SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 9:2-7; Gal. 4:4-7; Luke 2:1-20
The shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
I saw a humorous Christmas cartoon last week. Instead of three Wise Men with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh it showed three Wise Women offering their gifts to the baby Jesus. The first offered fresh diapers; the second, casseroles for the week; and the third brought lots of formula. Now, I didn’t look on this as a statement about women and men and who is more helpful. Nor did I pick apart the cartoon as ridiculous, as there were no diapers or formula or casseroles back when Jesus was born. Any who did need to lighten up! I took this simple point from the cartoon: gifts for the Savior are good and fitting, today as in the past. Put yourself at the manger!
Luke speaks of time in his account of Jesus’ birth. It took place when Caesar Augustus issued his decree to enroll everyone for a tax, and when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Life was going on as usual. But then, the timeless broke into time. Angels appeared and announced that this newborn Child was a gift from God – “To you has been born a Savior!” – and transformed the times of the people. The shepherds went about telling of what they had heard and seen, and Mary pondered in her heart the events of that night. What took place changed their lives!
By the gift of His Son God transforms our times. And yet, time goes on as usual. Many centuries have passed since Jesus was born. Many Christmases have been celebrated. Many things have changed in our world. But, many things have not.
Over 700 years before Christ Isaiah spoke of oppressors and of the “boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult.” Oppressors may oppress in new ways, such as through the internet and lone wolf terrorist attacks, but hatreds and battles continue. Violence and fear and death still darken our world and our lives.
For, people haven’t changed. Luke points out that the shepherds went around telling people what they had heard and seen. And yet, no one else went to see. What was wrong with those people? And they were God’s people! Their Messiah had come! Why didn’t others go, see, and then glorify and praise God with the shepherds? And, what about today? On Christmas night shouldn’t all Christians sing to hear the news the angels bring?
Well, the story of Jesus’ birth wasn’t written so that you could be upset with the lack of faith of others. “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart,” Luke tells us. “Now, what about you?” he is asking. God is asking. Have you put yourself at the manger?
The night of Jesus’ birth was far more than just one special night. It was a light that dawned to change days and lives. The shepherds went back to shepherding, but now “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” and telling of this to others. They were changed because they knew that God’s Son had been born to them.
Holy Scripture says, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” – us! – “so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4) In His Son God has changed everything! He has redeemed you, purchased you for Himself. Jesus is the price, the cost. He came into this world and was made like you, responsible to God. He took upon Himself the responsibility for your sins and died for them in your place. By doing this He purchased you:
From the darkness of your sins. You will struggle with them until you die, and this is a big deal, for by our sins we offend God. We deserve that He punish us for them. But, through faith in Christ your sins are not held against you by your God. God is at peace with you, and you are not condemned!
From the darkness of fear. “Be not afraid, for to you is born a Savior!” announces the angel. In Jesus God looks on you with favor and love and opens His heaven to you!
From the darkness of death, of an end to your time. In Christ God makes us His children and sends His Spirit into our hearts. Being God’s, you are eternal! Christ gives eternal life to you!
Finally, Jesus came to at the end change this time and make all things new. The day will come when He will cast out the darkness of wars and fights and hatreds and arguments. They will be burned as fuel for the fire when Jesus comes again in glory and renews all things.
Until then, peace and joy are yours in Christ. Like the shepherds, you can with great joy worship God as your Father. Do so gladly, and not because you have to! After all, doing something because you have to do so ruins it. How satisfying is it to give a gift because you have to do so? You don’t put much time or effort – or yourself – into it. It really doesn’t please or satisfy you, and if the recipient knows that you only gave it because you have to he isn’t happy either. Well, worshiping your God because you have to – tonight, or at any other time – is not satisfying to God. In fact, it only makes you worse, more sinful. It brings no joy!
God deserves far more. He who sent His Son into the flesh to above all bear the responsibility for your sins and die for them in your place deserves the joyful love and worship of His dear children!
So, put yourself at the manger. Like Mary, ponder in your heart Christ’s birth and all that it means. For, finally, it is in your heart that Jesus desires to rest.
Not in a manger in Bethlehem. Ø Not in displays of the crèche.
Not in songs and hymns which, after tomorrow, may not be heard for another year.
Your Savior wants to rest in hearts that love Him! As He does, He will make you, and your every day, new. He will be a brilliant light that casts out all darkness! To our Lord Jesus, then, we pray:
Come, Desire of Nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conq’ring seed, bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love.
And with the angels who heralded His birth we sing: Glory to the newborn King! Amen.