+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 2:11
Theme: The Reason Christ Came
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Excepting God Himself, everything has a cause. Sometimes causes are easy to pinpoint. Other times they are mysterious, complex, or in this life, simply unknowable. There is a reason also for the incarnation of the Son of Man. Now, I suppose, the assurance that God is present with us is enough to justify the incarnation in one sense. However, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day and we have no evidence they lacked certainty about His presence with them1. The pre-incarnate Emmanuel was with His people from the beginning.
Christmas is about more than the spirit of giving or even God’s presence per se, regardless of how endearing or sentimental our images of the nativity may be. The Messiah came for the unique and grueling task of rectifying sin- our sin. So, you see, It’s not actually a pleasant thing- the reason for Christmas. It’s not surprising that many efforts are made, even by Christians, to push it aside, to just reference it passing. Why dwell on the negative after all? We’re supposed to be celebrating! Our hearts are supposed to be filled with merriment and ‘the spirit of the season.’ And indeed, they should be! Yet, Christ became enfleshed because we are sinners.
The Spirit knows exactly which sins we need to be convicted of. He knows our well-disguised habits as well as our more candid transgressions. Imagine if our sins were displayed like ornaments on a tree? Imagine if each decoration represented a fault, a failure, a faux pas? What would be the garland? What sins would shine like lights, twinkling, flashing, drawing attention to the whole spectacle? And what would be the star? What would crown the top of our display of unrighteousness? What incidences of betrayal would be prominent? What examples of selfishness would stand out?
For many the Christmas tree itself is more or less, a symbol of affluence, self-indulgence or simply a cosmetic accoutrement of the season. But, decorations of sin and shame are not what our Saviour allows to adorn the believer’s life. He exchanges our unrighteousness for His holiness. He takes all of our sins off the tree and He carries them to another tree. He leaves not a single bulb, ornament, or decoration. He leaves no strands of lights or a shred of tinsel. He removes the symbol of idolatry that crown the top- the guilt that is the consequence of all efforts to establish ourselves as worthy human beings apart from the grace of the Almighty. He strips our trees of sin and shame bare, and He carries everything to His tree. His tree is not very pretty. It doesn’t twinkle with lights. It’s not decorated with tinsel. Gifts are not piled up at its base. It is not attractive in the eyes of the world. It is repugnant to human sensibilities. It is the tree of death.
But it is the beautiful tree, the blessed tree. It is the means for securing the only gift that matters in the end. The Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”1 And again, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away; nailing it to the cross.”2 This Christ died for you in the flesh. He rose bodily from the grave in the flesh. He ascended to the Father’s hand of power in the flesh. The apostle says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”3
So, celebrating we are indeed! God IS present with His people. The love which became incarnate in the manger could not be conquered by the grave. He lives! He reigns! The Christmas tree is a symbol. All the images of crosses we have are symbolic. But the crucifixion was not symbolic. It was the event that made Christmas more than an event of passing significance. On that blessed tree the Son of God was sacrificed for the salvation of the world. The tree of death was the means to life. The tree that stood on the hill of Calvary surpassed the one that stood in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Their purpose was the same- to support and sustain life; life that is undying, life that is ever new.
We enjoy that new life now, today. We have been absolved of our sins. Our baptismal inheritance is secure. The Christmas feast is before us. The Bread of Heaven is our food on this high and holy day. The blood of Emmanuel carries His grace and forgiveness. He said, “Take and eat; this is My body…drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant.”4 Only this food can nourish our souls, and when our souls are well fed our entire wellbeing is on solid footing. When we participate in this meal- a sacred fellowship of holy things- we celebrate with the whole host of heaven. The same angels who joined in the announcement of the nativity saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”5 are the same angels that attend the triune God in His majesty.
Yes, Christmas has a cause, and we have reason to celebrate. Sin cannot win the victory over us. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”6 Angels sing. Shepherds bend the knee. Magi come later bearing gifts. But He is gifted to us. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord.”7 May your hearts be filled with His profound peace and exuberant joy during this holy season and beyond. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
The Nativity of our Lord
25 December 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Galatians 3:13
2 Colossians 2:13-14
3 John 1:14
4 Luke 26:26-28
5 Luke 2:14
6 Isaiah 9:6
7 Luke 2:10-11