Christmas Eve | December 24th, 2010
Merry Christmas! Christ is born, the long-expected One, the Savior, the one who will save us from sin and death and the devil has come, and we are the recipients of His life and death, His mercy and forgiveness, and for that reason we rejoice and are glad this night, and not only tonight, but every day of our lives until the Lord Jesus bring us to life eternal.
But how the Lord has accomplished our forgiveness is a bit of a shock. Our God, after all, is completely unpredictable.
We forget this on nights like tonight. Most all of us have heard this text, this account of our Lord’s birth many times; it seems normal to us, familiar, no surprise at all. And we can’t go back, we can’t pretend like we’ve never heard it before. (There’s no pretending in the Lord’s church.) But this is a shocking text.
2:4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
So far, so good. Nothing too strange here.
6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
Now this might be exciting, having a baby while you are traveling is always a bit different, but everything seems to be going along fine.
7And she gave birth to her firstborn son [That’s good] and wrapped him in swaddling cloths [normal enough] and laid him in a food trough [What!?]
Did you hear that? Everything was going along so well, so smoothly, and then, pow, right between the eyes; this is not a normal family, not a normal birth, not a normal child, not a normal event.
It’s like I was telling you about what we had for dinner, “First there was some salad, some baked ham and potatoes, and all over the top we sprinkled deep-fried pine cones. What?! That’s not normal.
It’s not normal that a baby be placed in a feeding trough. Luke tells us why, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” And this is when we start to realize how shocking this story is, because we know who this Child is, we know that the is Jesus, God in our flesh, our Messiah and Savior, the King of the Universe, very God of very God, and we know where He should be, in a house, at least, if not in a palace, with the finest of clothes and food and care and all the comforts that this world has to offer.
There has never, in the history of the world, been a Person this great, a birth this wonderful, not even close, and yet this Baby who is God is laid in a manger. (I mentioned that God is not predictable, right? Who would expect this?) This is a shock.
And the shocking events continue. Luke moves from the manger to the field, to the shepherds watching their flocks by night. If you are a shepherd there are a few things that you expect, sheep to wander off, wolves sneaking around trying to eat your sheep, or thieves trying to steal them. But here’s something that you don’t expect:
2:8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
You would be afraid too, you know. This is a bit unexpected. When the glory of the Lord comes it’s supposed to shine in the temple, not in the fields, not in the manger.
But if there’s shock in this resplendent glory shining all around, listen to the shocking words that this blessed angel preaches. We have in these words an explanation about what has happened down the street in Bethlehem, what has been accomplished.
10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
The angel declares good news for all the world, the Savior is born, the Messiah, the one who would rescue us from sin and death, but the most shocking words that the angel speaks is the words, “for you.” Imagine it, there you are an everyday, run of the mill shepherd, night after night you’re watching you flocks, and now the glory of the Lord is shining all around you and the angel is telling you that the Messiah is born, that the Savior of the world is in a barn down the road, and that all of this is for you.
That is the real shock of Christmas, for the angels and for us, for all of this work, all that the Lord Jesus does, the miracle of God taking upon himself our flesh and blood, clothing Himself in humility, coming to us in lowliness and humility, to death and the cross, is all for you.
No wonder this is such a wonderful and marvelous night. And just to make sure the shepherds and we don’t miss this, the Lord sends a choir of angelic soldiers to preach and sing what has happened.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14″Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
I’m not such how many angels are in a host, that’s a military unit, a division, nor do I know how many a multitude is, but we know that a multitude of hosts is a lot, thousands upon thousands, all singing, “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to His people on earth.” You wouldn’t miss that.
For this Baby, this Child lying in a manger, surrounded by cows and sheep, this is the glory of God and the peace of all men. For this Child would do something even more shocking that being born with this lowly birth, He would bring Himself all the way to the cross, and most shocking of all, suffer the penalty for our sins so that He could set heaven and earth at peace, forgive our sins and have us in life everlasting.
That, dear saints, is shocking, and wonderful, and the most fantastic Christmas gift of all, and it is for you. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO