Christmas Eve 2000

Christmas Eve
The Nativity of Our Lord
Luke 2:1-20

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

St. Luke records for us a tale of four kings.

First off there is Caesar. When Caesar Augustus ruled from Rome, he was the most powerful man on earth. He snapped his fingers and everyone – everyone – jumped. He called a census to fill his coffers. He claimed, in his arrogance, to be god. He was not god. He rules no more. Instead he now suffers eternal sadness and regret in Hell. He has been there already now longer than his short reign in Rome. And it is only beginning. Then there is the king in Jerusalem, who will surface in a few more verses, but whose presence and evil plans already cloud the scene, Herod. He submits to Caesar, but is a tyrant in his own right. He will blindly strike out in vain anger at the real King of this story. His false, petty rage rage, his egomanic delusions will cause great weeping and sorrow in Bethlehem. He no longer rules either. And he draws no comfort from the companionship of Caesar in Hell. Both are disgusting in their greed and their lust for power. Both grew rich on the backs of their subjects. Both have gone to their lord.

And then there was David, in whose city the Nativity takes place. David wasn’t quite like Caesar and Herod, but neither was he all that much better. As a nation Israel enjoyed the pinnacle of its power under his, and his son, Solomon’s, reign. But the people were not free. They were subject to a king. This is what they insisted on having, for they would not trust in God. So God, through Samuel provided first Saul, then David. They wanted to be like the pagan nations. They wanted the seeming security of a human standing army. But along with standing armies and kings come bureaucracies and taxes. David and Solomon both exploited the people. The people suffered under the monarchy in Israel. The high point of Israel’s history was not when she was a powerful nation, but was when she was humble and relied upon God, not kings and armies. And besides all that, besides the normal problems that come with kings, David’s petty lust causes the murder of the faithful Gentile, God-fearing, Messianic believing martyr, Uriah, and the seduction of his wife, Bathsheba. Judged according to these deeds, David seems not much different than Herod or Caesar, just another greedy, power-hungry king who oppresses his people.

But there is more to David than that. He was different from those other kings. He had faith. He repented. He received forgiveness by way of the Messiah to come. His earthly life was troubled. His last days on earth were spent in sadness. But in the midst of all that sadness, the rebellion and loss of a son, he knew joy and peace in the Messiah who was promised to come, who came, in fact, by way of his union with the Gentile widow stolen from faithful Uriah. And judged by the Messiah’s grace and mercy, by His atoning sacrifice and forgiving love, David is a saint, undefiled, pure, without blemish! He rules no more either, nor does he desire it. Instead he basks in the presence of God who loves him. This Child whom David awaited, his own descendedt, is the Savior of all men, even adulterers and kings!

This Messiah, upon whom David hung all his hope and confidence, is the fourth King in St. Luke’s account. He is David’s greater Son. He is David’s Lord, born in David’s city. But He is more. He is  true God, begotten of His Father from eternity, and true Man, born of the Virgin Mary. On that holy night even as He held the whole creation in His hand, He was cradled in the arms of His virgin mother. And even though no man can touch His Divine essence, nor gaze upon it, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. He who gives food to the hungry and seed to the sower, was fed on milk of His mother’s breast.

For the fulness of God deigned to dwell in an Infant born of a Virgin. The eternal Word of God has become human flesh and blood. The Creator bent to His creation to become a creature, in order to save us. He came for this purpose: to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. And so it is that His humble birth foreshadowed his ignoble death. Christmas and Easter come together as one. For with the manger crib, comes also the cross. He came in humility to die. He was born of a woman, made man, that He would have Blood to shed. And all this so that He might come again in glory on the last day to raise us, his kinsmen, to life.

He, who came them, comes to us, here and now, clothed in the same humility of that holy night two thousand years ago. Here you will find him wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the Scriptures and mangered in the lowliness of the sacraments. This will be the sign for you: You will find him hidden under the waters of Baptism, under the mouth of the preacher, under the bread and the wine of the Holy Supper. Here, He comes to you, gently, humbly, hiddenly, so that you might receive Him as your Savior, and your Christ, as your King. Here you are in the company of the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven who worship God’s Child and Mary’s Son. Here, in the Church, the search for Jesus, the search for peace, the quest for hope, ends. Here in the Liturgy, the holy Child of Bethlehem speaks to you, forgives you, feeds you His own Body and Blood, gives you His life, makes you a pilgrim in this world, and a citizen of heaven.

Other kings come and go. Kingdoms of this world wax and wane and die away. But this King – the Prince of Peace – rules still, and rules forever. Go in that peace this night. Amen.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana

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