Christmas Day 2007

Christmas Day
John 1:1-18

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

Christ is born and the angels sing. The archangels blend their voices in harmony. The cherubim resound their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. Heaven wonders at such mercy. God is born as Man for hateful and ungrateful men. Heaven praises God for this incalculable love, beholding a mystery of love in the Flesh. Heaven rejoices because heaven knows that God’s inscrutable will is always good. And it is His will to redeem men. For our salvation He deems to dwell here below and endure terrible sufferings, pain, and death. This that we, who were lowly, who deserve nothing, are exalted. It is Divine mercy that makes it that we are now higher than the angels who never rebelled or sinned. And because of this, because of the exalted status given us in God’s mercy, the angels sing.

This mystery is beyond all of creation’s understanding. The angels cannot fathom it. They wonder at its joy. Shepherds quake and Mary ponders. And we poor sinners eat the Body and drink the Blood of God made Flesh and are bold to call the Father of Our Lord Our Father.

Ask not, O Christian, how this can be. Where God wills the order of nature is overturned. He who parts the Red Sea, who multiplies the loaves, who sees Nathanael under the fig tree, willed to become Man. He willed. He spoke. He saved. All things move in obedience to Him-Who-Is. And thus He-Who-Is is born of a Virgin. He becomes a Man. He-Who-Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man, while never relinquishing the Godhead that is His. And now He is and ever will be Man. He is still a Man, the Man who was crucified and died, who rose and ascended, sits at His Father’s right, as a Man, on our behalf. This our exaltation and our hope.

His Incarnation did not cause Him to forsake the holy angels. He has not left them or deprived them of His care. Though He is a Man He has not ceased to be God. He still loves what He created and He never stops sustaining and caring for all of it, which He did even while on cross. He is God and He is Man, One Christ, Our Lord, perfectly united in will and desire, perfectly one with His Father and the Spirit.

Let us then follow the lead of the holy angels and bow to the mystery of this Love which has interceded on our behalf and given Himself as a Sacrifice for our salvation, who opens heaven to lowly human sinners who had to right to ask. Come, say the angels, let us adore Him.

So, come, you infants, babes in your mothers’ arms, adore Him who became a little child. Out of the mouths of infants He perfects praise. We are glad you are here. And if you cry and fuss from time to time, we do not mind. You are the model of our faith. You teach us how to trust.

And come you children. Come to the Child who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod, come and adore the Christ your Lord. We will not hinder you. But will learn from you to discern the Body of Christ and trust His Word.

Come, you men. Come to Him who became a man that He might heal the miseries of His servants. You shepherds and farmers and keepers of livestock, come to the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. You Ministers of His Word, come to Him who has become our Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. You servants and laborers, you poor, come to Him who took upon Himself the form of a servant, who had no place to lay His head, that He might bless our stewardship and give us joy in our work. You fishermen and hunters, you who live by the strength of your back or your skills, come to the Fisher of humanity. And even you publicans, you who work for money, who worry about it and track it and seek to become rich, come to Him who from among you named a chosen evangelist, who changes the hearts of men, and gives treasure beyond our math.

Come, you women. Do not stay back. Do not lose yourself in your work, but come to Him who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant woman, who prayed for the women of Jerusalem, who first announced His Resurrection to the women. Come to Him who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the essence of female virtue and the absolute paragon of our Faith.

Come and adore Him, for He is Christ the Lord, the Savior. He saves us from our sins. He delivers us from death. He is our God and our Brother. He makes us free and lifts fallen humanity. Come all sinners, that He may embrace us all together. Come that we may look upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and be joined in His Holy Body. Come and adore Him.

God has become a Man! He has picked up His Cross, has taken the bitter Cup of Wrath, has endured the worst that Hell could do and quenched all its hatred in His Holy Blood for you. Rejoice, O Christian! Rejoice.

But is that the strongest word we have? Rejoice? It seems too small, too shallow, too fleeting to encompass and express the praise that comes bursting out of us whose consciences have been cleansed, who are purged by His Word, whose guilt and shame is gone, and who get, yet again, another fresh start. We are forgiven. We are spared. The Light has shined in our darkness. He has rescued us from eternal torture for the sake of His grace. What words, what music can contain our joy? Rejoice! Celebrate! Be Glad! Adore!

So then, you who mourn, come and adore. Do not be afraid. Do not feel guilty or ashamed. Leave behind regret. The joy of Christ, of forgiveness is undeserved by all, whatever they have endured, and it does not defile the memory and pain of loss. You are not less sad than you should be if your heart is warmed by the love of God. The joy of Christ is meant to give you comfort and relief. We have Christ, Our Lord and do not mourn as the world mourns. We have hope.

And thus we are not sad for our departed brothers and sisters. We are sad for ourselves. They are at peace while we still suffer in this strife. We wait the time when we will see them again. We will see them again because Jesus was born, became a Man, died and rose from the dead. You who mourn, come, let us mourn with you, Christians should not mourn alone. And we all feel the sorrow of being without loved ones today, apart from those who have preceded us and fallen asleep in Jesus, or apart due to circumstances, violence, and sin. Our war has not ended even though the victory is already won.

Our feasting tables will not be the same this year as they were last year. They’ve been attacked by death and divorce, by arguments and cancer and betrayal. They will not be the same next year as they are this. But still rejoice and adore. For God is Man and He is good. His mercy endures forever. Jesus lives. Our dead are not dead. Because Jesus lives they live. Because Jesus was born and Jesus, our loving God, is a Man, is one of us, and has ascended into heaven, we have hope, we can mourn and adore, we can be glad and sad at the same time, and we can wait for the will of the Lord to be revealed in the goodness that we trust in now even as we enjoy the peace that passes all understanding.

Your pain will not endure. Heaven and earth pass away. Your loneliness and sorrow will pass away as surely as your regrets and guilt. Nothing lasts forever except for this: the mercy of our God in Christ. The trumpet will sound. We will be changed. We will be as we were meant to be and all sadness will end. For our God is a Man! We have a Mediator, a Lover, an Advocate, and we cannot die, nor lose loved ones to death forever, for Jesus lives, and so will we, and so do all those who confess His Name. Christ was born in Bethlehem for this.

What joy is ours in Him! It is that joy that has brought us here to sing with angels today. Here we are, with sword pierced souls, with eager expectation, with complicated lives and pasts, with joy that can only come from being loved and forgiven by God Himself. Here we are with our doubts and our faith, wanting to celebrate His Birth, to keep the Ancient Feast. And thus we take our part, not by plucking harps in heaven, not performing miracles, but holding in our arms the cradle of Christ. For Christ is cradled in the Holy Scriptures which we hear. He is cradled in the bread and the wine by which He gives us His Body and His Blood. When we say our prayers, when we receive the Absolution, when we add our “Amen” to the services of His Church, we are cradling Christ in ourselves. For we are joined to Him by faith through grace.

Rejoice, O Christian! Sing with the angels. Whatever burdens might be yours, rejoice that Christ is born. Your struggles are not unknown by your Father in heaven or His holy angels. He has provided your rescue. Your day will come. In the meantime, rejoice, adore. Your sins are forgiven. Christ is born. Jesus lives.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pastor David Petersen

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