St. Luke 2:1-21
December 24, 2022 A+D
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The great joy of Christ is ours. This is a simple message and a simple sermon. The great joy of Christ, of redemption, is ours. That is the thesis. And I have two simple examples and illustrations for you. Here they are: be like Jean and be like the angels.
I. Jean Dray
Jean is our oldest member. 93 years old. She loves Jesus. And she loves Christmas. Her life has been hard, of course. No one lives that long, that honestly, without plenty of suffering and hardship. I don’t know all her pain and it is none of my business or yours, but I know she has buried a lot of loved ones, including a husband that she was married to for 67 years. She has endured a lot of hardship and borne it all with dignity and faith.
As best I can remember, she hasn’t missed a Christmas Eve service in the last 22 years in a row, but she is missing this one. She has been ill for most of the Fall. Live doesn’t get easier at 93. It gets harder.
For the last 22 years, each year as she left our Christmas Eve service she said, “Pastor, I didn’t think the service could be any more beautiful than last year, but it did. That was the best service ever.”
I doubt that is objectively true. It hasn’t always gotten better. Some years the preacher or the choir have been better than others. Some years the people in the pews have sung more robustly or in tune or been nicer. But Jean could never tell. It always seems like it was more beautiful each year. She thought that because even if the talent of preachers and musicians has stagnated or declined, her faith had grown. Each year she heard the Gospel with new depth. Faith matured and increased her joy each hear even in the midst of heartache and trouble.
We should all be like Jean. The angel brought good tidings of great joy for us. There is no joy on earth that compares to this, nor any sadness that can take it away: Christ the Lord has been born a Man to be our Savior. The war is over. God and we are reconciled. All things are in His hands and His good and gracious will is done. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. Be like Jean.
II. The angels
Also, be like the angels. They angels share the joy that they announce.
I suspect they are a bit horrified at the paltry response to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph are there. That is good. They are joyful, but there is also some sadness there. They’re tired. They might be a little ashamed of how they’ve been treated and that they can’t make a more regal welcome for the Savior. They might also be struggling with what the future holds for their beloved Son and for them.
If Jesus had been born an angel, know this: there would have been a big party. They would have all been there.
They’re not disappointed that He has been born a Man. They are thrilled. They love to watch God in action, to see how He loves His people, to witness His redemption, rescue, and restoration of the world. They want to be reconciled to us, to be again our brothers. And that thrilling joy makes them want to get a party started.
So here is what I think happens. They look around and hatch a plan. The people in Bethlehem blew it. They didn’t welcome Mary and Joseph. But there has to be somebody to tell, somebody who can go and worship Him and join them in their praise. They send out a star. That will get the wisemen there. But that will take some time, a year, maybe more.
Then they see the shepherds. They say, “Let’s tell the shepherds. It is perfect. David was shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. But if we just show up, it will scare them. We have to handle this the right way.
“Some fear is inevitable. Men aren’t used to seeing angels and have a problem with holiness. Here is what we do. We send a representative. The first thing he says is ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Then he can tell them that he has good tidings of great joy because the Messiah has been born in Bethlehem to save them. He can tell them that they can recognize Him by finding the only baby in Bethlehem in a manger. The rest of us will watch from behind the cloud and then escort them invisibly to Mary and Jesus.”
That is the plan and it starts fine but they can’t control themselves. They lose their minds with joy. They burst on the scene and start singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”
We should be like them. Whatever heartaches and disappointments afflict you, whatever adversaries and dysfunction beset your family, whatever sins of your own or others shames you, haunts you, or tries to rule and choke you, I have good tidings of great joy. Unto you, for you, a Savior, Christ the Lord, is born. He loves you. He forgives you. He wants you. He saves His people from their sins. He saves them from death. He saves them from themselves.
Be like Jean. I know. Every year there is more to be sad about. We all have plenty of regrets, things we wish we could undo. Some of you feel like you’re living in a nightmare. It will end. You’re not in control, but God is. He is good. He knows what He is doing. Trust in Him.
Make plans, but don’t cling too tightly to them. They will likely fail, at least in part, but God is in control. Whatever happens, if the Lord gives or the Lord takes away, let us not fail to rejoice, to praise God, and to share this joy with others. Jesus was born. Jesus was killed. Jesus rose. Cling to Jesus. You can put all your chips on this hope. You can trust in Him, like Jean. You can rejoice like the holy angels. The day of glory is nearer now than when we first believed. In that sense, let this Christmas be the best one yet – come what may. Because the tidings really are good and the joy really is great.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.