Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

   


The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Lessons and Carols

LSB 379: “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Micah 5:2-5a: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

Luke 2:1-7:    In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Comments: Could it be that this backwater, no-account town in Judah, Bethlehem, would be the birthplace of the Savior?  It really shouldn’t surprise us.  That’s just how our God works.  St. Paul writes: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:27-28; ESV).  So it is that our Christmas account begins in Bethlehem, too little to be among the clans of Judah.  It begins with a Jewish carpenter named Joseph and his betrothed, Mary, a pregnant teenager, traveling, on foot no less, when the time has come for her to be delivered.  It begins in a stable, among animals and hay and filth, because there is no room for Jesus in the inn.  It is fitting.  Because Jesus is born to be God in the flesh in the midst of our filth, our sin, our death, to cleanse us and bring us new life.  He is born to be of no account for us no accounts, weak for us who are weak, despised for us who are despised.  He is the wisdom of God, yet accounted foolish by the worldly-wise who have no room for Him in their hearts and lives.  He is born to take all of this into Himself, into His flesh, and to die for it.  And appropriately, He is laid in a manger, a feeding trough.  For the name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”  Jesus Christ, born in the House of Bread, is the very Bread of Life (John 6).  We feed on Him.  With His Body and Blood, He descends to us, casts out our sin and enters in.  He comes to us, abides with us, our Lord, God with us, Immanuel.  Because we are not of no account to God.  In Christ, He declares us precious, loved.  And His gift to us is Himself.

LSB 361: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

 

 Isaiah 9:2, 6-7: 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 to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Luke 2:8-14: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

            “Glory to God in the highest,

                        and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Comments: Shepherds were backwater, no-account people in Israel.  They were laborers who earned their bread by dwelling in darkness and danger, putting their lives on the line for stupid animals.  Yet on this night, heaven is open to them.  Of all people, God chooses shepherds to behold His glory and to be the first to hear the announcement, the good news, that a Savior has been born, Christ, the Messiah, the Lord.  You will find Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  And then the singing.  These uncultured shepherds get the concert of a lifetime.  The heavenly choir breaks out in song: Gloria in excelsis Deo: Glory to God in the highest.  For to us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.  The Good Shepherd has come to lay down His life for us sinful sheep.  He has come, that by His death, and by His resurrection life, He might bring peace to us, peace with God, the peace of sins forgiven.  Now, dear friends, the heavenly chorus sings those same glad tidings to us in Holy Scripture.  Heaven is open to us.  And we are given to join in their song, with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven.

LSB 368: “Angels We Have Heard on High”
 

 Isaiah 7:13-14: And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Luke 2:15-20: When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Comments: Who would believe a shepherd?  The no-account shepherds go to the no-account town of Bethlehem and find it just as the angel had told them.  They proclaim the message: Christ, the Savior, is born.  This baby, this is the One!  The people wonder.  But the miracle is, Mary and Joseph believe.  They believe the Word of the Lord proclaimed by shepherds.  The miracle is, you believe, beloved.  Only the Holy Spirit could do a miracle like this: By the common words of weak, foolish, sinful, no-account men, creating faith in you that grasps a poor little baby as the Savior of the world.  For to you, also, no-account shepherds come, proclaiming the message.  The Latin word for shepherd is Pastor.  God gives no-account pastors to proclaim Christ, the Savior.  The pastor preaches.  The people wonder.  You believe.  It’s a Christmas miracle.  And now St. Mary is your model.  She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  So do you.  For it is a ponderous mystery.  This little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay, is your God.

