A SAVIOR, CHRIST THE LORD
IS GOD’S SUPREME GIFT OF LOVE TO YOU
Preached by Rev. Kenneth Wieting
... It happened! He who gave this world its light is born in the darkness of a stable! He who created Adam from the virgin earth this night comes forth from the Virgin’s womb. He who built woman from the rib of man without the help of woman, this night is born of virgin woman without the help of man. ...
A SAVIOR, CHRIST THE LORD
IS GOD’S SUPREME GIFT OF LOVE TO YOU
Preached by Rev. Kenneth Wieting
TEXT LUKE 2:1-20
In the Name of Jesus the Christ, born Savior of the world, Merry Christmas to you, one and all! The angel said to them “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
It happened! This is no shallow myth or romantic folk lore! This is not a Walt Disney fabrication. This is God’s supreme gift of love! There were no reindeer in the sky, but there were God’s messengers from the realm of creation you can not see just yet. God momentarily drew back the curtain on the heavenly realm because the King of heaven lies on earth in a manger. There were no dreams of a white Christmas that night in Bethlehem. But, there was in the blood of this baby the power to make our sins as white as snow.
It happened! The most notable of Rome’s Caesar’s wanted more taxes. No surprise there! Nothing as sure as death and taxes! To maximize the revenue an empire-wide census reached right into the little towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem. All went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
It happened! Three human beings journeyed to Bethlehem – one of them nestled in the knitting room Mary’s womb. Soon this young virgin who had been with child was holding him in her arms. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
It happened! He who gave this world its light is born in the darkness of a stable! He who created Adam from the virgin earth this night comes forth from the Virgin’s womb. He who built woman from the rib of man without the help of woman, this night is born of virgin woman without the help of man. He who would say, “I am the Bread of Life” this night is born in the house of bread, Bethlehem. He whom heaven cannot contain this night is contained in manger and swaddling clothes. Oh holy night! Oh blessed night! The mystery of the ages has happened! He who is above dwells below for our redemption. God has set His King on Zion, His holy hill! The people walking in darkness have seen a great light! This is God’s supreme gift of love! In His holy birth – it happened!
He is “the Lord”! This is the personal name of God in the Old Testament, “the Lord”. It is the name used to translate Yahweh or Jehovah, “the Lord”. The Greek word for baby is the word for tiny infants. Scripture uses the same word for babies inside the womb and babies outside the womb. This baby is “the Lord”, that is, this baby is God. He was God taking on flesh in Mary’s womb, fully human and fully divine. He is God wrapped in diapers, sleeping in the manger, fully human and fully divine. He is “the Lord”! He is your Lord.
He is “Christ the Lord”! “Christ” means anointed one, the Messiah, the one promised for centuries. News of the birth of the Christ, the Messiah, is the most important news uttered since Genesis chapter three (Gen. 3:15). The male seed of the woman who was promised to crush Satan’s accusing head has come. He is the long-awaited Messiah! He is “Christ the Lord”! He is your Messiah, your Christ.
He is “a Savior, Christ the Lord”! The word “savior” means “rescuer”, one who snatches others from danger. From reading the Psalms and prophets (Isaiah 53), pious Jews would understand the need for rescue from sin. He is a rescuer, born in the city of David to snatch us from the wages of our sin. Everything that He has done and will yet do has this significance and purpose, that we might be saved. He is “a Savior, Christ the Lord”! He is your Savior.
Dear friends, this is God’s supreme gift of love! God loves us fallen sinners so much as to put Himself in our messed up lot in order to snatch us from the damning wages of our sin? There is death to pay for that, the first death and the second death. There is brokenness and struggle and emptiness that stems from the sin that infects us. There is deep darkness that we cannot pierce with the light of our reason or the strength or our spiritual strivings.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. This is God’s supreme gift of love! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. It happened! Merry Christmas to you, one and all!
Do you believe that God loves you this much? Dr. Martin Luther said that if we fully believed this than surely our hearts would burst for joy. The heart of unbelief, you see, is to refuse to be loved this much! Whether through pride or through the pursuit of passing things of this life or through preference for the darkness of this world or through painful despair, the heart of unbelief is to refuse to be loved this much! How often do you think of your deepest problem in this way - of refusing God’s love – of refusing to be loved in Christ?
