The Nativity of Our Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Somebody had to die. Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge. They would now know death, hurt, sorrow. They ushered in death. They handed creation over to the devil. They chose evil. They brought that death and misery, these hardship and heartbreaks, upon themselves and upon all their children. And we, their children, bear their guilt by right of inheritance. It is ours. That is enough guilt, in and of itself, to warrant damnation. But that is not all the guilt we have. We are also guilty of our actual sins, of hatred and jealousy, of pride and stubborn stupidity, of greed and gluttony. God save us! All this guilt, all our transgressions, require death. There is no way out. Somebody had to die. That is the price for eating from the tree of knowledge.
Thus God became Man. He was born of the Virgin, became one of us, joined Himself to the lineage of Adam, so that He could die. He became Man so that He could inherit Adam’s guilt for us. He was Incarnate to be a Sacrifice, born to be forsaken, to be mutilated, desecrated, defiled by the hateful hands of violent men, nailed to a crossbeam of torture and shame. And that gory death, that lonesome cross, is the source of the peace of which the angels sing. It causes the shepherds to rejoice. For that brutal killing of the Mary’s innocent Son is God’s good will toward men. It is our only hope and comfort. Because Somebody had to die. So Jesus died. He died that we would escape.
That is the reason that the Creator, who provides for all living things, had no place to lay His head on this earth. There was no room in the inn. There was no room in all of creation for Him. He was an outcast, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He was a worm and no man, One born out of time and out of sync. He allowed all this by denying Himself, in part, and for a time, His Divine rights and attributes. He humbled Himself so that He could suffer in our place, so that He could know sore feet and a tired back, hunger and sorrow, betrayal by friends, laughter at times, but mostly disappointment. He lived as a Man, with all those goes with it, in Adam’s fallen, chaotic world. He lived as a Man but without sin. He lived a perfect, an innocent, a righteous life, but paid the penalty for the guilty.
He was tempted by the devil, even as we are. His temptation was fundamentally to be God only, to not be Man, to abandon us, to take up His power and reign, to not go hungry or without, to not be mocked or hurt, to come down from the cross and leave us to what we deserve: death, Hell, and the devil. But He would not. Somebody had to die. Not Him. He didn’t have to. He was innocent. Somebody had to, but not Him. But He died anyway. He wanted to die so that we wouldn’t have to die. He wanted to be our Substitute, to defeat the devil for us, to break down the bars of Hell of that held us in and swing open the gates of heaven that locked us out, to make us again His. He came with a mission: to seek and to save the lost; to lay down His life as a ransom; to be lifted up and draw all men to Himself; to be THE Atonement, THE Scape-goat, THE Passover Lamb, THE once-for-all Sacrifice, that the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve might be pardoned, guilt-free, and exonerated as though they had never sinned. He accomplished that mission. He fulfilled His Father’s will. He crushed Eden’s lying serpent and reconciled the world to Himself.
Somebody had to die. For this He was born: to die. He has died. And now, because of that death, we don’t have to die. He became one of us so that He could take what was rightly ours: guilt, sin, shame, death. He crucified it. It is gone. There is no more to pay, not a thing. It is done, complete, finished, no strings attached, no questions asked, God for man as Man that men might have peace. He took what was ours. He gives what is His: innocence, righteousness, holiness, blessedness, perfection, communion with the Father and the Spirit, comfort, hope, love, peace, life.
There is no one to accuse you. There is nothing left to do. Mary’s Son has done it all. And, now, thanks be to God, nobody has to die! Death has been conquered. He died to kill death. He died but He is not dead! He lives! He came forth from the grave even as He came forth from Mary’s holy womb: alive, in love, perfect, for mercy’s sake, for you.
These are the things that that holy, honored, most blessed of all women pondered in her heart: that she had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit; that God had entered into her virgin womb and taken up her flesh to redeem her and her kin; the great and awful cost of the world’s salvation that her innocent, little Boy would pay – because Somebody had to die. Let us also ponder these things in our hearts. And rejoice in them. Let us eat what God laid in the manger. Let us feast upon the Body that snuggled up to Mary’s breast and the Blood that was shed on Calvary’s cruel cross. Let us partake of resurrected glory of this Bread of Life, this Lamb of God, this Firstborn of the Father, our Lord and Savior, who has died for us, and who lives for us. Let our mouths and hearts receive Him as eagerly as Mary’s arms. Because nobody has to die.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana