CHRISTMAS DAY 2018

SCRIPTURES – Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-14; Matthew 1:18-25

     The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Ps. 93:1-2

 

Christmas has been a bit more stressful for me this year than usual. You see, Lorayne didn’t hand me anything to wrap and say, “You can give me this for Christmas.” She also wouldn’t give me any hints regarding what to get her, and told our girls that they couldn’t, either. I was on my own this year! Could I get the right gifts, ones that would make her truly happy? Boy, the pressure!

Well, my discomfort was nothing compared to the stresses that first Christmas brought to Mary and Joseph. It began months before, when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant with a child who was not his. He was a devout believer in God and follower of His Word. How could he marry a woman who had been unfaithful? Divorce seemed to be the only option; and what a disaster that would have been! Of course, he didn’t do this, but took Mary as his wife and took good care of her and her unborn child. Stress relieved! He faithfully led them to Bethlehem, and when there was no place for them to stay, found them a stable in which to shelter. But then, more stress: a visit from a group of shepherds. Poor Mary, worn out after giving birth to her first child; suddenly she is set upon by a group of dirty, smelly men. What a night! Finally, much later, there was the visit of the Magi from the east who presented Joseph and Mary with great gifts for their son. Who wouldn’t be happy with such valuable gifts! But, King Herod’s soldiers followed, seeking to kill Jesus. Talk about stress!

All turned out well, of course. Of course! For, this whole event was not Mary and Joseph’s doing. It was God’s plan and work, His intervention in their – and our – lives.

q   He picked the humble place: Bethlehem, a simple little village in Judah.

q   He sent an angel to Mary to tell her that she was going to have a child – the Son of God Himself! – and the Holy Spirit brought about her pregnancy with Him.

q   Then God sent the same angel to Joseph to verify Mary’s story and tell him to receive her as his wife.

q   God’s angels were sent to tell the shepherds that their Messiah and Savior – God Himself! – had been born and to direct them to where they would find Him.

q   And, finally, in a dream God warned Joseph of the murderous Herod’s plans, so that he was able to lead his family to safety in Egypt.

In the midst of all the tension and uncertainty was God, at work proclaiming His Word and directing events. It all ended well – at least, at the beginning it all seemed to end well; Jesus’ crucifixion didn’t look that way! – because it wasn’t just left up to lowly, fallible people like us who, even when trying our best, make bad decisions and do the wrong thing. The One born in Bethlehem was the Word of God: the Word who was in the beginning; who was with God and was God; who made all things. As God was working in and through Him at the beginning of creation, and then in His birth, so He continues.

   IN JESUS GOD IS AT WORK, AMONG US AND FOR US

Take this to heart and give thanks to God for this. God is at work! He is, and not simply one was, at work. God is at work in your life and for your life! This is what He is telling you with Jesus’ birth.

How we need to learn this; and to learn this day after day. For, we easily, and all too often, think… and worry… and make decisions as if God is not with us; as if He will not direct us; as if it’s up to us to decide what to do and how to deal with things as they happen. If only God would just give us some signs, some hints! And, when we make the wrong decisions and do the wrong things – which we most certainly do! – or when we misunderstand and misinterpret what is going on, think the wrong things and get upset with God – and do we not do this at times? – we worry about what God must be thinking about us and what He will do with us. Will He receive sinners like you and me, who keep on messing up?

How foolish we all are! The Lord reigns,” Ps. 93 says. Christ’s birth is but one of many events in His life that make clear that “God’s right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” God wishes to be among us, sinners though we are. God coming among us even in our flesh, as one of us, makes clear that God wishes to be one with you. And, He does make this clear to you in signs that Jesus gave, such as the bread and wine which He says are His body and blood, given to you for the forgiveness of your sins.

Above all, there’s the Bible itself. It contains your Savior, your Jesus, for it tells you of Him and of where He is found. As God’s Words enter our ears and we receive them in faith, Christ is conceived in our hearts. We poor sinners become the mangers in which He is laid, and His presence consecrates our lives to God. He dwells within us as our Savior, sharing with us the forgiveness of sins which He won for us on the cross and His victory over death and eternal life. Those events: oh, what a mystery they were when they happened! Even though Jesus had told His disciples a number of times that He would be rejected, be crucified, and then rise from the dead on the third day, they didn’t get it. They made bad choices and ran away; Thomas even refused to believe that Jesus had risen! But, He didn’t get fed up with them and reject them. He came to them, forgave them, and patiently taught them and led them. This He does with us all! He was born for this; lived for this; was crucified for this, rose for this, and ascended for this. This was all God’s plan from the beginning. “God’s right hand and his holy arm [were working] salvation for him.”

You know, I really did not need to get stressed out regarding what to get Lorayne for Christmas. First of all, she loves me. Of course she would be very gracious in her evaluation of my gifts! And, I also knew this: as long as I made the child who was born the central focus, there was no way I could mess up. So, I made Claire the focus. I gave her a year with Claire calendar, and a sweatshirt with Claire on the front. She couldn’t have been happier! Nor could I.

Focus upon the Child who was born: Jesus, the Word made flesh. He was born as the Word of God’s mercy and love to you; and He will never stop being so. He is the Lord robed in your flesh and blood and working out His salvation in your life. All thanks and praise to Him, our eternal Savior! Amen.