CHRISTMAS EVE – DECEMBER 24, 2013
TEXT: LUKE 2 VIEWED THROUGH ROMANS 8:32
WITH THE SON GOD GRACIOUSLY GIVES US ALL THINGS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

 

Merry Christmas! If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32). Merry Christmas - for with the Son, God graciously gives us all things!

 

The story is recorded of a wealthy man who died and left no heirs. When his property and household goods were auctioned off, there was included a picture the dead man had highly prized. It was a picture of his only son who had died at an early age.









CHRISTMAS EVE – DECEMBER 24, 2013
TEXT: LUKE 2 VIEWED THROUGH ROMANS 8:32
WITH THE SON GOD GRACIOUSLY GIVES US ALL THINGS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Merry Christmas! If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32). Merry Christmas - for with the Son, God graciously gives us all things!

 

The story is recorded of a wealthy man who died and left no heirs. When his property and household goods were auctioned off, there was included a picture the dead man had highly prized. It was a picture of his only son who had died at an early age.

 

The crowd that gathered showed great interest in the furnishings and the antiques. No one, however, showed interest in the son’s portrait except for one elderly woman. Her garments were worn and threadbare and the only item she took interest in was the portrait. Since no one else bid on it, she obtained it for very little. When asked she explained that she desired the picture as a keepsake. She had served as the boy’s nurse years before during his sickness and suffering and had grown to love him.

 

As the picture was handed over a bulge was noticed in the backing paper. When examined an envelope was found containing the man’s will which, to that point, had been missing. When the document was read, it clearly stated that the all of his wealth and property including the proceeds of this auction – his entire inheritance - was to be given along with the picture. His last will and testament made clear that everything was to go to the person who still held dear the memory of his son.

 

As we rejoice in God the Father’s gift of His Son tonight, a similar but eternally more valuable truth is seen. The message the shepherd’s heard concerning the birth of this child makes one thing crystal clear - With the Son, God graciously gives us all things!

 

First recall how God’s messenger said “Fear not…” Fear came into the world with sin and its wages of death. Our first and fallen parents hid from God because they were afraid of His holiness. Rightfully so! Fear has been with us ever since. Some fears are simple dreads - some are sophisticated phobias. Some fears are for ourselves - some for those we love. Some fears are for the present - some for the future. Some fear is senseless worry but there is also fear for proper reasons in as decaying and dying world!

 

The proper ultimate reality for us sinners to fear is the holy presence of God. Scripture reveals that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). This fear is something more than surprise or dread. The person who fears the Lord stands in respect and reverence before Him not in arrogance! At the same time such a one actually clings to the Lord in trust! In other words when we properly fear God – there is nothing to be afraid of.

 

The one born in Bethlehem would later teach this truth quite radically. Acknowledging that persecution would come to His followers He said, do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). Without the truth that there is real and eternal reason for you as a sinner and me to fear God’s wrath – and yet real and eternal reason for you and me to trust Him because of His grace in Christ Jesus this night and this service are just make-believe. Without this truth Christmas is just pretend! Jesus is the reason for the season but it is vital that we dying sinners understand the reason for Jesus. “Fear not…” the shepherds heard from messengers who dwell in God’s presence. The reason for fear to be put aside is this child - born of the Virgin for with the Son, God graciously gives us all things!

 

In His Son not only does God give reason for the removal of sinful fear and the presence of holy fear and trust – He also gives reason for the presence of joy. I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. How can you personally be certain that God wants you to have great joy? Because He wants all people to have great joy! This is not temporary pleasure or shallow happiness that flees away as fast as circumstances change. Good heavens – such feelings go up and down for all of us! Joy in Scripture, however, is solid and deep and abiding! Joy in Scripture is festal joy – so much more than a passing mood or a positive way of looking at things! God Himself rejoices! The cause of true joy is His saving action! In Him is found everlasting joy - perfect joy! He has joy in finding what is lost (Luke 15) in finding you. He gives joy that one’s name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20) – your name. Scripture constantly bubbles up with joy at the acts of Jesus – beginning with His appearing in the flesh (Matthew 2:10).

 

The human soul was made to enjoy God’s presence! Sin and separation from God has left a hole in each of us that we cannot repair. All of our longings ultimately point to the fullness of joy that only God can give to us. So, Merry Christmas! That’s why God the Son – whom the universe cannot contain – was nestled in a Bethlehem feeding trough. This sinful world is going out of existence – generation after generation – death after death – ours up ahead just a bit - until Christ brings it to a full close on the day He returns. Christian joy is not yet complete – that will be when sin no longer opposes us in the new heavens and the new earth. But already now God would have us experience the future He prepares for us in Christ as joy in the present! I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. With the Son, God graciously gives us all things, including great joy!

 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. That’s the reason for the absence of sinful fear and the presence of great joy – a Savior. With the Son, God graciously gives us all things, including salvation.

