Eleventh Day of Christmas 2001

The 11th Day of Christmas
Matthew 01:18-02:23

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

Today is the eleventh day of Christmas. There are only twelve. It has nearly come to an end. The clearance bins are empty. The decorations are coming down. But maybe now, at last, before the final day is upon us, we might look back with vision clear of sugar plums and fairies at Christmas and see there Christ.

We see the poor, peasant Child, of distant royal lineage, without a crib, suckling at His mother’s breast, and running away from Herod. He looks not a bit like God. There is no power, no glory, no soundtrack in the background, no halos, evident. He seems to be just another kid blissfully ignorant of the poverty into which He has been born and of the oppressed state of His people. For the time being He is absorbed completely in the basic things of life – eating, sleeping, playing. For Him, His mother is the sun and the moon, the whole universe. We know that will change. But what at first in this common, mundane scene could be the cause of  shepherds rejoicing, Simeon singing, and wise men lavishing such extravagant gifts?

You know the answer. This is He of whom the prophets prophesied. He is Immanuel, the Creator born of a creature, our Redeemer-kinsman come to be a sacrifice. He is Love in the Flesh, Joy swaddled in plain, common clothing. He is Peace between God and men in the midst of violence and hate. Here -in the Flesh borne of the Virgin – God is hidden, for those with eyes to see.

And so it is, that Herod rages and plots, and the people of Jerusalem are troubled. But God cannot be stopped. For our part, we are not lashing out in blind raging murder. We are the merely troubled in Jerusalem. There is something troubling and upsetting about this Babe. For He comes to change us and we’ve grown quite comfortable with our sins. We like to indulge ourselves and pretend as though we can “handle it.” Like pulling a dog away from its vomit, God pulls us away, against our will, from Sodom and Gomorrah. He says, “There is no joy, no peace, no comfort, no real pleasure in the Hellish walls of Satan’s deception. I take nothing away but the instruments of destruction.” But how, in our vanity, we want to stay with Herod, and Pharaoh, and Jezebel in the dung! How we plot and rage. How deluded, introverted, and perverted we’ve become.

Repent! He takes nothing good away. Repent! He knows what you need, and His perfect love reaches out with custom made discipline, just so that you might be saved. He did not come in vain. This Word does not return empty but He accomplishes that for which He was sent. He ascends into heaven having paid the ransom, redeemed the fallen, opened heaven for all believers. O, Christians, follow Zacchaeus and Matthew, those once-greedy tax-collectors, now rich in Grace. Follow Rahab and Tamar, and Bathsheba, too, women of once ill-repute, now honored as His unblemished Bride. Find confidence with Thomas and with Paul in the risen Lord. Find a people, and a God, with Ruth and with Luke. See with your own eyes, and not another, the Kinsman-Redeemer who stands upon the earth, your Salvation, the Consolation of Israel, with Job, and with Simeon. Be a deceiving thief no more. Now, be Israel, who has wrestled with God and been wounded in the struggle, and there found blessing by seeing God’s face – the face of long suffering grace and mercy. For there in the manger, nailed to the Cross, bursting from the virgin tomb is the Hope, the Joy, the Peace for which you have been searching all your life. There- God is hidden for you.

He would not leave you in death’s dark dungeons. He broke in to rescue you, to break you out. It cost Him His life, His Life for yours, His death that you might live. But this Son of Mary, hated by Herod and Caiaphas alike, is no mere Man. He is also God. He overcomes death. He is Life. He gives life. He lives. And so it is that by His death and resurrection He is your Life, your Love, your Lord. And in this way you’re liberated from the deluding, numbing passions of Sodom and Gomorrah. You are free from the self-centered whirlpool of destruction. And now your heart can really feel. It can love. Now, your voice can sing. You are as man was meant to be, you believe.

Come, then, and sing with the angels of “Peace on earth, good will to men” in the Gloria in Excelsis. Sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the Lord of hosts and join in with the children greeting the Son of David with loud, “Hosannas” in the Sanctus. And eat with them all the Bread of Life laid first in the manger, and then down in the grave, and taken up again for you. Be united to Him who did not despise your lowliness. Be forgiven, washed clean by the Blood shed on the cross and applied to your heart by way of the mouth from the Chalice.

This is Christmas. It is not so much about a birth, as it is about a death. But hidden in that death is Life, and that Life is the Light of men. And, now, with that Light lingering in our eyes, a quiet joy in our hearts, and the taste of a Sacrifice upon our lips, a people bearing God’s own Name and Righteousness, we are ready for Epiphany.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

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