+ Nativity of Our Lord – Midnight Mass – December 24th, 2012 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Darkness is the enemy’s territory. Darkness brings out the worst in mankind; sin increases like a swarming plague of cockroaches. Wicked men cloak themselves in shadows intent on chaos, confusion and calamity. Darkness, sin, and death go together.
Darkness deepened as Eden’s radiance shrouded Adam and Eve, and all of us in temptation, doubt, sin, and death, exiled in the valley of the shadow of death.
Darkness thickened as Cain murdered his brother and became an outcast.
Darkness saturated the world wit flood and judgment for man’s heart was a heart of darkness.
Darkness covered Mt. Sinai while the children of Israel carried on in lawlessness below.
Darkness filled the land for centuries as God’s prophets proclaimed and prepared the way of the Lord and then fell silent.
But all of that changes tonight. The lamp of God’s Word is not snuffed out. The smoldering wick bursts forth with light. The night of sin and death are over. The pure Light walks the earth; the Light of the World comes to sit in darkness and thereby swallows it up. The darkness is cast out by uncreated Light.
And so it’s no accident that God’s shines forth in the night, foreshadowing Christ’s divine rescue.
Into the dark and formless void of the deep, God’s first recorded word in Scripture breaks into the chaotic nothingness : “Let there be Light.”
In the midst of gloomy judgment clouds and murky abysmal waters, God’s holy ark was a floating city of light set upon the hills of the deep.
Into the night of Abraham’s despair, YHWH enlightened him with an everlasting promise: “Look up toward heavens, and count the stars if you are able to number them…So shall your descendants be.”
Into the camp of the Midianites, Gideon – God’s faithful judge of old – beamed forth the light of deliverance with simple jars of clay while God routed his enemies.
And tonight, the fulfillment of God’s promises come to pierce the darkness of sin, death and the devil. Once again, God dwells with us in darkness.
For in the shadowy hills surrounding Bethlehem, there were shepherds watching their flocks by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12
Do not be afraid. We need to hear those words as much as the shepherds did. Christ’s holy light also reveals and exposes all of our lawless, sinful deeds. God’s fiery wrath blazes hot against sin. The radiance of God’s Law blinds us. But you need not cower in fear. Kneel in repentance, yes. Then rise in joy. Do not be afraid. Not tonight. Not ever again.
For tonight the Word made flesh speaks, breathing his Holy Spirit into the void and deep darkness of our sinful hearts: “Let there by life.” And it is so.
Tonight, Jesus is his brother’s keeper; he is your keeper and brother, born in your human flesh to keep you from sin and death, sprinkling, washing and redeeming you by his blood that speaks a better word than Abel’s.
Tonight God’s holy ark is still surrounded by animals and straw, but it rests not upon the cresting waves of judgment, but beneath a baby, whose arms embrace your judgment in order to give Noah and you and the whole world, eternal rest in his holy ark, the Church.
Tonight, the light of God’s Law that exposes our sin is reflected in Christ’s perfect life lived on your behalf. The fullness of time has come; Christ is born under the Law to redeem you from the law and to give you adoption as sons.
Tonight Abraham’s promised Son, the King of the nations is born and through baptism into his death and resurrection you are his descendants, his holy offspring – children of the Light.
Tonight, the Greater Gideon goes forth from his crib to route our Satanic oppressor, to break the yoke of sin’s burden and to trample death under his feet once and for all.
Tonight the Lord encamps and dwells in the midst of His people – not in the tent or the pillar of fire and cloud – but in the tabernacle of human flesh and in His holy temple of bread and wine.
And here’s the most remarkable thing of all: that this God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God comes down to earth from heaven in order to take earth into heaven with him. He becomes what you are – a child; so that you can become what he is – sons of the Father and heirs of heaven.
But don’t be disgusted that his first bedroom smelled of manure and hay. Don’t be scandalized by the weakness of this lowly infant. Of course, God could have come, incarnate as a majestic earthly king. But instead, he chose to be incarnate as man who weeps at Lazarus’ grave. Who sweats blood at Gethsemane. Who mourns over Jerusalem. Jesus bears your human weakness and frailty; your sin and death…for that is the kind of God-Man you needed.
Yes, this Christ child is no stranger to darkness. For that is why he was born. The light of Christmas shines all the way to the cross. And there in the pitch black night of Good Friday – God works his greatest work for you. The Light of the world swallows up our darkness. Death is dead. Satan is cast out. Sin is defeated. And you are Forgiven. Redeemed. Rescued.
The same child laid in a manger for you was laid on the cross and in the tomb for you. But even the darkness of the grave could not hold him down. The Light of the World dawns once more from a cave with glorious resurrected light, victory over sin and death, and joy, the serious business of heaven.
The Advent season of sober reflection, expectation and waiting is over. The fast is ended; the feast is here. Raise your voices. Blow the trumpets. Sound the bells. Christ is born. God became Man.
No wonder the angels sang. But they do not sing alone; they sing for you…and with you. Tonight our voices join the angels and shepherds in triumphant joy. Tonight the vault of heaven sings with unrestrained joy. Heaven cannot contain its jubilation: Christ’s glory breaches the skies and fills the night and lights the earth. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.
Come, let make haste to receive this holy food and this holy Savior – whom the Lord has made known to us.
And as we go, we sing the ancient hymn of evening light:
Joyous light of glory: of the immortal Father; heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ. We have come to the setting of the sun, and we look to the evening light. We sing to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever. O Son of God, O Giver of life: the universe proclaims your glory.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who led Your people Israel by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Enlighten our darkness by the light of your Christ; may his word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; for you are merciful, and your whole creation, and we, your creatures, glorify you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
A blessed Christmas to you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.