LSB 364: “Away in a Manger”

           

 Hebrews 2:16-17: For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Matthew 1:18-25: Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

            “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

                        and they shall call his name Immanuel”

            (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Comments: “You shall call His Name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.”  The Name “Jesus” means “the LORD saves.”  God comes in the flesh for no other reason than to save us from our sins, to make us His own, to give us eternal life.  He does it in a way we do not expect, that we would never have imagined or dreamed.  He does it in a way the world thinks foolish, backwards, unreasonable.  He comes as a man of no account, born in poverty, in the little nation of Israel.  He grows up in Nazareth.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” as the old proverb asks.  “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2).  Just a Jewish rabbi, who is also the sinless Son of God.  He saves us by, of all things, being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Falsely charged, mocked, beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns, crucified.  “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you” (LSB 370:2).  Utter foolishness.  Weakness.  Lowliness.  Despisedness.  “For God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”  God chose His crucified Son to redeem you and me and all people for Himself.  God chose to forgive our sins by placing them on Jesus, who was made like us in every respect, so that He might make propitiation, atonement, for us, in our place.  And God accepted His sacrifice.  He raised Jesus from the dead. 
In Jesus Christ, God chooses you to be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom.  God chooses you and baptizes you into His Son, into His death and resurrection, so that you can be God’s own child.  Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, God chooses you.  Your sins are forgiven.  You are loved.  For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

LSB 370: “What Child Is This”

   

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
December 25, 2012
Text: John 1:1-18
            And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14; ESV).  That very Word that was in the beginning, that Word that was with God, that Word that was God (v. 1), it is that Word that became a flesh and blood man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God’s flesh and blood Word.  And He gets stuff done.  It was He through whom all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made (v. 3; Heb. 1:2).  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  He created out of nothing.  There was no material with which to start, nothing to organize or shape into the universe we now enjoy, nothing existed outside of God.  There was nothing but God.  So how did He do it?  He spoke.  He spoke His Word.  And God said, ‘Let there be…’” (Gen. 1:3 ff.), and there was.  God’s Word gets stuff done.  He speaks and it is.  His is a performative Word.  His is a Word incarnate.
            It was the Word of God in the mouth of the angel, spoken to the Virgin, by which He was conceived in her womb.  The very same Word of the LORD that came to the prophets now appeared in the flesh and called fishermen to be apostles.  He spoke, and the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the poor had the good news proclaimed to them.  He spoke from His exalted throne, the precious and holy cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), and the world of sinners was absolved.  He spoke, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and all at once sin and death were at an end, the devil and hell conquered forever.  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, died for your sins and for the sins of the whole world.  (B)ut the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24).  Therefore death could not hold Him.  He rose from the dead and spoke new life to the dying world.  He is the firstborn of the new creation.  Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).  As the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven He spoke His blessing upon His Church (Luke 24:50-51), and His sure promise: He is with us always to the very end of the age, and He is coming back to raise all the dead and give eternal life to all believers in Christ.
            Beloved in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, still speaks.  And when He speaks, He gets stuff done.  His Word always accomplishes what it says.  Unlike the fickle and unreliable and downright deceitful words of man, when the Lord Jesus speaks to you, you can have absolute confidence.  Because He is faithful.  Because He is the Truth.  Because when He speaks, it is done.  When He says, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” your sins are washed away and you are God’s own child.  When He says, “I forgive you all your sins,” they are removed from you as far as the east is from the west.  When He tells you of all that He has done for you in Scripture and preaching, when He teaches you of Himself and speaks His Spirit into your ears and heart, you can believe it, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.  When He says of the bread and wine in the Supper, “This is my body… This is my blood… given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins,” you can know for certain that it is so.  Every Lord’s Supper is a celebration of Christmas as the Word who became flesh gives His flesh and blood to you for your forgiveness, and to dwell with you bodily.  This same Lord Jesus also dwells in heaven and speaks before the Father on your behalf, intercedes for you before the throne of grace, and rules all creation with His Word of power for your good.  One day, beloved, the Word of the Lord will come to you, the Lord Jesus Christ, and bid you come home.  He will receive you into His arms as you pass through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, for you will behold Him face to face.  And you know that on the Last Day He will say to you, “Arise from the dead.  Live and rejoice.  Behold, I am making all things new.”  Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
            And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  Everything changed when God became a man for us men and for our salvation.  God and sinners reconciled, in the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  He calls you to be His own by His Spirit in the Gospel.  He still speaks.  He speaks to you.  He speaks for you.  And when He speaks, it is done.  You belong to Him.
Merry Christmas!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.      
 

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