Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Homily

24 December Anno + Domini 2009
“To Us a Child Is Born; To Us a Son Is Given”

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

So, are you ready for tomorrow?  Did you get all your shopping done?  Are all your plans made?  Are you ready for the company you will host, or the travelling you will do?  Or, are you anxious about tomorrow, knowing that you are not as prepared as you wish you were, wondering how everything will go, how everything will get done.  Are you worried that the gifts you have purchased won’t be well received?  Are you fearful that you will be let down by the reactions of those who open your gifts?  Are you hoping for that response of excitement, but worried you’ll get, “Oh yeah, this is nice.  Thank you”? 
You know what, none of it matters, my friends.  None of it.  Whether or not things go as smoothly tomorrow as you hope doesn’t matter.  Whether or not the gifts you give and receive are perfect, or even liked, doesn’t matter.  What matters is this:  “To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.”  That’s the only thing that matters.  Everything else is rather meaningless in comparison to this glorious truth. 
Nothing can ruin Christmas.  Not dry, or overcooked, turkey or ham; not bad weather or flight delays; not ungrateful gift recipients; not loneliness, sorrow, or pain; not even the separation from loved ones no longer with you this side of heaven.  Nothing can ruin Christmas, because while all other things fail and fade away, this Word remains:  “To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.” 
To us.  We are included.  All of us.  This Child is born; this Son is given to the whole world, whether the world receives Him or not.  To us.  We are included.  All of us.  You and me.  To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.  Nothing can take that away. 
To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.  This means everything for us, for this Child born to us, this Son given to us is the answer to our dilemma, the solution to our problem.  He is the Savior we need.  He is born to us that He might live and die for us.  He is given to us that we might be reconciled to our heavenly Father and have an Advocate, a Defense Attorney, always standing before His throne pleading our case.
Without this Child, without this Son, we are lost and without hope.  Without this Child, without this Son, we could have the most perfect holiday celebration ever with family and friends, and it would mean nothing.  Without this Child, without this Son, we could get everything we want for Christmas, and it would mean nothing.  Without this Child, without this Son, nothing else matters.  For without this Child, without this Son, we remain in our sins.  Without this Child, without this Son, we remain barred from Paradise, unable to get past the cherubim guarding the way to the Tree of Life.  Without this Child, without this Son, every single sin we have ever committed – even those little white lies we think nothing of – is held against us, and in need of payment – a payment an eternity in Hell still couldn’t satisfy. 
Would that we understood anew this holy night what it means to have this Child born to us, this Son given to us.  Sure, we know the story.  We’ve heard it countless times.  Mary and Joseph.  A manger in Bethlehem.  Angels and Wise Men.  A ruthless King Herod on the throne in Judea.  And, sure, we sing about the story.  We love the Christmas Carols and know many of them by heart.  But, do we take what we sing to heart?  Do we ponder the mystery in that Manger?  Do we see ourselves in this story?  For we are there, dear friends, every single one of us.  That Holy Child in the manger, that Son of the Most High, lies in mean estate for us.  He leaves His place of glory to come down from heaven and enter our world in our flesh for one reason, and one reason only, to save us. 
We must not allow ourselves to lose sight of that, my friends.  To do so is to turn this story into just another feel-good, mythical, once-upon-a-time fairy tale.  This story does not belong in the realm of imagination, fantasy, and dreams.  This story is real.  It didn’t take place once-upon-a-time in our imaginations, but in actual history, at just the right time, when Quirinius was governor of Syria and Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census would take place.  And, it didn’t take place in some galaxy far, far away, or some distant, made-up land like Middle Earth, but in the actual town of Bethlehem, which is located in the actual land of Israel.  This story is no mere story at all, but historical fact.  This Child was, in fact, born to us; this Son was, in fact, given to us. 
Thus, do the angels burst into song.  They know the identity of that Child in the manger.  He is their Lord and Master, the One through whom all things were created, including them.  He is the One they worship and adore; the One from whom they take their orders.  And yet, there He is, lying in a feeding trough, seemingly helpless, nursing at His mother’s breasts.  Amazing!  It’s a mystery into which the holy angels ever long to look.  We should be no different.  It’s a mystery that we could ponder our whole lives long and still not even come close to comprehending.  For there in that manger is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Author of Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the great I AM, who was, who is, and who is to come.  God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God becomes a baby – a Child born to us, a Son given to us. 
Do you see, then, how insignificant our holiday plans become in comparison to this mysterious and glorious truth?  Christmas is about so much more than spending time with family and friends, gift-giving, decorations, and food.  It is not that these things are unimportant and meaningless.  It is just that they are not what truly matters.  They can be wonderful supplements to that which truly matters, but they must not replace the Child born to us; the Son given to us.  In Him, our Christmas celebration is always perfect, always glorious, always just right.  For He is the only Christmas present we really need.  He is born to us, given to us, to be our Savior.  And here, we must look beyond Bethlehem and see the Child fully grown and hanging on a cross outside the city walls of Jerusalem.  Yes, even on Christmas Eve, we must have Good Friday in mind, for this is the reason this Child is born to us, this Son is given to us – to suffer and die on the cross in our place, for our sins.  The One who humbled Himself to be born in a smelly stable and placed in an animal trough came for this reason – to humble Himself unto death, even death on a cross.  There is the true meaning of Christmas, my friends.  This Child, this Son came to shed His Holy, Innocent Blood on the cross for you.  Yes, you.  And me.  For all people.
This is why the angels announce that the birth of this Child, the gift of this Son is Good News of Great Joy!  He is born and given to save us from sin, death, and the devil.  He is born and given to rescue us from ourselves, to bring us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He is born and given to reconcile us to the Father and give us access, once again, to Paradise.  All who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior have nothing to fear, for forgiveness, life, and salvation are theirs and an eternity in Paradise awaits them. 
Nothing can ruin Christmas.  Even if your plans fall apart and perfect gifts aren’t exchanged; even if you are separated from loved ones; even if you are spending your first Christmas alone or mourning the recent death of family or friends; even if everything in your life seems dark and dreary and nothing seems to be going your way, nothing can ruin Christmas.  For this truth remains:  To us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.  And you who believe in Him are saved. 
This world and all its troubles will soon pass away, but the Kingdom this Child, this Son came to establish will never pass away.  And you who cling to Him by faith will dwell with Him forever in Paradise!  That is truly all that really matters, my friends.  What else is there?  You have all you ever need in Jesus and nothing can ever take away what He has done, continues to do, and will do for you.  This will be a sign for you:  You will continue to find Him wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the Scriptures and lying on the manger of the altar to be your Food, that you may be sustained as you travel through the wilderness of this sinful world.  He is truly the Gift that keeps on Giving.  Continue to come here, then, to Bethlehem, this House of Bread, His Holy Christian Church, to receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation He won for you, and longs to bestow upon you.  He is all that matters and He is yours – your salvation, your joy, your peace, your assurance of a blessed eternity to come! 
Merry Christmas!  In the Holy and Precious Name of the Child born to us, the Son given to us, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.            

No comments: