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Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20

James T. Batchelor

Monday of Fourth S. in Advent
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Mon, Dec 24, 2007
Mon of Fourth S. in Advent

Standard LSB A Readings:
First: Is. 7:10-17
Epistle: Rom. 1:1-7
Gospel: Matt. 1:18-25
Psalm: Psalm 24

 

The Temple of God is born.  Now this may sound strange for we think of a temple as being a place or a building where God reveals Himself.  We are used to the idea that temples are built, not born.  Solomon built the Temple of the LORD based upon God's design revealed in His Word.  The Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple and seventy years later Ezra and others built another temple to take its place.  Those temples were fashioned from stone, wood and fabric by human hands according to the divine design.  The Lord revealed His presence in those temples in cloud and fire and glory. 

The Temple of God born in the City of David is the Son of God and the Son of Man.  In fact, nine months earlier - at the moment of conception - God brought the divine and human natures together, never to be separated again.  The Temple of God was, at that instant, a single cell - very God of very God and also true man.  Now, nine months later the Temple of God is born.  In this Temple [Colossians 2:9] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.  Bethlehem's Babe is God Incarnate ... Emmanuel - God with us.  The Temple of God is born.  The Temple of God lies in a manger.

Behold this tiny infant in the manger.  Do you love Him?  Well What's not to love?  This is a cute little baby in a manger.  Everyone loves a baby, especially this one.  But do you love Him above all others - more than mother or father husband or wife son or daughter more than you love yourself.  Well, be honest.  If we are honest, we must admit that we often love things - people - ourselves more than we love God's Temple in that manger.

Do you trust Him?  Well, what does that mean?  How does one trust a newborn infant?  What is a tiny baby capable of doing that would cause anyone to trust Him?  Still the question remains, "Do you trust Him above all others?" Again - if we are honest we must admit that we don't trust Him as we should.

Do you fear Him?  You might reply that no one is afraid of a baby - a baby cannot hurt anyone.  But that's not the kind of fear the question asks about. 

You see, this is First Commandment stuff, and if this Baby "is Christ the Lord," - and He is! - then He is God Who is "I AM" before Abraham was born - then He is God Who bent down and wrote with His finger ... "I AM the LORD thy God ... You shall have no other gods before me."

What does this mean concerning this "Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger"?  Answer, You should fear, love and trust in Him above all things.  The First Commandment [Large Catechism: First Commandment] requires true faith and confidence of the heart, which flies straight to the one true God and clings to him alone.  Here are the shepherds who went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Too often the excitement that the world brings to Christmas distracts from the realization that this baby in this manger in this little town of Bethlehem really is God.  Too often we forget what this baby in this manger tells us.  He says, [Large Catechism: First Commandment] "See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another." In other words: "Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else."  We forget that this baby is God's Temple where He dwells with us.  We forget that this baby is God dwelling with man as man.

Now we feel uncomfortable, for we know that our hearts have not always clung to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our words and deeds have produced unclean fruits from unclean hearts. What are we going to do with this Temple of God recently born and now sleeping in a manger?  Is Jesus just this cute little baby boy who gives us all kinds of warm fuzzies at Christmas?  Do we put Him away with the other decorations until Christmas rolls around again next year?

The Babe held in the arms of Mary and entrusted to the care of Joseph is the Temple of God - the LORD God Almighty.  That's Who He is.  The reality of God as baby in a manger should cause us to ask many questions.  Why was He conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary?  What did He come to do?

Well, the LORD did not come to put check marks by our names every time we've been naughty or nice.  God did not place his temple in a manger in order to give us eleven steps to God-pleasing parenting, or nine ways to being a good spouse, or ten Christian things to do when you're retired.  The Incarnation of the Son of God was not to help you become a better you.

Listen to the Christmas Angel announce to the shepherds the reason for the Incarnation: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Christ the Lord was born to be the Savior of the world.  He came to save us from ourselves and our sins. He came because we are naughty ... because we break His Commandments every day ... because we are not God-pleasing parents ... because we are not good spouses ... because we do not do the Christian things in our retirement years.

God spoke to Mary through the angel and gave Him the name that means savior, Jesus.  That's what God came to do.  He came to save us.  He fulfilled the law down to the last letter.  He touched the water of the world and sanctified it for use in baptizing all nations - from the infant to the elderly and everyone in between.  [Hebrews 4:15] He has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Even now, He comes to us in the midst of this fallen world and prepares His Table before us and feeds us with His very Body born of Mary.  He is the Good Wine of the wedding feast and His sin-atoning Blood shed on the cross is given for you for the remission of sins.  And knowing that all was finished, Jesus died that we might live and He rose that we live with Him forever.

[Large Catechism: second Article of the Creed] That is to say, [God the Son] became a human creature, conceived and born without sin, of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin, so that he might become Lord over sin; moreover, he suffered, died, and was buried so that he might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owed, not with silver and gold but with his own precious blood. And he did all this so that he might become my Lord. For he did none of these things for himself, nor had he any need of them. Afterward he rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death, and finally ascended into heaven and assumed dominion at the right hand of the Father. The devil and all his powers must be subject to him and lie beneath his feet until finally, at the Last Day; he will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, and sin.

All this begins at this time when God makes His temple in a manger.  What joy for God's messengers to declare the wonder of this Good News.  Heaven's angels marvel at the Incarnation and proclaim their divine hymn of "Glory to God in the Highest."  The angelic heralds look into these things with joy and wonder from high above the manger and far beyond David's Star that announced the Birth of the Temple in Bethlehem.

Faithful shepherds make haste to go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.  Later these men returned to their flocks and their vocation as shepherds.  As they have opportunity, they tell the Good News of the Savior's Birth.  Those who hear this Word of joy to the world and ponder it will be found in Christ; that is in the God who makes His temple in the manger so that He might make His throne on the cross. Amen.



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