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“She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
It’s become one of my ‘Christmas customs’ to read some of Luther’s Christmas sermons during the Christmas season. This morning, I read his n 1533 “House Sermon” on this text. He said that when Christ was born, the whole city of Jerusalem should have crawled on their hands and knees out to Bethlehem to see Him. And the Mayor of Bethlehem should have welcomed Joseph and Mary and given them the ‘key to the city.’
When God comes down from heaven to earth, the whole earth should stand at attention and salute it’s Lord.
When the Creator comes to His creation, every living creature should be ready to examine itself and ask, 'am I ready to meet my maker'?
The fullness of time ARRIVED. The pivotal event in the history of the world HAPPENED. What had always been a FUTURE ‘PROMISE’ to be hoped for and believed, or rejected and forgotten, became HAPPENED.
The very thing that every man, woman and child had been waiting for and for which every living creature had been groaning as in pains of childbirth – ‘came to pass.’
THE OFFSPRING OF THE WOMAN entered the world to CRUSH THE HEAD OF THE SERPENT.
But for all of the waiting and all of the warning and all of the expectation and all the groaning, the earth did NOT come to attention when the Creator came to His Creation. Nor did every living creature EXAMINE ITSELF AND REPENT before their Maker.
In fact, no one noticed. No one knew. For all but a small handful, life went on AS THOUGH NOTHING HAD HAPPENED. The whole world had just changed and life would never be the same. In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth. And the two were joined together as one and it was VERY GOOD. It was PARADISE.
But man rent asunder what God had joined together, and NOTHING WAS GOOD and PARADISE WAS LOST, and heaven is UP THERE and earth is DOWN HERE and never the two shall meet.
Until Christmas. On Christmas, God joined His heaven and His earth together again in the God/Man Jesus Christ and in Him, it is all VERY GOOD and PARADISE and never again to be rent asunder. AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING, IS NOW, AND EVER SHALL BE.
But no one noticed. No one knew. No one came to attention. No one repented. Everyone went about their life as though nothing had happened and nothing had changed.
They had jobs to go to and children to raise and chores to do. They complained about the economy and griped about taxes. They criticized the government and the leaders in charge of things. They worried about where things seemed to be headed and what this world would be like for their children and grandchildren and everyone had their opinions, but everyone was in agreement about one thing – no one should expect social security to last much longer.
But no one knew that the world just changed. And really, how could they have known?
The Creator entered His Creation, not as almighty Lord of Lords and King of Kings, robed in glory and majesty, but as a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
He made His grand entrance, not at the temple or the capitol or the stadium, but a house that was already full of guests that the only place with enough room for a husband and his pregnant wife was the area where the animals came inside for the night.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.”
On that first Christmas day, the whole world was cloaked in ignorance. No one was prepared for the Christ to come. And it will be the same when He comes again.
But heaven knew what was happening. And the angels teach every little child that it is ‘good, right and salutary’ to be excited for Christmas.
One angel makes the GRAND ANNOUNCMENT. “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10).
But even this grand announcement in incredibly limited in scope. Just compare the TARGET AUDIENCE of the announcement that the “Savior who is Christ the Lord,” has come into the world, to the grand announcement of ‘The Force Awakens’ – Star Wars – episode 8” is now showing. The holy angels could learn a thing or two from Hollywood.
The grand announcement doesn’t go to the “nations” or the “peoples” or the “kings of the earth” or the “rulers.” It will eventually reach them, but they will not receive it as they should. When they finally do hear the NEWS, they will “rage” and “plot” and “set themselves” and “take counsel against the Lord and against His anointed.” (Psalm 2) Instead of singing, “O come let us adore Him,” they sing, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.”
It's not that the shepherds in the fields were any different than anyone else in that regard. But at least they were not about to let their pride get in the way, because they didn’t have any.
When they heard the angel’s announcement, rather than “raging” and “plotting” and “setting themselves against the Lord and against His anointed,” they said, “let us go over to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went, “with haste.”
WHO WOULD HAVE IMAGINED THAT LOWLY SHEPHERDS WOULD TURN OUT TO BE THE EXAMPLE OF FAITH THAT WE SHOULD ALL STRIVE TO IMITATE?
And “they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger,” just as they had been told.
And from that point on, the job of announcing the coming of Christ into the world was transferred from lofty angels to lowly shepherds.
IMAGE THAT. God entrusted the EARTH SHATTERING, HISTORY MAKING announcement of His coming into the world to a handful of shepherds.
Try to picture the scene. It’s the middle of the night when the enter Bethlehem. Not many lights are on, but there’s a house that’s all lit up. They go to that house and knock on the door. “Who’s there?” “Shepherds from the fields nearby.” “We’re pretty busy right now. What do you want?” “We’ve come to see the baby, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.”
“And when they saw Him, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Tonight, the same message first handed over by A FEW LOWLY SHEPHERDS to houseguests in the little town of Bethlehem is once again handed over by ONE LOWLY SHEPHERD to the guests gathered in this house. “Unto you a Savior is born, He is Christ the Lord.”
Yes, He has come as light comes to darkness. But I beg you, do not reject Him and ‘do not be afraid.’ The LIGHT is GOOD and the LIFE He gives is VERY GOOD and it endures forever and ever.
He did not come on Christmas for JUDGEMENT. When He comes again, it will be to JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. On Christmas, Christ came to BE the judgment against all of our “raging” and “plotting ” and “setting ourselves against the Lord and against His anointed.”
Even as we all sung, “crucify Him, crucify Him,” the angels were singing, “Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world.”
This evening, we stand at attention for God has come down to us. We prepare our hearts and minds to meet our Maker with repentance and faith.
Let all IGNORANCE BE LIFTED that we may HEAR the “good news of great joy that shall be for all people” again tonight.
Let all FEAR BE CALMED that we may KNOW THE JOY of the angels and God’s perfect “peace among those with whom He is pleased.”
Let all PRIDE BE SHATTERED that, like the shepherds, we may “return, glorifying and praising God for all we have seen and heard.”