Sermon for Christmas Eve based on Luke 2:1-20
Dear hearers of the angelic news: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
So what? What if that was the response of the shepherds to the angelic news – “So what?” It might sound ridiculous but hear me out.
The shepherds were working the night shift. Well, more exactly, they were working the only shift there was for shepherds – the 24 hour, 7 days a week shift. They had to stay with the sheep to protect them from predators and to ensure the sheep don’t wander. They were outside the town of Bethlehem in the grassy pastures. Shepherds slept out in the pastures with the sheep and so they often didn’t smell like fragrant roses when they did come into town. Being a shepherd was a pretty lowly job. It wasn’t the most popular booth at the career fairs in those days.
So an announcement to them that a baby had been born in town and was lying in an animal feeding trough… well, so what? The shepherds were kind of busy taking care of their sheep. They didn’t know the father or mother of the child. They weren’t dressed to make a visit, nor did they have enough cologne with them to cover up their smell. It seems like it would have been pretty easy to respond by saying, “So what?”
However, the shepherds had heard the promises of God as written in the Old Testament. Promises like the first one made to Adam and Eve, that the offspring of Eve would crush the head of the devil. Promises like the one made to Ahaz that a virgin will conceive and bear a son. Promises like the one from Micah that the Saviour of the world would be born in Bethlehem. Promises like the ones in Isaiah that the child born will rule forever on David’s throne, that He would carry our griefs, sorrows, and sins and be crushed for them in our place. Promises like the one in Psalm 16 that Christ would rise from the dead.
The shepherds knew not to look for salvation in heaven. They knew they could not ascend to heaven to grasp hold of salvation even if it was there. They knew they couldn’t work their way into heaven or talk their way into heaven. Salvation had to come to earth. God Himself had to come to earth to give us salvation.
This was the song of the angels; the good news that is for all people. For to you is born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. He was born for you. Jesus wasn’t born for the angels even though they sang His praise and glory. He was born for you. He was born for all mankind who has fallen into sin and thus needs saving. He is the promised salvation for all mankind.
So how can we possibly respond by saying “So what?” It doesn’t matter how busy we are at work. It doesn’t matter how many priorities we have in life. It doesn’t matter how busy we are with anything; nothing should hinder us from Christ. Certainly not the fact that we are not dressed to visit or because our sins make us smell like anything but fragrant roses. Christ Himself gives us His white robe of righteousness that covers all of our sins. He covers up the smell of our sins and takes our sins away from us, removing them from us as far as the east is from the west. He throws our sins into the depths of the sea.
Salvation for us is also not found in heaven, but here on earth. God Himself took on human flesh to come and save us. He took on our flesh so that He could die in our place, taking all the punishment of our sins on Himself. Then He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be victorious over sin, death, and the grave.
And even though He has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He still comes to us and gives us salvation here on earth, for we still cannot ascend into heaven ourselves. He clothes us with the robe of His righteousness that covers all of our sin in Baptism. He comes still, not in a feeding trough for animals, but in a feeding meal for sinners in His true body and blood. He comes in His Word of Absolution that absolves us of all our sin. Jesus still comes with forgiveness and salvation to us since we cannot go to Him. Salvation comes down from heaven to earth.
This was the good news the angels proclaimed and the promise which the shepherds believed and rejoiced to hear. Believe the same promises the shepherds believed. The promised Saviour has come. Salvation is for you. The forgiveness of sins is for you. For to you is born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
Sing with the angels. They sing even though Jesus wasn’t born for them. How much more then should we sing His praise and glory, because Jesus was born for us. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.