Sermon for Christmas Eve, AD 2021

Luke 2:1-14

After 400 years of silence, 400 years of no words from the prophets, the Savior is here, Christ the Lord. This Christ was foretold from the very beginning, the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head, the Son of David who would sit on the throne forever, the Ruler who would come from Bethlehem. This King is Son of God and born of Mary, both God and man, but He does not come into the world in a way that is impressive. For Jesus Christ has not come to establish a throne and kingdom in the world, but to save it.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” For Him to be a Savior there must be someone who needs saving. There must be some sort of trouble. Yet the way the Christ comes, it appears that no one knows they need saving. Where the reception for Jesus as a savior, like the conquering general coming to liberate the town? There are no ticker tape parades or thronging crowds to greet him. The crowds in Bethlehem will not even give his family a place to stay. Most are living their lives with no recognition of need or concern for a Savior.  

We read the book of Micah this Advent, and heard preached his words which call out to a people in need of a Savior. Micah preached that Israel and Judah had turned away from God to worship other gods. They did not think they needed God anymore, so instead sought their own ways to save themselves. They rose up against one another, each man acting like a hunter against the next man, trying to take advantage and trap him in his net. Kings, priests, and great men did not serve others, but used them. Sons revolted against fathers and daughters against mothers, husbands and wives could not trust each other. For when everyone turned away from God and to images of false gods, they sought what they thought was best for themselves. While they worshiped images made of wood and stone, the image of their true desire was in their mind. It was the image of themselves - wealthy, powerful, living in pleasure and comfort, without a care in the world. They had no need for a Savior.

Our day is not so different from Micah’s in this way. There is little social trust among families, among marriages, much less the greater community. The great ones of our day are happy to profit off the lack of trust. There is no need to build relationships with people if you can buy what you need with the swipe of a card. All this too is because our true desire is set on ourselves. We seek to attain what our images tell us – the images on the screens which promise comfort and prosperity.

During the Christmas season there is more stress and expectation to get everything perfect. Whether it is Hallmark perfection or Jimmy Stewart nostalgia, we feed ourselves a constant diet of expectations of what would be a perfectly-celebrated Christmas. Not that the problem is celebrating Christmas, having a season of feasting, or enjoying family traditions. All of these can be wonderful things. The problem is when the goal and purpose of all the Christmas stress and preparation is to have the right feeling, the perfect pleasurable day created for yourself. It’s a slavery to your own desires. A slavery from which you need a Savior.

Thankfully, “unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Our day is like the day of Micah in that people do not recognize their need for a Savior. But better than Micah’s day, our Savior is here. What Micah only foresaw we celebrate today: the Ruler has come who will save his people from the sins. This is the one who is born in Bethlehem, whose coming will be announced to the shepherds on watch.

The coming of the ruler is prophesied, but it is not nostalgic. It is glorious, but it does not attain a standard of Christmas perfection. God breaks through the nostalgia and the need for a perfect Christmas with a completely new thing. Jesus is born in poor conditions. Joseph and Mary must travel far with Mary great with child. When they get to Bethlehem, Joseph’s family has no room for guests. When Jesus is born, he must be laid in a dirty animal feeding trough. The nativity of Jesus is a story of a couple forced to move on short notice by an oppressive government who are so poor their child is not even born in a home.

This is God’s plan! God is not interested in an earthly kingdom that has passed. God is not sending a new son of David, born in Jerusalem in a king’s palace. He is not just sending a reformer like Hezekiah or Josiah. The coming of Jesus, the first Christmas, was never to be a nostalgic reliving of the glory of Solomon. Even the good kings failed, betrayed wives and children, sinned against God, oppressed their subjects. In that manger, in that feeding trough, is no mere earthly king, but something completely new. This infant is Christ, the Lord.

Luke begins “it came to pass in those days.” These are “those days” – the “day of the Lord,” the “latter days” – the days which the prophets spoke of when a Ruler, the Christ, would come who is the Lord. Yes, this truly a human baby, born of his mother Mary, but also the very Son of God, begotten of the Father, not made, of the same substance as God the Father. He is not known by great pomp and show, like an earthly king, but by faith, by trust in the Word of God.

Faith is what the shepherds had, when the angels announced to them “unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Certainly it was a magnificent sight to see all the heavenly host praising God, but the shepherds needed faith to trust that announcement. The natural mind would say, “after 400 years, the Christ? Angels are announcing to us, just poor working men? This Christ is the Lord? He is God? How can that be? And He’s in a manger, a feeding trough? This is too much to believe!”

It is too much for the natural mind to believe, and may God grant us the faith to believe such things. For even though we would point our desires towards what we see and feel, even though we have only sought the best for ourselves – in the first Christmas, God came to us as man so we may be freed from sinful and selfish desires and see him as our true Savior. As an infant, to be placed into rough straw on a not-so-silent night was not the last of his human sufferings. In His life, Jesus Christ would not be lauded as a king, but condemned like a slave. He came not to achieve that worldly kingdom, but to die, and rise and establish a heavenly kingdom. A kingdom where this God-man who was once an infant in a feeding trough even reigns today over heaven and earth.

Many people at this time may say, “I wish it was Christmas every day.” We think this would be great if we could have our desires fulfilled and live in the Christmas nostalgia every day. Yet God has something better for us. It is Christmas every day because Christ gives His gifts to us every day. Christmas means that we have a loving God who sends His Holy Spirit to us to grant the faith to see that we have a Christ, a King, a Savior. That Holy Spirit comes to us in his Word preached and read. It is fitting that the infant Jesus was laid in the animal feeding trough, because Jesus Christ is one whom we feed on. He comes to us in His body and blood here at the altar more fully than he was in the manger. To eat his body and blood under the bread and wine is to be united with Him and strengthened in faith more than the shepherd who saw the performance of the heavenly choir.

Therefore, it is we in the divine service today who sing with the angels “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” We too praise God who has given us this faith to see that no desire is ever truly fulfilled in this world, that no nostalgia can bring that peace we need. We need a Savior, and we have been given a Savior, even Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of heaven and earth, foretold by the prophets, born in Bethlehem, and laid in a lowly manger. He is not here to add flavor to our Christmas celebrations. He is not here to fix our Christmas celebrations. Our Lord is the beating heart and center of Christmas, who says, “I know you suffer in this world. I know your stress and anxiety. You just want one perfect day. Come to me, I have something better.” For in Christ all who believe have eternal life, a life of faith which begins now and continues after our death not just one day, but an eternity of days.

Therefore let us receive from Him in faith, as we recall the words of Luther’s hymn, “Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child/Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,/A quiet chamber set apart/For You to dwell within my heart.” “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Merry Christmas. Amen.






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