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SERMON FOR CHRISTMAS EVE, 12-24-2019,

AT LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL

Pastor Michael Larson

This past Sunday, after church we had an extended coffee hour. That was a nice reminder for me just how nice that is. I love coffee hour. Everyone should go. It’s a time to sit around, have cake and coffee, and visit. I even held the newest member of the family at Luther Memorial, a tiny baby. Meanwhile, down the hall in the playroom a troupe of girls were running an orphanage. They were playing house. The smaller girls sat prim and proper at the table for a meal with the older ones serving. Daddies and mommies, sisters and brothers and babies.

The same day the Larson family was invited to a member’s house. On the mantle was a nativity scene. And a beautiful one too! How simple and enchanting! And what a nice reminder to us all that in that stable Christ is not alone. God wouldn’t have it that way, so He’s placed Him within a family. Needing every little thing that a baby needs. Someone to nurse Him. Someone to rock Him, and place Him in that manger. There’s that holy child in the swaddling clothes, but someone had to do the swaddling. So we have a mother and a child.

But they’re not alone either. Because who’s going to provide and care for them? So consider that even though the hands of God furnished the heavens and the earth, He gives the callused hands of a laborer to do the job. Joseph, the guardian of Jesus, we call him, but father in the highest sense. The holy family needed someone to take them to Egypt to escape King Herod’s murderous rage. Someone had to protect our infant Lord and His mother from evil along the desert roads. Someone had to work hard to support the mother and baby in a foreign land. To love them and bring them safely home. What a dad!

The battle cry of a Lutheran is Christ alone, and so it is, only Christ can save us. Christ alone can forgive us, and bring us to heaven. But let us all remember tonight that the truth of Christmas begins with family, a husband and father, a wife and a mother. Sometimes folks say this time of year is all about family and there’s some truth to that.

Because everything good – history, humanity, and salvation – comes by way of the family. You see, when God came to save us, He made salvation inseparable from family life. Christ Himself came to share in it, redeem it, and make the Christian family holy by His presence.

I too have a mother and father. They were living in a small apartment. By their own admission, they had lost their way. With two children and no church. Until a minister of the Gospel knocked on their door, and by the Spirit of God, joined us to a family, the church. And made a home bereft of Christian joy a holy nativity.

This gift of Christ has been passed down to me, and to my family, just as it is passed to each and every one of you.

Dear friends, without Christ, the world is a joyless place, and any place where He remains unknown and unaccepted is no home at all!

So this night, on Christmas Eve, we remember a very simple truth that everyone can agree on. Christmas IS about family.

The birth of Jesus is history – our family history – carefully kept and passed down in the household we call the Church, to bring joy to every generation.

That old practice of having a family Bible, with names written in it, is a good one and worth recovering! The long genealogies that begin the Christmas story in the Gospels are worth repeating and pondering, and then adding your own name to the list. You’re in there!  

Because Jesus did not come into this world alone. He came into this world by way of a family, and He brought us salvation so that we could share membership in the family of God. That’s the very meaning of salvation and the meaning of Christmas: “But to all who received him, who believed on his name, he gave the power to become the children of God” – God’s sons and daughters, members of His family.

Remember old Scrooge in A Christmas Carol? Of all the miserable aspects of his existence, at the center of it all is that he’s all alone. So a visitor whisks him off to the home of his poorly paid clerk, Cratchit. And Scrooge hears one of Cratchit’s sons reading to his brothers and sisters from the Bible these words of Christ: “And he took a small child, and set him in their midst.” Their brother, tiny Tim, is gone, but remains a fount of blessing for them all, even in their grief. How rich they are! Then the heart of Scrooge begins to break – or begins to beat for the first time. Repentance is worked. He will keep in his heart the littleness of Christ.

When he awakes that morning, he finds to his joy and surprise that it’s Christmas Day. He hardly knows what to make of it. “I don’t know anything at all!” he cries. “I am quite a baby!” he yells. And all of a sudden this new child finds himself no longer alone, but surrounded by a family. A glowing nativity.  

Tonight, let us learn from the children to keep house and the littleness of Christ in our hearts. And remember that no matter where we’re from or what our situation may be, it is to this family that we all belong. A home in which there is eating and drinking, laughing, and play. And no one is alone. In the name of Jesus. Amen.