 

Sometimes it is mistakenly said that God has won salvation for all who believe or that God has purchased forgiveness of sins for those who are sorry and repent. But the clear revelation of Scripture is that God has won salvation for all. As John the Baptist said of Jesus - “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) His shed blood on the cross was not just for some of the world’s sin! The payment of His once for all sacrificial death covered all sin – it was for the whole mess!

 

If there is forgiveness of sins for all in God’s Christmas gift, why is it then, that not all are saved? That can perhaps be illustrated by two men convicted of putting the life of the mail carrier in jeopardy while robbing the United States mails back in 1829. They were named Porter and Wilson. Porter was executed as sentenced for the crime but three weeks before the date set for Wilson’s execution he was pardoned by President Andrew Jackson. To the surprise of all Wilson refused the pardon! His case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court finally ruled that…A pardon is a deed to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him. Refusing the pardon – Wilson received the sentence of death.

 

With the Son, God graciously gives us all things – including full divine pardon and eternal life. The pardon which Christ won has been won for every member of the human race – no one excluded! But it can be rejected through unbelief! The presence of the Savior and His forgiving gifts can tragically be turned away from and spurned. God forces His salvation on no one.

 

That brings us to the crucial connection between the Savior born that night in Bethlehem and us who gather here on this night in Shorewood. Jesus is no longer an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. In order to procure the salvation of the world there came a day when, as a man, His dead body was wrapped in grave clothes and laid to rest in a garden tomb. On that day – no angels had proclaimed His wonders. On that day instead of the government resting on His shoulders, the government of heaven and earth bore down in punishment on His shoulders. That’s why He came among us in the flesh! Here, as Luther said, is the joyousness of our conscience: that through faith our sins become not ours but Christ’s…and all the righteousness of Christ in turn becomes ours (WLS #2145). With the Son, God graciously gives us all things, including forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Those abandoned grave clothes – lying in an empty tomb on Easter morning testified to His finished work of redemption! The risen Lord – fresh from the grave – was living and speaking again – speaking not words of accusation to the disciples who had deserted Him – but rather words of absolution – words of peace! “Peace be with you!” He was voicing in person the very gift that God’s angels also proclaimed to the shepherds at His birth.

 

And 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, good will toward men. With the Son, God graciously gives us all things – including peace! This peace does not express – to be exact – our peaceful feelings – or our peaceful relation with God or with others. It rather expresses the objective state of peace God has established through Christ with sinful mankind. God is at peace with us through the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20). There exists between God and man an objective condition within God. It is a peace which passes all understanding.

 

Faith does not produce this peace but rather receives it where God has placed it. And God has placed it in the person and the presence and the promised provision of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Isaiah foretold Him as the Prince of Peace and as Mighty God. The reason we can know that the peace purchased on Calvary is sufficient is because it was purchased by the death of the Prince of Peace who is also Mighty God in the flesh! Good heavens – what more can God do for us than He has done and continues to do in His Son.

 

With the Son, God graciously gives us all things – including peace which the world cannot give – peace which passes even your own understanding! He doesn’t give it to you on the back of a portrait of His dead Son sold at auction. The risen and living Son gives it to you Himself in the gift that covers you with Himself – your Baptism – your washing of rebirth. The living Lord gives it to you Himself in His own last will and testament – the cup that is the New Testament in His blood – shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Humble manger and swaddling clothes are now replaced by humble water and word and bread and wine. But the presence of the Prince of Peace in these humble means with His gracious gift of heavenly peace is the same as on that holy night!

 

With the Son, God graciously gives us all things – removal of sinful fear and the presence of godly fear married to trust in God – the presence of joy in Christ – salvation from sin and death – peace the world cannot give - and finally ultimate purpose for life. Life’s purpose is not just to accumulate a bigger and bigger pile! Nor is it just to do the best we can and experience the best we can until we die! St. Paul expressed it this way to Titus…For the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Nothing can replace this - a purpose projected also by the shepherds as they responded to God’s holy gift.

 

And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child…And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.

 

With the Son, God graciously gives us all things – including the purpose of worshipping Him – the center of which is to receive His forgiveness. Indeed He came among us and is still among us not to be served but to serve. That purpose of worship overflows in the purpose of making known all that Christ has done and said. As the shepherds returned to their duties, they made known what they couldn’t see, but what God had told them. What they saw was a helpless infant in poor surroundings. What they were told was the Gospel – that Jesus brought salvation and peace with God in His flesh!

 

Dear Christians – Merry Christmas and God bless you in your vocations as He did the shepherds! Pastors to make Him known clearly in their proclamation! Parents to make Him known lovingly to their children! The people of His possession to make Him known in their worship of Him and as they bear witness to Him with gentleness to any who may ask and as they help the Gospel’s proclamation with cheerful, generous gifts! Why is this true for every person gathered here on this Christmas Eve? Because Christmas in not make-believe and because Jesus Christ - Savior of the world – your Savior – is living and active – bestowing His gifts of life and salvation where He has promised! And, because with the Son, God graciously gives us all things!

 

In the name of Jesus, AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a