"UNTO YOU . . . A SAVIOR"
The Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Eve)
December 24, 2018
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church
"Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which Christ--the Lord."
Luke 2:11 (KJV)
If there is one church service in the course of the year that is totally predictable, this is it. I am quite sure that none of you were surprised this evening to come in here and discover the decorated trees, the candles in the windows, the carols that we've sung, the Christmas Gospel that we just heard, and now a Christmas sermon. It's all a familiar story--one that doesn't change from year to year. You could come in here to worship for fifty Christmases and the story would be the same every year. God still became One of us for the purpose of redeeming us from our sin. It's comforting to know that even in our constantly changing world there are still some things (like God's redeeming love in Christ) that aren't subject to every fad and trend that comes along--something that remains the same and brings some stability into our tumultuous lives. But there's a danger in this too. We tend to tune out a story that we've heard many times before. I guess we do that because we get the idea that we know it so well that there's nothing new for us to learn from it. Therefore we conclude that we don't have to listen anymore.
That being said, in preparing tonight's sermon I guess I've really taken the risk of not being listened to because I'm not only preaching on a familiar story; I'm preaching on what is arguably the most familiar verse of that familiar story. Let's try not to fall into that rut of not listening to the angel's "good tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10 KJV) just because we've heard those tidings before. Let's keep our ears open to hear and take to heart what God has to say to us in the angel's message about the Christ Child. There are two phrases in the angel's announcement that I would especially like us to consider this evening. These two phrases are "unto you" and "a Savior." Centering on these two phrases, let's give some thought to God's great love for us and to the Gift of a Savior that His love has moved Him to give us.
With all of the commotion that we see around Christmastime and with all the mass marketing of anything that the manufacturers think will sell, it's refreshing for us to hear about a Gift that's unique and personal. In the midst of a culture that is always trying to sell us things that are in limited supply--things that everybody just has to have--things that we have to buy now while supplies last--we hear the angel's announcement begin with the words: "unto YOU is born . . ." This Gift is given carefully and deliberately--just for you. That's how the Gospel works: It works on people, beginning with you, changing your heart from a heart burdened with the guilt of sin to a heart filled with the peace and love of God in Jesus Christ. But the Gospel's power is useless unless it is allowed to work in the lives of people. This entire Christmas scene with Mary and Joseph, the Baby in the manger, the angels and the adoring shepherds is nothing but sweet and sad sentiment if the people for whom it all happened don't hear these precious words: "for you." This peace and love of God's forgiveness is the whole purpose of the story of Christmas--and it is intended especially for you.
A lot of people say that Christmas is for children and no doubt many believe that. But the angel of the Lord says that Christmas is for you. It doesn't matter who you are, where you live, work, or go to school. It doesn't make any difference how old you are or what color you are, what language you speak, or what nation on earth you call your own. God's Christmas Gift is for you regardless of your circumstances or station in life. This Gift is for you for no other reason than that you need it. And when you come to think about it, the entire Gospel of Christ is like that too. It is for you. Christ laid aside His divine glory and became human for you. He performed miracles and manifested His glory for you. He lived a life of perfect righteousness for you. He suffered and died for you. He rose from the dead for you. He ascended into heaven for you. He sent His Holy Spirit for you. Even now He makes forgiveness available daily for you. And in the end He will come again to bring all things to completion and to fulfill all of His promises--for you. All of this especially for you--so that you might know the peace that comes from sins forgiven.
What is this Gift that is given for you--and what makes It so different than any other gift? The angel says that the Gift is "a Savior." --Not money, not clothes or jewelry, not a new video game, not a smart phone. Indeed, not any of the other things that we want so badly and think are so important--the other things that we think will change our entire lives. God's Gift to us is His own Son--His only Son. He sends Him to be the Redeemer of lost humanity--the Advocate for every sinner--the Scapegoat for every sin. He sends Him to do for us everything that needs to be done to re-establish us as God's beloved children--to do everything for us that needs to be done to undo the damage we have done by our sin. All of this is God's Christmas Gift to us. All of this God gives us in love, fulfilling His ancient promise of a Savior to overcome our sin and its consequences (the most serious of which is death itself) by sending us His Son--the "Christ--the Lord"-- to live and die and rise again, overcoming sin and death forever.
The Gift of a Savior that God has given us exceeds every other gift that any of us could ever receive. It exceeds other gifts first of all in terms of what it can accomplish. No other gift can in any way influence the relationship between us and our God. It is Christ alone who empowers us to be not only at peace with God but also in favor with God. Without Christ we would still be enemies of God--offensive to Him and not the least bit concerned about it. But because of Christ we are God's beloved children and He is our loving Father. Christ also exceeds other gifts in that He has an infinitely lasting effect on us. There will come a time when none of the other gifts will matter in the least, but the Gift of God's Son will always matter. Other gifts may come and go, but Christ lasts forever. He won't break or wear out or become outdated or be stolen or become boring. He will always bring us joy. One hundred or one thousand years from now this Christmas joy of Jesus Christ will still be glowing!
Christmas is a time of giving, we are told. I can't deny the truth of that statement. But people may give and/or receive all the gifts that they want. The only Gift that's going to make a significant difference in your life is the One that God gave you at Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. That Gift is, in fact, the motivation for all of the giving that we engage in during this season. Nothing else is really essential to the joy of Christmas. You can still have Christmas and all of its joy even if you don't have all of the outward trappings of the season. You can do without trees and ornaments and lights and cookies and dinners and company, but Christmas isn't joyful--indeed, Christmas isn't Christmas without the angel's familiar announcement of God's Gift: "Unto you . . . a Savior." Merry Christmas!
May the true Light which enlightens everyone, which has come into the world, shining brightly in the darkness, be your very life. And may the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ Himself, continue to make known to you His redeeming grace and truth now and always. He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. Amen.