We contemplate on this night a miracle which mankind can never fully comprehend. No person could ever be sufficiently amazed at this wonder: the incarnation of Christ in the Virgin Mary, and the birth of God in human flesh.
This miracle takes place in human history. Saint Luke records the date and the place: when Augustus was Caesar, and Cyrenius was governor of Syria, in the regions of Nazareth and Bethlehem. The miracle does not take place in some mystical land beyond the rainbow. God does not come in a legendary, fairy-tale fashion, descending in a shower of gold or flying upon the back of a bull, as other mythic accounts describe gods coming to earth. No, God the eternal Lord, comes down from timeless heaven to enter our world, our history, our flesh.
We cannot emphasize this too much. God is not an idea. He is not an abstraction. He is a real being who exists. We do not pick out the Jesus that we like out of the emotions of our heart. We hear the facts about Him recorded by eyewitnesses, established by careful checking into facts, as Luke did. The historical facts are important and vital, because upon these facts is built our salvation.
Our Salvation is named Jesus. He is born as food for our souls. He leaves Mary's womb in a town called Bethlehem, the house of bread. He fulfills this prophetic name, because He is the Bread of Life. Likewise, He is laid in a manger, a feeding trough for dumb animals. May we, who are unclean and lowly, be not proud to spiritually eat this Bread of Life by faith. By our sins, we are a brood of vipers and unclean dogs. May we kneel in the dust, counting ourselves no better than sheep, before this Lord of all.
So there He is, showing His purpose and intention in the way He is born. He is swaddled in strips of cloth to hold His infant body. He enters this life the same way He will leave it, wrapped in cloths. He is born for the exact purpose that He should die and be wrapped in grave cloths.
This would be tragic if this were merely a human life. Christ is indeed human, a true child of His mother Mary. But He is also fully divine, conceived by the Holy Spirit without the help of a man. Therefore He is not only Mary's first-born Son, but also the first-born over all creation. So His death is not tragic. On the contrary, He willingly was born into flesh so that He could lay that flesh down in death. He gladly gave Himself into human death so that He could bring peace on earth, good will to men. This He has done and accomplished and sealed with His holy, precious Blood.
This is the message of the Christmas preacher, the angel who appeared to the shepherds. He even begins his message with the words "Do not be afraid." For indeed, the Lord of all has come to free us from death and hell and satan. He comes to remove all fear by His incarnation and death and resurrection. He comes to abolish fears. For even if our sinful flesh allows us no perfection in our earthly life, so that now and then fears must come, nevertheless He will finally and for all eternity banish our fears when He leads us into the new heaven and the new earth that He, our Lord Jesus, has prepared for us.
So the angel sends the shepherds to find the Lord, their Redeemer, born as a Baby. For He says that this Baby is none other than the Lord. So He is worthy of worship.
Yet we today do not seek a baby, since Christ did not remain one. He did not remain in weakness. Even as a Baby, Christ had all power in heaven and earth in His tiny hands. Yet He did not use that power. He took the form of a weak servant. He chose humiliation before glory. If He had not become weak, we would not be redeemed by His death.
Now, He is Lord of all. He is no longer the Baby. He is the Man who is over all. He rules over angels in heaven and over the kings of the earth and even over all the starry hosts that He created at the beginning. So do not seek the Baby. Seek the Man who is God, the one Mediator between God and man, who sits in glory at the Father's right hand, yet also fills all things in heaven and on earth. That is a Man worth worshiping and praying to, the Man who has won salvation for you.
So we are not here to worship our human nature and our human heart with its emotions. No matter how loving and joyous our heart may seem in this season, our nature is flawed by sin. Our nature leads to death and hell. Our nature put us under the lordship of satan, in the kingdom of darkness. For this reason, Christ came as a Baby. For this reason, He entered our history and our flesh, to save us from our human heart and our human emotions. He died because our hearts were not right.
But now His Blood, the same Blood that flowed through the veins of that tiny body in the manger, that same Blood has testified on our behalf. Now we are accounted holy, and all our sinfulness covered up by His glory, the same glory that shone out around the angel, yet did not shine in the manger. The glory of God covers up our sinful human heart so that we are accounted righteous, as if we were as pure and sinless as the holy angels.
That is the message of Christmas - that God came as one of us to save us. God is Man so that mankind has been redeemed by His Blood. YOU have been redeemed by the Blood of God, because God took a human body with Blood that could be shed. God took human life so that He could die a human death, for you. Christmas means that you have been saved by Christ.
So there is the Baby, cradled in the arms of Mary and Joseph, and sleeping in the manger. On Christmas we can say that there was a Baby who was God. This is the One who came to give you eternal life.
The same Christ be with you and strengthen you through His Word and Spirit. Amen.
You may quote from my sermons freely, but please quote accurately if you attribute anything to me.
Send Rev. Andrew Eckert an email.