+ A Service of Lessons and Carols +
December 24th, 2015
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Genesis 3:8-24, 17-19; Genesis 22:15-18; Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-7; Luke 2:8-16; Matthew 2:1-12; John 1:1-14
“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.” So the old song tells us. We long to be home this time of the year. And if not at home, at least to be with family. As that great theologian Whinnie the Pooh once said, “Home is where your rump rests.”
Christmas is about going home. Tonight we sing our Christmas travel songs as we hear and ponder God’s Word on our Christmas journey.
For Mary and Joseph, the first Christmas was about going home as well. In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…and all went to be registered, each to his own town.
With specificity that only a Triple-A travel agent would appreciate, St. Luke lays out the journey from Galilee to Bethlehem. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.
But Mary and Joseph weren’t the only ones on the road to Bethlehem that first Christmas journey home. There was a little stowaway in Mary’s womb: The Son of God and Mary’s Son. The King of creation, and our brother. A swaddled Savior born for you. Every kick and contraction, a reminder that soon their little home would grow larger than the number of stars in the sky, just as God promised to Abraham long ago as he traveled to a new home.
Yes, Christmas is about going home. Tonight we journey with Mary and Joseph to the manger where God dwells with us and for us.
At Christmas, Jesus makes his home with us to give us a new and everlasting home with Him, in his manger and his cross.
But our Christmas journey home began long before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Our journey to the gates of a lowly stable in Bethlehem began outside of the gates of Eden.
In Genesis 1 and 2, God was as much at home on earth as he was in heaven…walking in the cool of the day with Adam. But all of that changed one day. The serpent led Adam and Eve astray, off the narrow path of God’s Word to the broad path of destruction. Joy turned to sin and sorrow. Peace and perfection gave way to death and darkness. Life gave way to sin and curse.
This was beginning of the journey, for Adam and Eve, for us, and for all creation, a bitter reminder that life isn’t always a joyous adventure. Christmas is about going home, but there are many who cannot go home, or if they do, would rather not. Other families wait years or decades, longing to be reunited and celebrate Christmas together. And many others long to be reconciled but are not, many yearn for home but are alone. Divorce. Broken homes. Shattered relationships. Lives torn apart by illness. Death. Guilt over what we’ve done or left undone. Absence. Heartache. Grudges. And the list goes on.
Ever since Genesis 3 we’ve been searching for home. We long for things to be right, to experience the joy of Christmas as we wish we could.
Perhaps we look for consolation in our work, our pleasures, or anything we can find to fill the void left by our journey in the dark. But it’s all in vain. A constant, nagging reminder that sin has separated us from God. And we cannot find our way back to Eden on our own.
It was for a world like this, and for exiles like us that Christ was born in Bethlehem. The road back to Paradise begins in Bethlehem.
Christmas is about going home. But it is not we who go out to find God; it is God who comes and finds us.
And so the entire Old Testament records God’s grand journey to save us. Noah saved in the Ark. Abraham given God’s promise. Isaac spared the knife by God’s substitute. Moses and Israel delivered from slavery. David, Solomon, Isaiah, and all the prophets – they all longed to see what Mary and Joseph see at the journey’s end in Bethlehem.
For Bethlehem was far more than Jesus’ ancestral home. In this little town we find our home as well. God gives us a baby in whom we find refuge. The Son of God makes his home with us to take us home with him. God became our brother to make God our Father. And in that baby wrapped in swaddling clothes we find a home that is big enough to house all of us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. For in the place where God was homeless, all men are at home.
Mary gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.
But the journey does not end in Bethlehem. The road goes ever on and on, from Eden to Bethlehem, and from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst palms and Hosannas. And then like Isaac, Jesus carried the sacrificial wood up the hill. God did not withhold his Son, his only Son from you. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, for you, for all.
And then from the top of Mt. Calvary to the belly of the earth, Jesus’ journey went through the cross and out of his grave. The God-Man born to be King, to rule from his manger to the cross, to travel ahead through death to life for you.
In the words of Linus, this is what Christmas is really all about. The Son of God born for me is also crucified for me. So, take the Child from Mary’s neck and put him about your own. For he was not given only to the mother but also to me ( Luther, Sermons v. 58, p.197).
Jesus comes to us where we are in barns, caves, mangers, and messes. Jesus lodged with squabbling sisters, corrupt government leaders, tax collectors, and sinners. Jesus came to the homes of rough Galilean sailors and rabbis proud and pompous. And Jesus comes to you.
Christmas is about going home.
Tonight we join Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi in rejoicing and praising God for all that he has done for us. For this Christ child has made his home with us to bear all of our hurt, strife, sorrow, and disease. So take it all – your fear, anxiety, doubt, despair, you sin and death – and leave it in the manger, and Jesus will take it all to the cross with him. For this reason Jesus came to make his home with us.
Tonight we journey with the shepherds and find the Christ Child just as God promised. And this Child opens the way back to paradise and raises us higher than we fell. Our lost and fallen race finds its way home in Christ.
For…the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Jesus is born for you. Jesus is born to you. So, whoever you are, no matter how far you have journeyed in the dark, now through this Child, you are home. The Father welcomes you home with open arms, as the Christ child rests in Mary’s arms. Rejoice with shepherds and angels: Glory to God in the highest who makes his home with us. And in Jesus, you are no longer homeless.
Jesus’ flesh is your flesh; Jesus’ birth is your birth. This little Child leads you to a home that is bigger in Him than the whole universe outside of Him.
Our earthly homes may still be messy with papers, toys, dishes, and other kinds of messes that are far harder to clean up. But no matter. This Child has come to take us home to our Father. Christmas is about going home.
Jesus makes his home with us to give us a new and everlasting home with Him, in his manger and his cross.
A blessed and merry Christmas to each of you…