The Nativity of Our Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
That surly inn-keeper is not so different than we. It is not that he did nothing. He did something. He let them sleep with the animals. He let them use his straw. He was warm and toasty and getting rich to boot, but you cannot say that he did nothing! He did a little. Sort of like putting a manger scene in the corner so there is plenty of room for the Santa Claus and Reindeer displays. Sort of like spending hundreds of dollars on useless gadgets at Wal-mart for people who are stuffed full and well-clothed and then dropping a quarter in the can on the way out the door. No one can say a quarter is nothing.
What irony! Foxes have holes. Birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place in all of creation to lay His head. As it ended, it began. There was no room in the inn. What a scathing indictment of our race! The Lord of Creation, the Ruler of the Universe, the Giver of all things, began His suffering at the hands of men on the night of His birth. For we men think only of ourselves. We strive to appease our weak consciences by offering crumbs to the poor, but deep down we know it is never enough.
Repent. In the heat of the moment we’ve gotten caught up in the spirit of the season. And it hasn’t been the Holy Spirit. It has been an altogether different spirit. Perhaps it has been the spirits of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Or has it been the wrathful, sad spirits of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol and the man made into an angel working off his sins in It’s a Wonderful Life? The sad reality is we’ve played the chump. We’ve been fooled by Hallmark’s sappiest lines. We have wanted Christmas to about family, about feeling good, about helping people, about a romantic story set in an exotic land, but not about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christmas is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what He came for, the reason He was born as a Man.
Repent. But in your repentance, in your sorrow over sin, in regret over your wanton selfishness, in your seemingly impossible struggle against your fallen flesh, do not despair. Be full of joy and eager expectation. For God became Man to be a Sacrifice for your sins, that you, by faith, might once again belong to Him. He took up the Flesh of Mary that He might be pierced and bleed in your place. He breathed your poisoned, jealous air that He might cry out and give up His spirit. He slept in an animal’s feeding trough that He might feed you with Bread that satisfies your very soul. He was born to die, be buried, and rise up again – for you.
That is worth celebrating. It worth coming to Church for late at night. Jesus slept in that lowly manger, suffered the insult and neglect of men, so that He could be nailed to a cross and draw you to Himself in forgiveness. He did it all for you, as though there were only you. And He was glad to do it. He does not begrudge you. He bears no malice. He did it on purpose. He did it to end the warfare which you had begun and which you could not end.
He did it to stop malice, wrath, and anger. He did it all, was born out of doors, mocked and beaten, rejected and crucified, so that you would be loved by His Father. He has paid the price. Justice has been served. The guilty are declared righteous for the Innocent has borne their burden, your burden. He is glad He did it and He’d do it again. For in this way He got you back and saved you from Hell. That is the peace that makes angels sing and shepherds forget their flocks. God became Flesh to redeem and rescue you.
He still comes to His people. Luke 2 is more than a history lesson. For it is the also the very pattern of God’s interaction with His creation. He comes now like He came then. He comes in the Flesh, as a Divine Man. He comes to you clothed in the same humility of that holy night in Bethlehem. Here you will find him wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the Scriptures and mangered in the lowliness of bread and wine. This will be the sign for you: You will find Him hidden under the waters of Baptism, under the mouth of the preacher, on the Paten and in the Chalice. You will find Him coming to cleanse and purify you by Grace with healing in His wings. He comes to you, your King, gently, humbly, hiddenly, so that you might receive Him as your Savior and your Christ, so that you would worship Him by receiving what He gives. He comes with forgiveness and acceptance, to fulfill your desire, and give you peace.
Here, in the Church, in the Holy Communion, in the Absolution, in the Word of God, the search for Jesus, for peace, for Christmas, for meaning to life, for hope and strength and purpose and joy ends. Here is a place to lay your head, to rest, and to be safe, to have what the Christ was denied so that you would be rich in Him. Here in the Liturgy, this very night, the holy Child of Bethlehem forgives you. He feeds you. He gives you His life.
Even though according to our fallen nature we sought to shut Jesus out, there is room in the heart of God for you. There is room, mansions really, for surly innkeepers and doubting gluttons. There is room for you. And there always will be. Your past is forgotten. You are perfect in Grace by royal decree and angelic announcement. Fear not! Jesus loves you. Merry Christmas.
In +His’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana