Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Eve
December 24, 2008
Luke 2:1-20

What are you expecting this Christmas? You have expectations in your life, and certainly at Christmas. You might be expecting a certain gift you’ve been wanting. You might be expecting, or at least hoping, that things will turn better in your life. Whatever your expectations, you are here this evening. You’re here for a reason and you’ve come with your expectations. Are you here because you’re in the Christmas spirit? Maybe you want to get away from all the commercialization of the holiday season. Maybe you’re desperate to take a break from what the world says about Christmas and hear the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe you’re here because you want to hear, once again, that story we know so well of what Christmas really is. You might be here simply because it seems that’s what you should do on Christmas Eve.

Whatever your reasons, whatever your expectations, one thing you do expect is that you will hear that same Christmas story. The Christmas story in Luke starts off with these words: “In those days.” We live in an age where those words aren’t necessarily valued. People love to hear a good story, but some don’t have much regard for what has happened in the past. Especially so long ago and with so much religious baggage. When you come to church and you hear the words, “in those days,” do you find yourself feeling like you’re not hearing something relevant to your life? We know what happened in those days. What about in these days? What does what happened in those days have to do with our lives today? Shouldn’t we be hearing about what God is doing today? How can you know that God has a plan for your life today; that you’re not just hearing stuff that happened long ago and doesn’t apply to your daily life?

The first way is with the words themselves, “in those days.” The use of these words shows us that what is being told really happened. The events are historical. They are no less real than the events that happen today. They may not seem as relevant, but that doesn’t make them any less real. If they don’t seem real it’s because of your expectations. You expect that current events are real but past events, not as much. But as relevant as you think the events that happen now are, the real events that happen in our lives will not be any less real a hundred years from now when someone is hearing about them. They may wonder what they have to do with them, but they don’t have to wonder if they were real. The reason the events being historical matter to you today is because no one can take them away from you. They may deny them, but they can’t change the fact that they are real.

The second way the events of the Christmas Gospel are relevant to you is that they don’t just tell a story. The events are the Gospel itself. The Christmas story isn’t just a story about Jesus being born, it is the very bringing about of the Gospel. The Gospel saves you. There is nothing more relevant than that. What are you expecting? What is Christmas about? It is about salvation.

This is what you expect to hear, isn’t it?— Christmas is all about the spiritual... It’s about the promise of eternal glory in heaven... It’s about what Jesus does for my soul... We expect to hear these things and we so often pass them off because they seem so irrelevant. How does salvation help me now? How does it help me in my life?

Maybe Christmas for you isn’t all joy and good tidings. Maybe you hear the Good News of Jesus’ salvation for you and it falls flat. Maybe during the Christmas season there is sadness for you. Perhaps in the midst of all the joy and the hubbub you are falling into despondency. Maybe your holiday season has been marked in the past by the death of those close to you and your looking forward to this time of year is tempered by the reality of painful memories. Maybe the stresses of your life and of this time of year overwhelm you instead of bringing you contentment.

Your expectations are very different from wanting to hear Good News that your sins are forgiven. But if you see the words of our Christmas Gospel as not just the recounting of a spectacular story that happened back then, but as the very Gospel of life you will see that it impacts your life here, now, every day, for all eternity. You will see that your expectations fall pathetically short of what Gods expects to give you.

That Joseph was of the house and lineage of David means that you are one with him in being an inheritor of the promise of God that He will guard you in all things, whether danger or sadness or seeking. That Jesus was born in a humble manner, in a stable, means that your re-birth of humble manner, water connected with God’s Word, is birth to eternal life, not simply of life on earth. That ordinary shepherds were the first recipients of the news of salvation means that you and I never have to wonder if we are out of the loop with God. He wanted the shepherds to know, He wants you to know, He wants the whole world to know.

Expect, then, what God delivers to you. Salvation. Life. Forgiveness. Expect that it won’t always seem relevant, because your sinful flesh will always want something that makes your life easier and free from pain and loss and sorrow. But He expects to give you His gifts in the midst of those things. He delivered the Savior in a stable two thousand years ago. He delivers Him to you today in His Holy Gospel. He delivered Him to you in your Baptism. He delivers Him to you at this altar in the bread and wine.

Nobody expected Jesus to be born in such a way as He was. Nobody expected Him to suffer and die as He did. Nobody expected Him to rise from the grave. Expect what God gives you: His Son, your Savior. Amen.


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