IN NOMINE JESU
On this holiest of nights we take a moment to focus on a gift—NOT the ones under the Christmas tree, NOT in the stockings hung by the chimney with care, BUT in the manger at Bethlehem two millennia ago. There it was, a gift from your heavenly Father…a gift wrapped not in ribbons and bows but in cloths: diapers. Yes, your Father in heaven gave you a gift, the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Lord and Savior—God in diapers, FOR you. God has given this gift to you out of His great love for you. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). There He was—Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—born FOR you. There was the baby Jesus…God in human flesh, born like you and I were but without sin. There He was: God in diapers and lying in a feeding trough in a barn. Can you think of an introduction any less glorious than Jesus had because there was no room for them in the inn?
Let’s move to the fields where the shepherds tended their flocks by night, lest the wolves seek to scatter and devour the flock. News would come to them that the Good Shepherd (the greatest Shepherd of all) was born in Bethlehem. There had been false prophets, but this was no fake news. An angel of the Lord appeared to them with this news of this Jesus who was born for them—born FOR you. “[T]he angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be FOR ALL THE PEOPLE; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign FOR YOU: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (vv. 10-12). What is more, suddenly there wasn’t just one angel; thousands were there before the shepherds, proclaiming this great news: “Glory to God in the highest” (v. 14a). Gloria in excelsis Deo! What did the shepherds do? They got up and went to Bethlehem and saw these things which were just as the angels told them, and they returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God, as He was faithful to His Word. Through the angels He told them where their Savior would be, and they rejoiced. They praised God for this Savior who was born for them, promised to them and for them from long before.
That’s why we’re here tonight, to thank and praise God for sending His Son Jesus to be born, to bear our sins, and to be our Savior—to be the Fulfilment of God’s promises. Already in the Garden of Eden sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and God knew there was no way they could atone for their sins, no matter what they would have done. God threatened that the souls that sins shall die, but they would not die without hope. As soon as God pointed out their sins to them, He promised them a Savior, as we heard in the First Lesson tonight. And all through the Scriptures, from the Old Testament all the way up to John the Baptist, God promised through His prophets that the Savior of the nations would come. But this Savior Jesus would come not just for Adam and Eve, not just for the Israelites, not just for the shepherds, but He came for you, for me, and for the life of the world, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. All who believe in and confess Him as Savior and Lord shall enjoy the bliss of eternal life in heaven. The blessed apostle St. Paul speaks of faith being worked through God’s Word: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:8-10 NKJV). This salvation is for you who believe in and confess Him. Note well what the blessed Reformer and Doctor of the Church, Martin Luther, said in a sermon on our text: The right and gracious faith which God demands is, that you firmly believe that Christ is born FOR YOU, and that this birth took place FOR YOUR WELFARE. The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that He did and suffered everything IN OUR BEHALF, as is here declared by the angel: ‘Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ In these words you clearly see that he is born for us.” [Emphasis added.]
Jesus needed to be born for you so that He would die for you, to die for your sins. Because of your sins (and mine), we can’t get into heaven on our own. All we can do is push ourselves further away from the One who comes FOR you. To this end, He sends His Holy Spirit to work within you saving faith in Jesus Christ; He’s working in you know, doing so through God’s Word, through the Lessons you heard read this evening and through the preaching of the Word happening right now. He’s working IN you. He’s working FOR you. Why is the Holy Spirit doing this? It’s because of what Jesus, fulfilling the prophesies spoken about Him, died FOR you on the cross, where He died FOR you and IN your place. That should be our bodies on that processional crucifix, just as our bodies should have been on Calvary’s cross. But that’s why Jesus was born for you: He was born to DIE for you, to pay for your sins with His very life—the perfect Sacrifice made on your behalf. Jesus was born for you. Jesus died for you. What is more is that Jesus ROSE from the dead for you. By His glorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus has opened to you the way of everlasting life.
What does all of this mean for you? It means that Jesus Christ was born for you. It means that Jesus Christ died for you. It means that Jesus Christ rose from the dead for you. It means that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven for you. It means that Jesus Christ comes back to His house, coming to you and for you, to give His gifts to you and for you: the gifts of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. And where does He give you His gifts? They’re not at the manger, the cross, or even the empty tomb because He isn’t there. He’s not under the Christmas tree or on the tree of the cross. He is where He has promised to be for you: in Holy Scripture, in Holy Baptism, and in Holy Communion. That’s where He is. That’s where He’s promised to be. That’s where He gives His gifts to you. That’s where He gives His gifts FOR you. That’s the “for-YOU-ness” of Jesus’ birth; you see, Christmas isn’t about you—it’s about Jesus Christ FOR you! Thanks be to God! Merry Christmas! Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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