But wait, you say, how do I know that this gift of God’s love in human flesh is for me personally? After all, I can be pretty unlovable. If everyone could see what I see on the inside, perhaps no one would love me. Instead of perfect fear, love and trust in God, on the inside there is often a confused mess of anxiety and uncertainty. Instead of loving my neighbor as myself, my heart keeps circling back in on itself. So many things in this world of death and taxes threaten to wear my life away or trivialize it. So many years have passed. So many mistakes have been made. Parts of me still say “no” to this supreme gift of God’s love, like it never really happened. How do I know for sure that this gift of a rescuer is for me?
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” He is God’s gift for all the people – a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Therefore, He is God’s gift for you – a rescuer who is the promised Messiah, true God come down as true man. He is God’s love in the flesh for all the people. Therefore, He is God’s love in the flesh for you. As St. Paul wrote to Titus, the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. You are part of the all! Oh how God loves you and me!
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Help me not to refuse to be loved so much, trusting you and not myself! Help me not to refuse to be loved so much, treasuring all these things and putting them together in my heart as did Mary. Help me not to refuse to be loved so much, making known to others what You have told us concerning the child as did the shepherds. Help me not to refuse to be loved so much being trained to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, living a self-controlled, upright and godly life in this present age. Lord I believe, help my unbelief.
Dear Christian, this is God’s supreme gift of love! He not only loves, He is love! God loves man as man, He does not love us with personal distinction based upon our merit or worthiness. Good heavens, there is no peace and joy in that. His love for us is not a borrowed love or a derived love, like a young man loves a pretty girl or a miser loves his money or a politician loves power. The love of God does not find in us that in which it delights but rather creates in us that in which it delights. God loves the unlovely into loveliness. The desire to love, to bless and to save us is the very nature of God. That’s why there is a flesh and blood baby in the Bethlehem manger. The redemption He came to purchase for us is the indisputable evidence of the love of God.
There are many gifts given in this season and you perhaps will give and receive a gift or two today and tomorrow. The most precious gifts come from the hands of those who love us. In fact the most precious earthly gift is being with those who love us. Beloved, the gift of a Savior, Christ the Lord comes from the hand of God who loves you. He comes in flesh and blood to cut through the barrier of your sin so that you can be with Him for eternity. Joy to the world! Joy also for you! Let sadness disappear as you look at the unfathomable love of His heart for you. Let the happy things be happy things, family, home, friends, food and drink – all the kindness of this season. They are liberated from having to carry the weight of eternal joy. They are liberated from having to cover the emptiness of heart and depth of suffering that troubles this world. That comes in Jesus Christ.
Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. In Luke’s Gospel the first time God is glorified concerning Christ is by the angels and here by the shepherds. In Luke’s Gospel the last time God is glorified concerning Christ is by the centurion who stood watch at His crucifixion. By Jesus’ own confession, that was the hour of His glory (John 17). In that hour there was darkness not just in a stable, but over the whole land for the sun’s light failed. In that glorious hour Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father into Your hands I commit my Spirit”. And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he glorified God, saying, certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23: 44-47) And so are you in Christ Jesus. That’s why the angels sang “Glory to God” at His birth! He came to bestow His innocence on you! He came to wash your sins in His blood and make them white as snow.
He loved you to death! The Savior, Christ the Lord, loved you to death on a cross! Then, Mighty God and Prince of Peace, He rose to new life to bestow His peace and His love on you! Do you see the infinite love of God for you as He baptized you into His death? Oh, how He loves you! You have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It happened! Christ the Lord was born in Bethlehem! It continues to happen. The Savior brings to you even now the Father’s love and forgiveness in humble means. The manger and swaddling clothes are gone, but not God’s love. Today the Son of God bestows Himself and God’s forgiving love in water and word and bread and wine! God help us not to refuse to be loved so much! God help us to invite others to receive in faith God’s supreme gift of love! In the Name of Jesus, born Savior of the world - Merry Christmas to you one and all! Amen.