Christmas Day, 2016
For the Epistle. Hebrews 1:1-12
The Gospel. St. John 1:1-14
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Having a Christmas service on Christmas Eve and then one the next day on Christmas Day allows us to expand our understanding of just what Christmas means.
On Christmas Eve, we hear read a good portion of Luke chapter 2. The Christmas chapter in the New Testament that describes in some detail the things that were occurring and the people who lived at the time of the incarnation.
Quirinius was governor.
Caesar Augustus institutes a census.
Mary and Joseph unable to secure safe, warm and comfortable accomodations, are forced to take up temporary residence in a manger…with animals…and food troughs and the outside elements.
Not the sort of accommodations one would offer or accept if it were someone important. Room would be made if this were royalty or an important government official.
But this is a peasant girl, her husband to be and a baby on the way. Not the concern of anyone in particular.
Some shepherds are out in the fields near by. They are just tending their sheep as they do most every other night of the year.
All of the elements are present for an average night in Bethlehem for most. The accommodations even for Joseph and Mary might have not been surprising.
It might well have been common for innkeepers and others who had any room on their property, to offer anything they could to help a poor couple spend the night…or to maybe make a few extra dollars.
These are hard times. These are poor times for most. Survival is more at the forefront of the minds of many than it is for, say those of us here today who have …even in the most difficult of circumstances, the ability to find clean, warm dry living and sleeping quarters.
And all of these earthy images we get from the text last night set forth for us the reality of the situation into which our Lord and Savior was born.
The Passages from Scripture that are chosen and presented to us this morning, however paint a dramatically different picture all together.
In fact when you compare the facts and truth about exactly who Christ is and what He came to accomplish and did in fact accomplish, we might look back over that text from Luke 2 again and feel somewhat embarrassed, guilty, horrified and humbled by what sort of arrangements were made and what sort of things were given up for our Lord…..and what sort of entrance into this world He chose to make.
This is the Lord God, come down from Heaven. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is surrounded day and night by the heavenly host praising Him and singing to Him and worshiping Him.
He is the creator of all things.
He has titles like King of kings and Lord of lords.
His throne and His dominion are from everlasting to everlasting.
….all of that and more…and what was offered to Him?
An animal stable.
A food trough for a bed.
Turned away from the inn and other places to stay.
Some filthy lowly shepherds surround Him in the room in which He was born.
What a stark contrast to the reality of what is happening here…and to Whom this is happening.
Those titles of King of kings and Prince of Peace are real, appropriate and fitting for our Lord and yet what was He offered on the night in which He was born?
So from His very entrance into this world, this Man of Sorrows was treated shamefully by us. We despised Him and esteemed Him stricken by God and afflicted.
He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him.
All of those things like Isaiah and others prophesied about Him were exactly what He came to, and received from us.
Yet despite all of the shameful things He suffered from the day of His birth to the day of His early death, He forgave, set aside, and nailed to the cross.
What a contrast.
Listen again about Whom we are speaking of when we think about this child, born of a virgin, birthed in a barn…
Long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. God kept a certain distance. He remained a mystery in our present sense of the word.
He revealed Himself to very few and in strange ways.
Most of the time, Prophets would speak on His behalf. He would not speak to the people directly.
There was a barrier set between God and man. The people remained at a distance. There was less intimacy between the two parties.
But, in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has no longer kept a certain and noticeable distance. He has broken into this world. He has finally come and entered our world of relative darkness and has come as light to lighten every man that comes into the world.
This Son, who is eternal, with the Father and the Spirit, has been appointed, on account of His willingness to come and His faithfulness during His stay here, remaining obedient even unto death has been appointed heir of all things.
He is set to inherit all things in heaven and earth at the last day.
The world was created by Him and through Him.
He is the radiance of the glory of God.
He is the exact imprint of God and the nature of God.
He upholds the universe by His power.
And yet even as the upholder of the universe and the owner of all royal titles, He went to the opposite extremes in servant hood, humiliation and suffering.
He grew up like a young plant…like a root out of dry ground.
He had no form or majesty that people even needed to look upon Him….no beauty that any should desire Him.
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter…He opened not His mouth.
He was laid in the grave of a stranger.
Yet upon and after making purification for sins by His death…and Resurrection and Ascension, He sat down once again at the right hand of the Majesty on high….having become much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
In fact, to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son. Today I have begotten you.”?
To which of the angels did God ever say, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son”?
When God brought Him forth into this dark dreary world., He declared, “Let all of the angels of Heaven worship Him.”
Of the Son, God says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands…you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
This is what God the Father says of the Son and to the Son. What a contrast to the reception He received at His birth and certainly His adult life and very much at His death.
And this is just what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes. St. John, close companion of Jesus and part of the “inner circle” has just as much breathtaking descriptors and adjectives for the Christ Child.
About the Child we celebrate this day, John says that He is the True Light, which has come into the world.
He came, as we know very well, to His own people and they did not know Him or receive Him. Though He created the world, the world did not receive Him.
But to all that do receive Him….even down to this very morning…He has given the right to become children of God.
Belief in the Christ Child gives us the right and the privilege to become God’s child.
This is the miraculous New Birth we heard about throughout this past year…through this past Trinity Season.
We are born as children of God, not by or through a bloodline. We are not biologically naturally children of God.
We are created by Him, but so are all men. This does not mean we are children of God in a saving sense of the word.
We aren't even born by our own wills or by anyone else’s will. We are born of God, by God and through God.
Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, left His throne in Heaven and took our nature upon Himself…born of a pure virgin. Born to less than humble circumstances….despite His crude beginnings and cruel end, He came to regenerate us, make us His own…seek out the lost…make us His children…restore peace between God and man, and finally to take us to live with Him in everlasting light.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.