In our first reading this morning, Moses preaches to the people of Israel. He reminds them of the day when they all stood before the Lord at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was there that the Lord was to meet with them. So when the trumpets blasted, and God descended, you’d think it would be a cause of joy. But rather than stepping forward to meet Him, they had to take a giant step back from the presence of God.
You see, when the people of Israel saw the mountain covered with fire and smoke, when they saw the thunder and flashes of lighting and heard the sound of the trumpet, the people were afraid. They trembled. They stepped back. And cried out to Moses, “No. more. Moses. You speak to us and we’ll listen, but if God speaks to us we’re toast!”
It was a reasonable fear. They feared the Lord on account of their sin. The Lord’s holiness is, after all, a burning fire, and they knew no one would be able to endure a voice as great and powerful as the one on Mount Sinai.
So they took a step back and prayed that ancient prayer for a Savior.
And the Lord heard them, and through Moses spoke, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brothers – it is to him you shall listen – for I, the Lord, will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to you all that I command him.”
Make no mistake about it, this is the promise of the Gospel. It is the promise of the incarnation of God in human flesh. The promise of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Did not Jesus Himself say, “The words that I speak are not my own but my father’s who sent me.”
In our Gospel this morning the priests and Levites want to know who John thinks he is.
But John doesn’t make much of himself at all. He is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” He was the finger pointing to Christ. “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Among you,” John said, “stands one, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
But the prophet, the Christ, that he was not.
John had but one mission and one mission only: to introduce the world to Christ.
When Jesus came to be baptized by John, the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended, and a voice from heaven boomed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And at His transfiguration, the Father spoke again, saying of His Son, His prophet, “Listen to him.” His words are My words.
I hope you see what’s happening here when Christmas rolls around. It all means that the eternal Lord God is making good on that promise of His. The creator of the heavens and the earth, the God who shook Mount Sinai with thunder and lightening, is now being gently rocked to sleep by His virgin mother.
This Christmas we confess that the Lord of Sinai is lying in a manger.
What’s it all mean? Well, at Sinai sinful man had to take a big step back from God’s holiness, but at Bethlehem you are kindly asked to step forward, peer into those stable doors, and share in all God’s holiness.
Moses was an incredible prophet. He risked life and limb to meet God on Mount Sinai. He spoke to God on behalf of the people. And he came down with the Law of God, the tablets of the testimony.
But now, the prophet promised from of old, this incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, goes up another mountain, Mount Calvary, to do something far greater. Not to risk his life but to lay it all down – to fulfil the Law that we could not carry out, and come back to us, bringing life and salvation.
The coming of God in all His unveiled power at Mount Sinai was terrifying to the people of Israel. The thundering voice of the Lord put sinners in the fear of death. So God raised up a prophet, His own Son, to bear the fiery curse on the cross of Calvary, to be the one-time sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and so bring words of blood-bought forgiveness to the ears of sinners to fill them with cheer.
And now, risen from the dead, He brings the fruits of salvation and the joy of Christmas. What greater gift could you hope to have than the gift of Christ? There’s more than meets the eye there in that tiny gift wrapped in swaddling clothes. Lying in that manger is the forgiveness of sins – friendship with God – and fellowship with the angels of heaven.
At Sinai, sinful man was forced to step back from the terrifying holiness of God, but now this week of Christmas you are kindly invited to step forward. And approach the altar and share in the holiness of Christ Himself. This morning the Lord has veiled Himself in bread and wine, where He is truly present for you – forgiving you, sanctifying you, and refreshing you for service in His kingdom.
So step forward and come and meet Him. And let the holy one of Bethlehem rest within the manger of your heart and give to each and every one of you a merry Christmas. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give.