpless baby who depends on his mother to wrap him in swaddling cloths and lay him in a lowly manger.  What a strange place, what a perfect bed for the God who so humbled himself as to enter our world and our race as one of us, not to condemn us, but to save us.
  • This child, Immanuel, is born, this son is given “unto us,” first to the Jews, then to all nations, to all mankind, so that all might call upon his name as Lord and Christ.  He comes in peace to make peace between God and sinners, so that any and all who call upon his saving name may be saved. But woe to those who do not trust in his name and who turn away his salvation.  For them there will be no peace in this life or in the next.
  • This child, Immanuel, is born of King David’s line, David, the greatest king of Israel, David the son of Jesse, David, whose distant daughter was a virgin named Mary and whose distant son was an Israelite named Joseph, who became Jesus’ legal guardian and Mary’s husband.  But more than that, this Son of David born of Mary is also the only-begotten Son of the Most High God, begotten, not made, the Word who was in the beginning with God, the Word who was God, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 
  • And the birth of this child, Immanuel, takes place in Bethlehem, in the City of David.  And he is worshiped by angels and by shepherds, and by all who believe the angels’ words, “Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”

Now it’s our turn, in 2011 A.D., to rejoice, and to join the shepherds in glorifying and praising God for the things we have seen and heard.  We worship him in holy reverence before His Word, and in song, for the birth of this child, the Son of God who forever entered our human race to bear our wretched human sin and to pay for it by means of an innocent human death.  Now, risen from the dead, the same Immanuel, the same Jesus, Christ the Lord calls out to all of you: “The night of sin and death is over. The Light of life has appeared!  Put your faith in me,” Jesus says, “for I was born for you.”

Rejoice on this night, O virgin Mary, blessed to be the mother of God our Savior!

Rejoice, O Joseph, honored to be the guardian of God’s Son during His infant days!

Rejoice, O earth, for the Creator of all has walked upon you for a little while!

Rejoice, O angelic host, privileged to be the first heralds of God’s saving message to man!

Rejoice, O shepherds, the first to hear the good news and see the newborn King!

Rejoice, O mankind, for God has stooped down to save you from your sin by becoming your brother, who now calls upon you to renounce your sin and invites you into the fellowship of his Holy Church!

Rejoice, O Church of God, O Bride of Christ!  For your God has come to you and joined himself to you in marriage, in flesh and in Baptism, and will not let any harm come to you, either by sin or by Satan or by death.  And you will never be alone again, O Church of God, not at Christmas, not ever.  For God is With Us – Immanuel!  Amen!

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