Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day

The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Day Festival Divine Service
December 25, 2009
Text: John 1:1-18

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is. 9:6; ESV). Today we herald the glorious Good News: God is a man, a baby in a manger. Lift up your voice. “Break forth together into singing… for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem” (Is. 52:9). Whereas at many times and in many ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

This morning, we feast. We feast on the Word made flesh. It is Christmas, the Christ-Mass, which means we gather together around our Lord in His house to receive His Christmas gifts, to feast on His body and blood, the body laid in a manger and nailed to the tree of the cross, the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins, to redeem us and reconcile us to the Father. We gather around the Christian family table, the holy altar, where our risen Lord Jesus meets us, and serves us with Himself, and we are united to one another in a most intimate communion, along with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

But there is so much this Christmas that hinders us from receiving our Lord. You are the lucky ones. At least you are here! You may have considered not coming this morning, but maybe another family member begged, convinced, cajoled, or otherwise forced you to come. Maybe you always come on Christmas Day for the Christ-Mass. Maybe you just haven’t had your fill of Christmas carols yet. Maybe you’re here because you think this counts for Sunday. On the other hand, maybe you know the true import of this day. If so, thanks be to God. But whatever reason you came, it is a miracle you are here. Only the Holy Spirit could have accomplished that. Because the point of Christmas is that your sinful human flesh is naturally at enmity with God, opposed to Him, and offensive to Him, and so had to be reconciled to Him. You are not here because your sinful human flesh wants to be here. You are here because God has accomplished a great thing: He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, God and man, to be the divine/human Mediator between God and men, to reconcile us poor sinners to a righteous and holy God. He does that by becoming one with us and serving as our substitute, by dying for our sins, by rising for our justification. And so God calls you here in His Word, calls you to faith in your Lord Jesus Christ, calls you here where Jesus is to dispense His gifts. It is the Holy Spirit who calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith of Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who brings you here to meet and receive your Savior.

Yet the old sinful flesh still clings to us, and there is much in this fallen world to hinder us from receiving our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you don’t believe the Gospel is for you. Perhaps past sins still bother you. Perhaps the sins of others have caused you to harbor a grudge. How many disastrous family gatherings are there this time of year? Perhaps you don’t want to let go of your current pet sins, or perhaps the devil has convinced you that you are trapped by these sins. Some of us make up what we think are more sanctified reasons for not receiving Christ this Christmas. I’ve already done the Church thing this week. Christmas is about family: We won’t be in church because Christmas morning is our family time (of course, most of those who give that excuse aren’t here this morning). Or perhaps the commercialism of Christmas has you in its clutches after all. For all the sanctimonious talk about putting Christ back into Christmas and it’s all about family, the reality is, it really is about the gifts and the tasty treats and the romanticism of it all for you. And in that case, Christmas never really lives up to your expectations. It becomes just a glorified version of Valentine’s Day. “Bah! Humbug!,” is what I say, to such saccharine sentimentality.

Beloved in the Lord, away with all of this. Away with the greed and the impossible expectations and the strife and the stress and the silly excuses. You can toss all of it out with the discarded wrapping paper, because Jesus Christ is born, the Word made flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. That is Christmas. The real Christmas feast happens not at Grandmother’s house today, but right here at Jesus’ house this morning. Take and eat, the body of Christ, laid in a manger, nailed to the cross, risen from the dead, placed into your mouth. Take and drink, the blood of Christ, coursing through the veins of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, poured out on Calvary, poured down your throat, for the forgiveness of your sins. Away with sin and sorrow. There is no room for them here. Receive this morning your one and only true Christmas gift: Christ Jesus your Savior. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Now sing we, now rejoice. “This is the Christ, our God Most High, Who hears your sad and bitter cry; He will Himself your Savior be From all your sins to set you free” (LSB 358:3). Beloved in the Lord, all is ready. Jesus is here. Come to the Feast. Merry Christmas. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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