On Track With Christmas

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1-14                                                                        

            Dear recipients of the greatest gift ever: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Gospel reading for Christmas Day gets us back on track. It’s so easy to get off track with Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in a commercialized Christmas; to get caught up with family, feasts, presents, decorations. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness, the long line-ups at the grocery store, or the hustle to pick up some final presents elbow-to-elbow with someone who’s ready to road rage with her shopping cart.

It’s too easy even to get caught up in the wrong things when we hear the Christmas story. Even when we come to church to celebrate Christmas and hear what happened the first Christmas, we can easily get off track.

We can get off track when we sing about how silent the night of Jesus’ birth was. How Jesus didn’t cry as a baby. How He was surrounded my cattle, donkeys, and lowing oxen. How the stars went silently by or looked down where He lay or twinkled for that matter.

The Bible never says the night Jesus was born was any quieter than any other night. Yesterday we heard that Caesar Augustus had declared a census decree and everyone had to go to their hometown to register. So many people were in Bethlehem the night that Mary and Joseph arrived, that all the inns were full. Every room that was available for travellers was full. There was no room for them anywhere in town except in some place with a manger, likely a stable. Bethlehem was as full of hustle and bustle as Yorkton’s Superstore earlier this week. It probably wasn’t all that quiet or peaceful at Jesus’ birth.

Jesus was born a human baby boy. Babies cry, that’s how they communicate. We know Jesus cried as a man, so why would He not cry as a newborn?

Jesus was laid in a manger because Joseph and Mary were unable to find room anywhere else, but none of the Gospels mentions that there were any animals around. It’s not like Mary and Joseph were going to sit there and watch the cows eat the hay out of the manger in which Jesus was laid.

Now, we can probably say that the stars went silently by or looked down or twinkled because stars do these things every day, but Christmas isn’t about stars.

 We can even get caught up in the Christmas story that is in the Bible, with the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and Mary and Joseph. The shepherds were so poor, the wise men so rich. What did Mary know about her Son? What did Joseph think of all of this?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t hear about the shepherds and the wise men or that we shouldn’t consider what Mary knew or what Joseph thought. We just shouldn’t get off track and think that these are the things Christmas is about.

We can even poetically sing about the silence of the night in contrast to how we might expect God to come to earth or in contrast to when the angels filled the skies and sang glory to God. We can sing poetically about the humble way God in the flesh was born, in a manger where oxen and donkeys would usually eat. We can sing about the stars in the sky to bring to light that the infant Jesus in the manger created those stars in the night sky.

The problem is when we get off track. The problem is when we’re caught up in everything else and don’t focus on the fact that in the manger is the Word made flesh, the Creator of the starts of night. That all things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. Our focus should be that Jesus is God who came to save us from our sins, from the devil, and from hell. That Jesus is our Saviour who reconciled us with God by covering our sins and crushing our ancient enemy.

Jesus did not come to be a cute baby for us to gush over, but He came to be crucified for our sin. God took on our flesh so that His flesh could be nailed to a cross. He came to be rejected by men and suffer unbelievable cruelty at the hands of the men whom He created, all so that He would save us. This should be our focus at Christmas.

Yes, many reject Jesus. But to all who receive Him, who believe in His name, He gives the right to become the children of God. Jesus came as a baby, so that we would be given all the rights that He has; that we would be adopted as God’s children and given the inheritance of God’s children.

Our inheritance is eternal life because Jesus, God in the flesh, came and dwelt among us. He did what we could not do. He put Himself under the Law that we cannot keep to fulfil its demands for us, in our place. He died our death taking the punishment of our sins on Himself so that we get His inheritance of eternal life.

That’s the focus of Christmas. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feast and celebrate with our families. In fact, what a great reason to celebrate! What a great reason to give gifts to others because we have received the greatest gift ever!

In our celebration of Christmas, let’s remember what it is that we are celebrating. Let us celebrate the birth of God in the flesh who came to destroy sin, death, and the power of the devil and give us the right to become the children of God. And let us not be afraid to learn good Christmas hymns like the one by Paul Gerhardt which says:

O Jesus Christ,

Thy manger is

My paradise at which my soul reclineth.

For there, O Lord,

Doth lie the Word

Made flesh for us; herein Thy grace forth shineth.

 

He whom the sea

And wind obey

Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.

Thou, God’s own Son,

With us art one,

Dost join us and our children in our weakness.

 

Thy light and grace

Our guilt efface,

Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.

Immanuel,

Thy birth doth quell

The pow’r of hell and Satan’s bold deceiving. (LSB 372 st. 1-3) Amen.

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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