+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 2:13
Theme: A Great Company
Dear Worshippers at the Manger,
Christmas is an event that marks an expansion of God’s love. The waiting for God is over. The form and substance of divine love is revealed in the person and work of Jesus- Emmanuel, Lamb of God, Good Shepherd, Saviour, King of kings and Lord of lords. Born in the quiet Judean town of Bethlehem, crucified in the bustling city of Jerusalem His coming is nevertheless Good News for the entire world. The human nature of Jesus made evident at the manger is the same nature the risen Christ rules with in eternity. Christmas demonstrates the Son of God’s true solidarity with humanity.
There is point, plan, and purpose in the Father’s sending of His Son. He is sent to sinners. He came not as a reward for our godliness but as a ransom price of our wickedness. He came not for novelty or spectacle but from compulsion and compassion. He could not bear to see us perishing in our self-absorption. He came in humility and sacrifice precisely for souls characterized by those four descriptives of the apostle in Romans chapter 1: senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless1. We are those souls. He came as light into our darkness.
One of the things that makes the Christmas story so engaging is the characters; peasant parents, simple shepherds, entrancing angels. Many people would secretly love to have personal encounters with angels. Sometimes the fascination is almost palpable. But the Christmas narrative is grounded in historical realism with communal implications. The cattle trough veils a reality that far exceeds our personal spheres of interest. Do you think any angel that approaches you could bear a more important message than Gabriel did that night? Can you ask for better news than that of a Saviour born to bear sins? Let us never reduce the witness of Scripture below the personal experience we desire. Our confidence rests not in the fluctuating appraisals of our feelings but in God’s truth that stands written. Our moods are governed by time and context; God’s Word endures for eternity.
God’s entrance into the world through Bethlehem is a universal event. The Holy Spirit extends the invitation to Jew and Gentile alike. All preferences defined by status and right are transcended by the gospel. Baptism is instituted for all. The Scripture says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared”2 to every man, woman, and child, the aged and the unborn, the privileged and the vulnerable. Like the “great company of the heavenly host”3 on that first Christmas Eve God seeks to bring many lambs into His fold. Our mindset at Christmas should be reflected accordingly. At Christmas do we seek to enlarge our company of friends? Or do we pull the circle tighter to include only family and those closest to us?
The mandate of Christmas often comes across in formula-like style: Dote like Mary, worship like wisemen, sing like angels, go and tell like shepherds. It’s persuasive in its simplicity. If only we’re mindful of replicating all these actions then God is glorified and there is peace on earth- or at least for our consciences. If only each year we can come to a closer representation then our Christian obedience will be validated and the Good News will be spread far and wide! Beware, dear friends, of making the fleeting sentimentality of Christmas the measure of your Christian life. It might be a little like gauging your marriage by that first passionate kiss or assessing your health by the one visit to the doctor you had some time back.
The import of Christmas is not that we remember but that we are remembered. Christ came for the long haul. He leapt into the fray. He is present in our suffering as well in our joy. He attends us while agitated and when at peace. When we are alone He either marshals a great company of companions or He alone remains our trusted confidant as befits the circumstance. He cheers us when all earthly means fail. He maintains hope long after we’ve given up. He prefigures life when death draws near. The ChristChild, a small, fragile infant is the embodiment of God’s expansive and invincible love. Amen.
+ in nomine Jesu +
Nativity of Our Lord- Christmas Eve
24 December 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 See Romans 1:31
2 Titus 2:11
3 Luke 2:13