SERMON FOR CHRISTMAS EVE, DEC. 24, 2017
Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Dearly beloved, hearers of the Word made flesh. To members of LMC-USC, our international friends, and sons and daughters home for Christmas, grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tonight we celebrate the deepest mystery of our holy Christian faith, the incarnation of the Lord God in human flesh.
The message of Christmas is so simple and sweet, that none of us should miss it tonight. I want you to open yours ears only to the preaching of the angels.
Whether it’s to Zechariah in the temple, or Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, or to the shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, the message remains the same: Don’t be afraid.
The glory of the Lord shone around them all. And the angel said to them “Zechariah, do not be afraid,” “Mary, don’t be afraid,” “Joseph, don’t be afraid,” “shepherds, don’t be afraid.”
You see, Christmas is no fairy tale. Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds. They are ordinary people like you and me. They were not royalty or celebrities, they had no favored status in society. They didn’t live easy lives. Mary’s name means bitter or harsh, perhaps named after the situation of her birth. Her parents had died. She was an orphan. The Lord told her not to be afraid. Mary you will be conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
Her fiancé Joseph, was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown and their wedding called off, given that now his Mary was pregnant. What frantic fears and frustrations must have taken hold of him. Struggling with hurt and confusion. Thankfully an angel came to Joseph in a dream, “Joseph don’t be afraid.”
The shepherds were rough and often outcasts, they lived amid raids, bandits, cutthroats, and wild animals. There was plenty to be afraid of, but now the angel announces “fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Tonight consider all your fears, all yours misgivings, your uncertainties about the future. Consider your own family, the brokenness caused by sin, the alienation and the emotional scars you bear. Like Mary, we can at times feel like orphans, and there is more than enough bitterness to go around.
But also consider that the preaching of the angels is not just for Zechariah, or Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds. The angels are preaching especially to you. Do not be afraid.
Everything that properly belongs to heaven is now sleeping in Mary’s lap. When you consider that this little baby is the Lord God everything changes. Our fears melt away, the clouds of sadness which hang over us all disperse, and there can only be laughing and joy. In Him, everything is redeemed. Hearts are softened, consciences are set at peace, and our families are saved.
Pretty soon we will light our candles and sing silent night. But know this, God this night is anything but silent. He is preaching loudly and clearly of his love for you. Don’t be afraid. God is gentle and sweet as a little baby. What greater comfort could you ever hope to have.