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Christmas Midnight (at 6 PM) – Luke 2:1-20

by pastorjuhl ~ December 22nd, 2011

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

            Christmas snapshots are plentiful among families. Perhaps you have a picture from a Christmas past where you are holding a new toy or have a look of surprise as you open a particular gift. Maybe your favorite Christmas snapshot features a departed loved one celebrating their last Christmas among family and friends.

Saint Luke’s Gospel is fond of using the idiom, “And it came to pass” to denote something important. The twenty familiar verses of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ according to the flesh feature the phrase “And it came to pass” at least four times. These four uses act like a snapshot, a moment in time caught forever. As you celebrate another Christmas, don’t forget to add these four snapshots from Luke chapter two to the pile of Christmas snapshots from days gone by.

The first picture Luke gives us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the decree from Caesar Augustus concerning a census. All citizens of the Roman Empire were to return to their home territory in order to be registered. Joseph and Mary make their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because [Joseph] was of the house and lineage of David.

The prophet Micah foretold good news concerning the tiny suburb of Jerusalem. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. The town of David hosts a son of David whose betrothed is pregnant with David’s Son and David’s Lord. You can see in your mind’s eye the couple making their way to Bethlehem, hoping to find a place to stay during the registration. They hurry around town, hoping against all hope for a room. There is no room for the One Whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

There is no room for Him today. Jesus is pushed out of His own birth date according to the flesh. It is not so much the world pushing Jesus out of His earthly birth date that should concern you. It is your pushing Him out of His birth date that should concern you. Advent was preparing the Christmas cake. Tonight and tomorrow are the payoff, the icing on the cake…and who doesn’t love to lick the icing and throw away the cake!

In your hurry to get to the “good stuff,” the day itself with all its tradition and good cheer, you have licked the icing but thrown away the cake. A steady diet of cake frosting leads to bad stomachaches. Your stomach craves the Word of repentance and forgiveness of sins. You would rather hear the Good News and do away with all the preparation. Let someone else worry about all the hard work. You’ll enjoy Christmas even more if others do your work for you.

Take time for a quick break from all the preparation for the perfect Christmas and look at another snapshot. “It came to pass” that the time came for [Mary] to give birth. Saint Paul describes this moment as time becoming full in Galatians chapter four. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. Jesus arrives in God’s time, which is always the best time. However, you might forget to recall the rest of the context of Paul’s words. But 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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

You are no longer a slave through faith in Jesus Christ. You are an heir through God of all that the Father gives His children. The Father gives His children freedom from sin and death. However, this freedom comes with a price. God’s only-begotten Son is born to die. Jesus’ birth begins the long march to another place not far from Jerusalem. Born in a town whose name means, “House of bread,” Jesus will walk to the “Place of a skull” carrying an instrument of torture and death upon His shoulder. The Bread of Life will be crucified for you. The Living Bread which comes from heaven will give up His spirit to pay in full your debt of sin on your behalf.

Like His birth, His death will “come to pass.” In both events, there are notes of sorrow. Yes, even during Christmas there is sorrow for the fact that your sin causes the birth of the Savior. The last two snapshots in Luke’s birth account show the joy of heaven and earth that overshadow the sadness of sin. “And it came to pass” suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This angelic hymn is for Jesus’ birth, as well as for you. The angels cannot help but praise God in song for what He has done not for them, but for His beloved children whom He created. There is peace among men and women tonight because God is well pleased to cause His Son to be implanted in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is peace among men and women tonight because the Father is well pleased that His Son will increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Jesus comes to make peace between God and man, peace that passes all understanding. The Father’s only-begotten Son brings eternal peace in His innocent suffering and death. Jesus brings eternal life in His resurrection from the dead. As you are an heir of His atoning death, you are also an heir of His resurrection. You are a new creation.

“It came to pass” that the first people to hear about the birth of Jesus were shepherds. Their response to the angelic hymn was let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. The final Christmas snapshot is one of whimsy, as shepherds run from their flocks in the middle of the night to see what has happened in a Bethlehem stable. When they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. It’s still that way today. People wonder at the news that God becomes man. Some wonder with suspicion, because it’s not logical that a deity would stoop so low as to become like His creation. Others wonder with childlike awe at this marvelous sight, telling anyone who will listen what happened.

The shepherds go back to work after they witness the Baby. You will go back to work soon. Wherever God puts you, you have the opportunity to make known what you have heard. That’s what it means to be a Christian. God will give you all kinds of reasons to show the hope that is implanted in you in your Baptism. If you look carefully in the final snapshot of shepherds running to see Baby Jesus, you might see yourself tagging along. You’re in the picture. Christ is born for you in order that you might live with Him for all eternity.

Most snapshots end up in an album or in a shoebox, laying forlorn in a closet most of the time. You will more than likely not want to put these four snapshots away anytime soon. While other pictures fade away with time, these pictures from Luke’s Christmas Gospel should be cherished, framed, and displayed wherever you go. These four moments in time tell the story of how God loves you. He sent His Son at the right time, in the fullness of time, to die for your sin and rise for your justification. As Saint Paul tells Saint Titus: the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. May God, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

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

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