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Christmas Eve – Matthew 1:18-25/1 John 4:7-16/Isaiah 7:10-14

by pastorjuhl ~ December 24th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Tonight, the Lord has made known His salvation. Tonight, the Lord has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. The same Jesus, revealed as a spectacle hanging naked on a cross to die for the sin of the world, pitches His tent among us to begin a rescue mission unlike any other. Tonight, the Savior of the Nations does not spurn the Virgin’s womb. Jesus Christ is born according to the flesh in order to recapitulate creation.

Recapitulate. Yet another fifty-dollar word! What does it mean when Jesus Christ recapitulates creation? It means Jesus is born to hit the rewind button on creation. Jesus will take history backward to that moment in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Jesus will take His people back to that moment and remind us of the first time the Gospel was spoken. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

The first Gospel proclamation was actually given to Satan. It was a proclamation that rang in his ears like an alarm bell. It is as if God said to Satan, “You will not win. Though you have put my creation into slavery, I will rescue them. I will send my Son in the flesh to stomp your head. You will bruise His heel, but that consequence will redeem My beloved ones from your grip. You may think you will win, but I will have the victory.”

The proclamation of the first Gospel is about an unlikely of a story you and I will ever hear. It is much like a rose blooming in the middle of the night. You don’t need an advanced degree in botany to know that flowers do not normally bloom at night. Flowers need sunlight to open up their buds. The Rose blooming in the middle of the night that the Chief Hymn speaks of is Jesus Christ. Joseph was privileged to hear this prophecy from an angel of the Lord in a dream. The angel reminds Joseph of Isaiah’s prophecy in the Old Testament reading: behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel. Immanuel means “God with us”. God with us is the only way to rescue mankind from sin and death. God with us is the Name of the Rose that blooms “when half spent was the night”.

Immanuel is also known as Jesus, because God saves. That’s what Jesus means: The Lord saves. The Lord saves you and me by sending us a Rose that blooms at night. What an odd way for our Father in heaven to show His love for us! Our Father in heaven always seems to show His love in the strangest ways. He makes a promise to Abraham in the middle of pieces of animals cut up. Abraham is put to sleep and sees God passing between the pieces to cut a covenant, a promise only He can keep with benefits only we receive.

God does not need saving. He is almighty, all-powerful, all knowing, eternal, holy, just, and righteous. However, He does not withhold His power and glory from His people. He hides it in flesh and blood. Here’s how Saint John puts it in the Epistle: In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Propitiation. Yet another fifty-dollar word. It means “to appease, to be gracious”. Listen again to Saint John: If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Do not forget in all the busyness of this season why there is a Christmas. If there weren’t sin, there wouldn’t be Christmas. Because there is sin, there is an Advocate with the Father, who demands perfect holiness from His creation. Jesus Christ the righteous is our perfect holiness. Because of Jesus, we are propitiated. He suffers and dies in our place in order that we go free and live. Jesus’ propitiation is not just for Lutherans. Jesus’ propitiation is for the whole world.

How about that for tidings of comfort and joy! Because Jesus is our propitiation; because Jesus recapitulates creation, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

It sounds trite, but the best way to love another is to keep Christmas through the year. People are genuinely nice to each other for a month or so each year. The rest of the eleven months seems to be lived in survival mode. Beloved, life is not merely survived. Life is lived in constant expectation of the return of Jesus Christ, Who came into His creation as a little Child and left us as a man resurrected from the dead with visible scars of His Passion. As our Savior is the Father’s love for us, so we are His love among those who know not His love. When we give gifts at Christmas, we imitate the Father’s love toward us. Gifts are given out of love for one another. The best way to keep Christmas through the year is to love one another even as Christ loves you. This is the way the world knows Jesus Christ dwells among us.

We have a Savior that knows weakness and feels woe. Hiding in weakness and woe is victory and majesty. The Rose of Sharon blooms when half spent was the night. Morning comes soon, and with it our recapitulation and propitiation. Believe it for Baby Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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