The Nativity of Our Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Though it is now near midnight and the sun set hours ago, we are gaining sunlight. We have passed the Solstice. Our hemisphere tilts ever nearer to the sun. Each day we receive a few more minutes of precious sunshine. Soon it will again be Spring then Summer. And, yet, we must still traverse through the dreary dregs of January and endure February’s bitter winds and storms. The Solstice came and went, but it is not quite Spring just yet. Indeed, our coldest, if not our shortest, days are still ahead.
Men walk about this cold, dark, and sinful sphere of pain regretting the past and afraid of the future: hopeless, despairing, frustrated, and alone. Their souls as gray and gloomy as the skies. They are the living dead. Their guilt seems too much to bear. They cope by denying and lying. They strive to forget and lose their sanity. They hide. They run. They pretend. They strike back with cruelty and violence. For they want to kill whatever remains in them that thinks or feels or can still be hurt. They do not want to be human anymore. Ask Sadaam or Osama or Adolf and their cohorts how they feel about life, what they think of God. It is bleak, dismal, and ugly. Do not think that they are the exception from humanity, that man is basically good. Those evil three are the epitome.
Fallen man is cursed with an emptiness that only men and demons know. It has been left in us by rebellion. It is a deadly ignorance, which no ox or donkey or any other creature in the universe can have or experience. It is man’s foolish and shameful ignorance alone. They wild beasts are wiser than men. Men are infected with sin. We are twisted in on ourselves. Sin is killing us more surely than death or taxes or the primal lusts of men.
Sins, popular or not, great or small, afflict and torture us. They are not innocent. They are the problem and the symptom. There are no “white lies”, no “meaningless affairs”, no felicitous “lesser evils,” no small vices. Our sins, our most grievous faults, our wicked desires and selfish motives, deepen the uncrossable chasm that exists between us and happiness, between us and righteousness, between us and God. We have chosen the darkness. We have slept with the devil. We are rotten and dying, and we deserve it. We cannot go back to where we never were. We are dead and on our own there is no hope. We are victims, yes, but more. We are also perpetrators, willing and intentional sinners. We have gossiped and lied, backstabbed and plotted, craved evil things and thought beastly, dark, and cruel, coveting thoughts. We are shameful and guilty. We cannot stand on our own before the blinding glory of God’s holiness. We are despicable and disgusting. We are impossible to love.
Repent. We are not on our own. There is another epitome of humanity, the epitome of what we were created to be, even Jesus Christ: pure and holy, immaculate and true, merciful and gracious, kind, compassionate, and forgiving, true Man more true than any other, our own Brother more our brother than any other, our Bridegroom who loves us with an intensity that is beyond our comprehension, all that Adam should have been for Eve and for his children.
Here is the real miracle of Christmas: God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit loves us. For all things are possible for Him who took up our flesh. He chooses of Himself to love us on His own terms for our eternal good. Love is born of St. Mary according to the Flesh out of doors in Bethlehem. But the One born that night in time is begotten of the Father from eternity. He did not come to be in the moment of the angel’s announcement to the Virgin. He has always been. And He has always been a Lover of men, a Reconciler of peace, a Redeemer who saves those who trust in Him. In that moment, when Gabriel told Mary the Good News, God became Man. He took up our Flesh to live our life and die our death, to rise again for our justification, to love us, to free us, to make us clean and purify us, to redeem us.
That is how He chooses to be King. Not by power or might, not by force or violence, coercion or popularity, but by service, by sacrifice, by forgiveness and grace. There was no room for Him in the inn so that He would have room for us. He was born to die, to be a sacrifice, a substitute, an atonement for our sins, to beat back the night and shut the devil’s mouth, to rob the grave of its false victory, to be Our holy Immanuel.
We are gaining sunlight every day. The Solstice marks the turn. It promises a future free of restraint and cold. If it is Winter, then Spring is coming. If it is Christmas, then Easter is not far behind. If that is the Spring, then His Return is the warm and peaceful Summer. And that glorious Day too is soon upon us. For we are not on our own. God is with us. God is one of us to save us. And we do not walk alone. Even this night He is here in His Body and His Blood to put His love into us and to guide us home. We stand in His grace and by His Divine declaration. We are righteous in Christ, adopted as His beloved, forgiven all sins, and bear His holy Name. We are not alone. We are not afraid. We have hope. For we have a Savior. He is Christ the Lord, proclaimed by angels, worshiped by shepherds, and adored here tonight where He bestows the life we so desperately need.
Glory be to God on high!
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana