Sermon from December 24th, 2016

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“Christmas Eve Message”

Luke 2:10-14


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Merry Christmas!  I’m so glad you are here tonight!  You know, those words, Merry Christmas are incredibly powerful, radical, joyful declaration that the love and light of God has overcome the hate and fear and darkness in the hearts of men.

The word “mass” refers to a victory feast filled with singing and dancing and joy. Remember what the angel said to the shepherds? “Don’t be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in Bethlehem, a Savior has been born; he is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign. You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

This news about the birth of a new Savior and King presents a major threat to the power structure of this world!  That includes every human attempt to replace or displace God!

Remember Scrooge’s reply to “Merry Christmas” in Dicken’s Christmas Carol?   He said, “Christmas, bah humbug!”   But there are places in the world where saying “Merry Christmas” will get you more than just a “Bah Humbug”.  It will get you thrown in jail or worse.

Yet, Christians through the centuries refuse to be intimidated. They continue to celebrate Christmas. Why? Because Christmas is a victory celebration! Jesus is the light of the world, the light no darkness, no evil, no human power structure, not even death can overcome!

It may be that Luke’s account of that first Christmas has become so familiar to you that it’s lost its significance. So let’s look at how the Apostle John tells the story.  John begins the Christmas story at the beginning – the very beginning!  “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1-2

The ancient Greeks believed there was an invisible Word, a source, a principle, a force that created and brought order to the universe. This force holds everything together. They were right!  What they didn’t know is that this LOGOS isn’t an “IT”, it’s a “HIM”.

John writes “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3  Our universe is not a meaningless accident of random chance any more than a painting by Rembrandt, or a symphony by Beethoven, or that smart phone in your pocket is a meaningless accident of random chance.

All of these things including the universe itself had a Maker, an author, a source, a designer, an omnipotent personality who loves all he has made.  Let me repeat, this order, this purpose, this principle, or force or source, is not an “it”, but a “him” and his name is Jesus.

John writes “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood or overcome it. 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.” John 1:4-5, 14

In Jesus, this invisible Creator clothed himself in human flesh and was born of the virgin Mary in 4 BC. He was laid in a manger in Bethlehem. The invisible became visible. He identified with us in our weakness. He suffered, laughed, loved.  He empathized with us in our fear, our darkness, our failure, our pain.  He experienced all the pains and sorrows, joys and wonder of being human. He experienced hatred, rejection, and death. He became one of us, made friends with us, in the fullest sense of the word. He was tempted in every way like us, yet he never sinned. Why would God do this? Because he loves us. He loves you.

Jesus put it this way “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
 
Jesus chose to be born in the middle of a winter night and laid in a manger in the darkness of a stable even though he was the Creator of all that existed. He had omnipotent power, yet he laid it all down to become a shivering dependent infant.

He conquered the evil, the power mongering alliances of this world, not with a sword, but by giving his life on a Roman cross. Nobody would write the story this way unless it was true!

When Jesus entered our world, he didn’t call a press conference for all the heads of state. He didn’t surround himself with mighty angels and X men. He didn’t hold secret meetings at the top of a golden elevator. He didn’t even post it on social media.
 
Instead, He sent an angel choir to a handful of lowly shepherds that most people either despised or ignored. He invited them to meet him in a cold dark stable in Bethlehem.

Over in Jerusalem and Rome King Herod and Caesar were in their palaces, the lights were blazing but they were in the dark. They had all the power and money anyone could hope for yet they were poor, pathetic, paranoid, addicted to their own sin, pride, fear and depravity.

The problem with being an addict is that it blinds you to reality. You think you’re sane and everyone else is crazy, but just the opposite is true. One day, Jesus told a group of religious leaders. “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

What truth? The truth that, as the Bible puts it, we are all addicted to sin and cannot free ourselves. These religious leaders were blind to that reality. And until the Lord turns on the lights and opens our eyes, so are we. They said to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants! We’ve never been slaves of anyone. How can you say you’re going to set us free?” John 8:33

They really considered themselves as good guys, but less than a year later, these same men would crucify Jesus in a vain attempt to hide their own depravity. They were in gross denial of the darkness, hatred, and wickedness in their own hearts.

Jesus told them the truth when he said to them, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34 There’s no doubt who he’s talking to. He’s talking to me. He’s talking to us all.

Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the sin of us all.” Isaiah 53:6  Jesus has good news for you tonight. “If the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36  Merry Christmas from God to you!

Remember what the angel said to the shepherds? “Don’t be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in Bethlehem, a Savior has been born for you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be the sign for you, you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12

Our greatest need isn’t to be saved from the evil out there. It’s to be saved from the sin in here. Jesus said “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19

Satan deceives us into blaming others for the problem of evil in the world. Even to the point of attempting to exterminate those we consider to be a threat to us. How despicable!

The truth is our sin is deeply personal. It’s in our own hearts. It separates us from God and puts us under God’s holy judgment.  But God refuses to abandon us. When we couldn’t get to him, he came to us.  But we can either receive him and his gift or reject him.
 
John writes, “(Jesus) came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:10-11

The victory we celebrate when we say Merry Christmas had a tremendous cost.  Jesus Christ, the One and Only Son of the Father from eternity, in obedience to his Father emptied himself of his heavenly glory and become a human being.
 
Then he gave his life on a Roman cross as a holy sinless sacrifice for us. He exchanged his righteousness for our sin so that we could stand before a Holy God just as if we had never sinned. What an incredibly radical gift!

When we say Merry Christmas we are taking a defiant stand against the lies of Satan. We are confessing that this world and everything in it belongs to God. The words “Merry Christmas” pose a real threat to those who would destroy, exploit, vandalize what God has created.

When we say “Merry Christmas” we are insisting on the dignity and worth of every human being from the least to the greatest. We are taking a defiant stand against anyone who would exploit, ignore, abuse, or threaten another human being for their own advantage.

When we say “Merry Christmas” we are acknowledging that the problem of sin cannot be solved by any human effort. There is nothing in this world that can save us from the evil within us but God alone. To say Merry Christmas is to lay claim to God’s promise that Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for us, is all that is needed to cleanse us from every sin.

Luke ends his Christmas story with these words, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15

And that’s what they did. They came away from the manger radically changed and they began to joyfully, courageously spread the word concerning what they had seen and heard.

These words “Merry Christmas” are more than just tradition. They are a defiant confrontation to the power structures of this world where hatred and fear are overcome by love, darkness gives way to light, lies are dispelled by truth.

The shepherds, the wise men bowed before Jesus and proclaimed him as their king. Their lives were changed forever. How about you? Who do you proclaim as king tonight?

Jesus is the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world. He gave his life on a Roman cross to make it possible for your sins to be forgiven, your fear and shame to be removed, your purpose and joy to be restored. The victory feast has begun and the Lord invites you to come be part of it.  Will you open your heart and come?

Merry Christmas!

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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