The Eve of Christmas
December 24, 2015 A+D
St. Luke 2:1-21
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When God addressed Adam and Eve after the Fall, He promised them that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. From that time forward, the children of God waited in eager anticipation for the day that promise would be fulfilled. About 4,000 years later, the time had come for the Christ to be born. It happened for real, in history. The fact cannot be denied or overlooked. Jesus was born. God doesn’t make empty promises. He fulfills what He says. He doesn’t speak empty words. He does not leave things to mere emotion or sentiment. He accomplishes what promises.
Now, to be sure, of all nights, Christmas eve is full of emotion and sentiment. At no other service do the church decorations sparkle or dazzle like they do tonight. The darkness outside the windows is contrasted with the candles and the Christmas lights inside. The chill in the air of a (typical [because it was warm this year]) December 24th night is contrasted with the warmth in this building. It gives an air of coziness and quaintness. But those are simply man-made sentiments to evoke a comfortable or an emotional setting for what we hear and read. We could just as easily have turned on all the lights, had this service while the sun was still in the sky, not have put up all the Christmas decorations, or the boiler could have conked out and it not be warm. A bright, bare, cold church does not take away from the commemoration of the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. The setting tonight does not add to or take away from the fact that Jesus was born. His birth is not based upon a mood set by lights and garlands whether in this building or in your homes. His was a real, natural birth at a real time in history. And quite frankly, it was not a quaint time in the life of the world or in the life of Mary and Joseph. It was dark, dirty, and scary. Mary and Joseph were away from the safety and comforts of home. An occupying military force demanded more taxes from a poor people. Their own extended family would not let them into their houses in Bethlehem. There was uncertainty in government, in economics, in health, in safety, and even in religion. But there was no uncertainty with God. The time was perfect for Him. The Davidic line had all but vanished. The priestly line was barely more than yes-men for the Romans. Most people had lost hope or lost focus on the ancient promises.
But in the fullness of time, God ordained that Jesus be born in the flesh to be Emmanuel—God with us. Christ was sent by the Father to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), and to come from the bosom of the Father to bring the Gospel [“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, Jesus has made him known.” (John 1:18)]. That baby in the manager was God in the flesh, born in time to rescue people who had lost hope. In Jesus, the eternal Davidic line was perfected. The Levitical priestly line was abolished for a Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
St. Luke records for us the facts—the people involved, the date, the place, the circumstance, and even direct quotes from the Angels to the Shepherds. That’s why it’s the passage for Christmas Eve, Christmas pageants, and Christian homes. St. Luke acts as a reporter to this real-world event. Yet even this factual account isn’t without the emotions that accompanied the angels, the shepherds, and Mary. The Shepherds were afraid at first of this unusual company of angels. The Angels couldn’t help praising God in this wonderful announcement. The shepherds were left pondering what all of this meant for them and for the people they went out to tell. They couldn’t help glorifying God and praising Him for the sight they were allowed to witness. And of course Mary was left taking all of these things in and pondering them in her heart. She knew that she was a virgin and had just given birth to a miraculous baby boy. She knew that the announcement of this birth was made to the Shepherds who came to that night to see this sight. She was witnessing firsthand the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, the prophecy of Zechariah, and the announcement of the Angel Gabriel.
For some of you, this is will be the quaintest, most memorable Christmas that you have yet experienced. This will be the time on which you look back with fond memories for the rest of your life. For that, praise the Lord. However, for some of you, the Christmas lights won’t twinkle as brightly as they once have in the past. Family situations change. Loved ones have passed away. Relationships have broken up. Kids have moved away from home, some kids have gotten married, and some possibly haven’t made it back for the holidays. Family situations are complicated and are sometimes sad or tragic. There are people who won’t be there for one reason or another. As you get older, the celebrations in this world are always mixed with some melancholy, sadness, regret, or even fear. But whether it’s your best or most difficult Christmas in memory, the facts don’t change, Jesus was born. God’s promises are always fulfilled. Your Savior lives as true God and true man forever.
Jesus’ birth was the start to your Salvation. God had put righteousness into motion when He was born in Bethlehem, but the birth was not the completion. His birth was not the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies, it was just the beginning. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of His final goal of crushing the serpent’s head, of being raised up on a pole to save all who looked upon Him. He was born not to remain a baby, but to rescue all people from their sins by His sacrifice. The Christian Church can’t help connecting the birth of Jesus and His death—Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter—birth and resurrection. Even the Collect tonight points us in that direction “that we may also come to the fullness of joys in heaven.” Jesus was never meant to stay in the manger, and you are not meant to stay in this world. The Light that dawns on you in Christ’s birth is brought to perfect completion when you know the fullness of those mysteries in heaven. You can understand those mysteries only in faith, only by believing in the one who was born, suffered, died, and rose again. In this faith, Christmas is more than just emotion and sentiment. It is joy now, in this world, to know that your Savior has come for you, and it is peace and perfection later when He comes again to take you to be with Him. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…. [Look] for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2).
Jesus was born. Merry Christmas.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.