Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sermon for Christmas Eve Midnight: "Unto You"

+ Nativity of our Lord, Midnight - December 24th, 2013 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

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

In the beginning of C.S. Lewis’s beloved book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the reader enters a wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. But the wonder of this discovery is quickly overshadowed. There is a White Witch and Narnia is covered in a curse: it was always winter, but never Christmas.
Let that thought sink in a moment. What that would the world be like without Christmas? 

That would be like a ship at sea whose captain is never able to chart a course to safe harbor though surrounded by islands.
Or a hiker traversing up a mountainside only to find that when he ascended the top of one peak there was an endless mountain range on the horizon.
Or a person who finds themselves in a library packed floor to ceiling with the greatest books of all time but is incapable of reading a single word.
Think of Moses dying before entering the Promised Land, or Simeon waiting without any hope of fulfillment. Or, the words of Isaiah, had 8th century prophecy of Christ not come true…we would still be a people walking in darkness; living in sin; dwelling in a land of death.

No Christmas means no Mary or Joseph, no shepherds or angels, just an empty stable full of straw and animals. No Christmas, no God in human flesh. No Savior. No one living a perfect life for you, no one obeying the Law’s demands on your behalf, no one healing disease and casting out demons, no one preaching the Gospel and no Good Friday. No cross. No suffering. No death. No forgiveness. No resurrection. No life.

Take away Christmas – take away Jesus’ incarnation - and there’s nothing specifically Christian left.
What would the world be like without Christmas? Always death and no life. In a word…darkness.
Thankfully for us, God works his greatest rescues at night, out of the darkness. Have you noticed that as you read the Scriptures? It’s no accident.

God spoke the words, “Let there be light” into the darkness and void of creation.
God promised a rescue from the darkness of sin and death even after Adam’s fall.
God proclaimed that Abraham’s offspring would deliver all nations, as he gazed at the immeasurable night-sky.
God led Israel out of captivity and bondage to slavery as they sat in darkness preparing and eating the Passover meal.
God brought victory to Israel by twilight as Gideon’s lamps filled the Midianites with fear and confusion.
God sent his angels to the shepherds as the light of glory pierced the shadows of Bethlehem’s hillsides. 

Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. And you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Christ’s incarnation is the grand miracle of the Christian faith: the uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, bringing nature up with Him (C.S. Lewis). The Creator becomes the Creature. The Infinite takes up residence in the Finite. The fullness of the Deity dwells among us bodily. God and Man are reconciled. The image of God is restored to Man. Uncreated Light comes to cast out the darkness of our sin.

Of course, this means saying the politically incorrect and impolite thing and owning up to our sin. Calling our sin what it is: darkness, damnable, and death. Isaiah was also prophesying about us. We sit in deep darkness. But that’s only half of the prophet’s words. Don’t stop there. There’s no need to sit in the darkness holding onto your precious sin anymore. Unto you a child is born! 

Oh, come, ye unfaithful,
Broken and polluted!
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye,
To Bethlehem!
Come and behold him,
Born the friend of sinners:
Oh come let us adore him,
Oh come let us adore him,
Oh come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!
(Chad Bird)

We must do away with any pious notions of “God up there” and “we down here” or of our reaching up to God. What we cannot do, God has done. God has come down to us in the Child of the manger. We cannot ascend to God, either in our thoughts, prayers, dreams, or faith, but God has come down to us. We cannot reach up to God, but God has extended His right Arm to us. We cannot crawl our way out of sin’s fell darkness, but God crawls his way to us.

Luther once said, “I know no other God than the One who hangs on a cross and nurses at the breast of His mother.” This is the profound miracle of the Incarnation. No other world religion can make – or dares to make – this historical, monumental claim. God and Man are One in the person of Jesus. God of the eternal Father, Man of His virgin Mother, Jesus brings God and Man together as one unique Person, a new Adam, a new Head for humanity. Unto you is born a Savior.

So if you think about it: Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. You are. Jesus wasn’t born for himself. Jesus didn’t live for himself. He had no need to die for himself. He did it all for you. Christ became man for you. Christ lived a perfect life for you. Christ paid the debt of your sins, suffered for you, bled for you. Christ hung on the cross in darkness for you. Christ delivered you from the shadow of death by dying for you. All of God’s night-time rescues of old – for Abraham, Israel, and Gideon - all lead down to the cross. 

All because Christ was born for you.
Unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
Unto you is born the Light of the World to scatter the darkness of your sin and death… far as the curse is found.
Unto you is born the true Fountain of Life who baptizes you with living water and sacred blood, flowing from his pierced side.
Unto you is born the One who speaks a word of absolution over your sins as quickly and surely as he spoke creation into being.
Unto you is born the Word made flesh who gives His flesh for you to eat and his blood for you to drink. 

Here is the true Christmas celebration – a Christmas feast - where Christ’s Word is preached and heard, where His Body and Blood are given and received, where the Word made Flesh continues to dwell among us.  

Tonight, there’s no need to wonder what the world would be like without Christmas ever again.
Here it is always Christmas and never winter. For sin’s curse is broken, Hell is defeated, and the shadow of death is lifted, pierced by the holiness of newborn light from a cave in Bethlehem. It’s Christmas and the Christ-child is on the move. All darkness flees at his birth while hasten to join the shepherds in rejoicing. 

For unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

A Blessed Christmas to you all…

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

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