Monday, December 26, 2016
Good News of Great Joy for All People
“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The heavens are not silent in shame when the eternal, almighty God is born a helpless baby. They sing! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Perhaps they’ve chosen the shepherds as their audience because they are the only ones who might appreciate a Savior whose birthing room is filled with the pungent aroma of hay and manure. But there in the manger lies the swaddled Creator, all wrapped up in the things of creation—infant holy yet infant lowly, a diapered divinity.
You might suppose all this to be beneath God, but you’d be wrong. The Incarnation is not so much God-made-small as it is man-made-big. The God who made man in His own image outdoes Himself: He makes Himself into His own image and thereby exalts you. Jesus becomes what you are—a woman’s child—that He might make you what He is—a son of the Father. That’s what this is all about. One small step for God, one giant leap for mankind. He becomes no less, but we become infinitely more in Him—God’s dear children.
Within Mary’s womb, something completely new happens: A woman is pregnant with God, by God, for us. Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, Jesus comes forth as the first man of a new race. This race calls God “Father” and means it. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
That is what you need: redemption, adoption. You don’t need a Santa Claus god who makes a list to check to find out if you’re naughty or nice. You don’t need a deadbeat deity who’s so busy taking care of the universe that he shows no concern when his children go astray. You need the God for whom nothing matters more than to save you, to redeem you with His own flesh and blood, to adopt you as His own flesh and blood. You need the God who cares enough to tell you the truth, to say, “Apart from Me, you are depraved, dead, and damned. But I love you. I want you. I desire you to be My child more than anything else. So I have done all and everything necessary for you to be Mine.”
This is the God—the God-made-man—you need. He is the Lord you have. He gives purity to the unclean, life to the dead, salvation to you who were under hell’s thumb. He did not come to earth to save us from global climate change. The Bread of Life was not born to rid the world of hunger. This Prince of Peace did not come to stop the ravages of war. The Son of Man came to be for every man what no man has been or could be for himself.
Born under the law, Jesus fulfilled the law He Himself had given. He was the perfect infant, perfect teenager, perfect adult. From womb to tomb, He bore your flesh and blood through every stage of life, bearing it to the cross, bearing it out of the grave. And all of it is credited to you. You—perfect infant; you—perfect teenager; you—perfect adult, all in Jesus. For God so loved that world, that He sent His only Son, so that everywhere He went and everything He did is credited as though you went and you did also. And all your sin is reckoned to Him.
For your sake, this blessed Babe of Bethlehem will be counted a sinner and hung up between two evildoers as a curse. The tiny hands and feet will be pierced as He is nailed to the cross of Calvary. The little Lord Jesus who lays down His sweet head will be crowned with thorns. Those little lungs that draw their first breath that night, will breathe their last as He commits His spirit to His Father.
The baby swaddled in clothes and laid in a manger will be wrapped in grave clothes and laid in a borrowed tomb. Three days later, He will rise from the grave, still fully man, still perfectly flesh and blood. Because He is sinless, His body does not see corruption. He is able to rise again after death, and He reigns for eternity.
Now, fellow sinners whose bodies face brokenness, here is a worthy Christmas wish: If only the One who shared our flesh and blood and life and death, could share His death and life and flesh and blood with you now.
He does. In your Baptism, Christ shares His death and resurrection with you. Though you still face sickness and physical death in this life, you already have eternal life; your body has to catch up with your soul, but already you live forever. What does this have to do with Christmas! Everything! If Jesus did not become flesh, He could not die for you or conquer death for you. But because He is born, He will die and rise. That’s what makes Him your Savior.
By His Word, Jesus continues to share His life with you. To the paralytic, He said, “Rise up and walk,” and the man stood up, completely healed. The Lord spoke and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” and the dead man walked out of his tomb. The Lord says to you, “I forgive you all of your sin, because I’ve died for you and risen for you.” What does this have to do with Christmas? Everything. Again, had Jesus not been born of Mary, He could not have sacrificed His body and shed His blood to win forgiveness and salvation for you.
And, of course, the Lord shares His body and blood with you in His Holy Supper. He says, “Take and eat, this is My body… Take and drink, this is My blood…for the forgiveness of sins.” Into our dying bodies, Christ gives His immortal flesh and blood that strengthens you—body and soul—unto life everlasting. Again, what does this have to do with Christmas? Everything! If the Son of God is not conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, then He has no body and blood to give you for the forgiveness of your sins.
But He has!
Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!
Immanuel, our God is with us! He comes for all. Those trapped by their own sin and its consequences. Those who are victims of others’ sins or life in this fallen world. Are you bruised and battered by the cares of this world? He comes for you, this Great Physician of body and soul. Are you betrayed and abused, divorced and lonely? He comes for you, this faithful Bridegroom of the Church! Are you lost and lonely, anxious and afraid? The Good Shepherd comes to seek and save you and lead you to eternal life. Are you rich and happy, well-fed and comfortable? Yes, Jesus comes for you, too, to show you that true riches are found only in Him, who shared your flesh and blood, who gave up His flesh and blood to purchase and redeem you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is most certainly true.
So, sing your Gloria in excelsis Deo this eve of Christmas, dear people of God. The virgin daughter of Israel has entered motherhood. Her son, the promised Seed of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head is born. God’s only-begotten Son has come into the world and the host of heaven follows after Him. Humble and meek, the Son of David lies swaddled in a manger in the city of David as the angels rejoice and the shepherds praise and glorify God. This is Christ the Lord, your Savior. For His sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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