Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Day Sermon: "Christmas Feast"

+ The Nativity of our Lord – December 25th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-18

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

What’re you doing for Christmas? Getting together with family? Going anywhere? And of course, the question we all want answered: what’s for Christmas dinner? And…when’re you eating?

These are the polite questions that fill our casual conversations this time of the year. But I think there’s something more than well-mannered chit-chat going on in these little exchanges. Whatever food you enjoy at Christmas – be it surf and turf, a secret family recipe, or even tofurkey - these earthly feasts are glimpses of a far greater feast. After all, it’s just not Christmas without a feast.

The same is true in Christ’s Church. In the home, matters of taste and tradition rule the day; and you can have a blessed, joyous Christmas with or without them. But in the Church, the feast of the Lord’s Supper is the one Christmas feast we can’t live without, not on Christmas or any other day.

St. John, rings the bell for the Christmas feast:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

John declares a great mystery. The infinite resides in the finite. The eternal has broken into chronological time. The Creator became a creature. God is Man and Man is God in this tiny Child of Bethlehem. The world scoffs: How can this be? The world underestimates God, if it has any estimation of God at all. And it greatly overestimates Man. To become Man is nothing for God, for with God all things are possible. Jesus’ incarnation is one small step for God, one giant leap for mankind.

And Christ’s incarnation leads us to another joyous mystery.
Jesus, the Word who became flesh for us gives his flesh to us in the Lord’s Supper, the greatest Christmas feast of all.

For the real Christmas feast isn’t at our dining room tables, but at the Lord’s Table, where the incarnation of the Son of God comes to us in the Holy Supper. Here’s your Christmas feast. We’re the guests. Jesus is the host, waiter, and food. And every time we receive Holy Communion it’s Christmas all over again.

For in the Lord’s Supper, the same Jesus who took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary and dwells with us in his flesh and blood for our forgiveness again and again, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim his death and his birth for us. After all, his name is Emmanuel, God with us. Nowhere is this truer than in the Lord’s Supper.

We confess this great mystery to be true, even though the world – as it did in Jesus’ day –little understands nor tolerates Jesus’ words. No matter. Jesus’ Word remains regardless of our opinions.

For while the world has been partying all December, we’ve been preparing in Advent. John the Baptist cries out: cast aside your works of darkness; prepare the way of the Lord; repent, for the kingdom is near. John also beckons us to rejoice; Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us. And with John, we look forward to and long for the Christmas feast, no more locusts and wild honey.

And while the world rushes to clean up Christmas, inside the Church, the party is just beginning. Christmas is a joyous feast that simply cannot be contained in one day. Our joy at Christ’s birth spills over into a twelve day celebration.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus comes to dwell with us because that is what we need.

We do not need to be fed an endless buffet of do-it-yourself, man-made religion pointing us to ourselves as our comfort and salvation. We need to be fed Jesus’ body and blood, our true Christmas feast.

We do not need the Turkish delight of man’s opinions about what is right and wrong, about what makes Christmas truly merry, or how to find true contentment and peace which always leave us wanting more yet never satisfies. We need the solid food of Christ’s body and the cup of salvation in Christ’s blood.

We do not need the decadent desires or empty promises that our sinful flesh and the devil waft before our noses, beckoning us into hell’s kitchen.

No. We need Jesus, the Word made flesh for us to feed us heavenly food. And this is exactly what this Child is born to do.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

In Bethlehem, in a stable, in this baby boy, Isaiah’s words are fulfilled right before Mary and Joseph’s eyes. How beautiful in the manger are the wiggling feet of him who bears Good News for you. The Lord comforts us by the crib and cross of this little Child born for you. God has laid bare his arms for you, in the Child cradled in Mary’s arms, and stretched out upon the cross for you.

And what happened in Bethlehem continues today. God who was made flesh and born of the Virgin Mary for us, remains flesh for us and gives his flesh to us.

And so, for us, there’s no need for to go to Bethlehem, except perhaps as curious tourists. After all, Jesus no longer dwells in that manger. But do not despair! The true pilgrimage or journey home to Bethlehem is made to the altar where we receive Christ our Living Bread. Bethlehem means house of bread. And that’s exactly what our altar is: the house of bread. The place where Christ dwells with us and feeds us in the Christmas feast of forgiveness and joy. And wherever Jesus is present with His body and blood for you, there you have the greatest Christmas feast of all. The Word made flesh still dwells among us.

For unto us a child is born; and unto us His body and blood are given. Christmas and the Lord’s Supper are wrapped together in the flesh of Jesus. By this holy food Jesus brings his flesh and blood, born for us in Bethlehem to us today in the bread and wine. Jesus is the gracious host, and we’re his joyful guests, gathered to feast in abundance – no need to count calories or carbs here. There’s no such thing as too much forgiveness, or receiving the Lord’s Supper too often. God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness abound. Like the feeding of the five thousand, we eat, are satisfied, and there’s always more than we need.

You see, it’s simply not Christmas without the feast of the Lord’s Supper.

It’s also hard to have a Christmas feast without guests. And in Lord’s Supper God unites us with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, wise men, and all the saints in unending joy before the Word made flesh for us.

And as we come before the altar, we kneel and sing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The altar is our heaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life, swaddled in the host and the wine for you, just as he said. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!

And when the Holy Communion liturgy begins it’s Christmas all over again.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Here in this sacred Christmas feast we also have an exchange. Jesus takes all that we have – our sin, punishment, and death and gives us all that He has – righteousness, peace, and life. The one whom the heavens and earth cannot contain is contained for us in bread and wine that is his body and blood. The One who gives us daily bread becomes the bread of life for us. The Word made flesh gives us flesh and blood for our forgiveness.

Jesus is mangered for you in his Holy Word and Supper, swaddled for you in water and Word, bread and wine. Oh come, let us adore him. Christ our Lord. Christ our brother. Christ our Savior. Christ born for you. Christ who dwells with you, for you, and in you.
At last the Christmas feast is here! Come to Bethlehem and see and eat and drink. The table is set. The meal is prepared. Come, for all is ready. The Word is made flesh for you.

A blessed and merry Christmas to each of you…

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

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