Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sermon for Christmas Day 2012

Wordle: Untitled
“Spoken To By The Son” (Hebrews 1:1-6)
          Here we are again, gathered together in this place to celebrate another Christmas.  There was no Mayan apocalypse last Friday.  No meteor or comet crashing into the earth.  No explosion of a giant super volcano.  No alien invasion.  The world did not end with a BANG as so many thought might happen.
          Today, however, we celebrate an invasion of another sort.  A divine invasion.  God entered the world.  Not with a BANG, but as a BABY.
          No large crowds gathered to greet him.  Only a small family tucked into a stable.
          No dignitaries were present to welcome the King.  Only a handful of lowly, smelly, sheep-soiled shepherds who had been invited by an angelic choir.
          No fireworks or explosions were heard.  Only the bleats and brays of animals and the cry of a Newborn in the manger.  Oh, I know that we sing “The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.”  That’s probably a bit of poetic license taken by the author.  Jesus as True Man was born as a True Baby … and true babies cry when they are hungry, when they need to be changed.  And isn’t that another marvel … imagining God with a dirty diaper!  But that’s the kind of God we have … one who climbed down out of heaven all the way down into the muck and mire of our world in order to save our world.  One who came to identify with us, beginning with cries and dirty diapers and everything else that goes along with being a baby.
          The author of Hebrews begins his letter in this way: “Long ago, at many times and various ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”  Long before the birth of Jesus, God spoke at many times and in many ways.  On some occasions, he took the form of a man and spoke … not permanently as at the Incarnation, but temporarily at certain times.  At other points along the way, angels delivered God’s message.  To Moses, he spoke from a burning bush.  To others, he spoke in visions and dreams.
          What was God communicating?  Above all else, God was telling the patriarchs and prophets about his plan to rescue mankind from their sinful separation from him that began in the Garden of Eden.  It involved the promise of a Savior, the gathering of a people through whom that Savior would be born, the preserving of a faithful remnant from among that people, and giving the people the tabernacle and sacrifices which were foreshadows of the way in which Christ would one day make “purification for sins” at the cross of Calvary.
          In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.  “In these last days.”  Some people thought the last day was last Friday.  But the writers of the New Testament make it clear that the “last days” began when Jesus died, rose again, ascended into heaven, and now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  Writing in the middle of the First Century, the author of Hebrews states that his days are “the last days.”  All of God’s promises in Christ have been fulfilled.  The last two thousand years have been “the last days.”  We are now waiting for his glorious return and appearance on THE Last Day. 
          The world had to wait about thirty years before it heard the voice of Jesus when he began to publicly preach.  Before he left his father’s carpenter’s shop, his voice was only heard in Nazareth among his family and friends.  Back in the stable in Bethlehem, he wasn’t yet able to mutter a simple “goo-goo” or “ga-ga.”  Nevertheless, that Newborn Infant speaks volumes to us about the great lengths that God was willing to go to in order to save us from sin and its deadly consequences.  He speaks to us about the love of God for his fallen creation.  He speaks to us about how God feels about the material stuff of this world, that he was willing to humble himself and become a part of this world.  He is not far removed from it.  In fact, he still joins himself to the material stuff of this world … water, bread, and wine.  And the message of the angels to the shepherds tells us that the birth of this Baby brings peace on earth … peace between God and man.
          God’s Son continues to speak through his Word today … THESE last days … and he does so through the author of our text.
          We learn that Jesus is the “heir of all things, through whom [God] also created the world.”  He was born as a Son and born as our brother.  Brought into God’s family in baptism, as a brother of Jesus and a member of the Holy Christian Church, you inherit all things right along with him.  In Colossians 1, St. Paul says that in Christ, God the Father has “qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:12-14).
          We learn that through Jesus the world was created and that “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”  Jesus was instrumental in creation.  The prologue of John’s Gospel tells us that “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3).  The Word that was made flesh was with God in the beginning.  He was directly involved in creating the universe.  Even from the manger, that tiny little infant was sustaining all that he had created.  And as your Creator, he is still sustaining you today as well.
          Jesus is also said to be “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  Do you want to know God?  Then look to Jesus.  Jesus told his disciples “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Jesus reflects the glory of his Father.  He is the exact representation of God’s character … righteousness, holiness, justice, grace, truth, mercy, and above all else, love, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
          In his Incarnation, Jesus humbled himself and set aside his rights as God.  St. Paul writes that he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).  Jesus came to suffer, to die, to be subject to the Law of God as an obedient Son … and to do this all for us and for our salvation, shedding his holy blood at the cross.  And because of this, God the Father “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
          Even God’s holy, glorious angels bow down before the Son.  “Let all God’s angels worship him,” the author writes.  Angels figure prominently in the Christmas story.  Gabriel appears to Mary.  An angel speaks to Joseph in a dream.  A multitude of the heavenly host appears to the shepherds and gives to us a portion of our liturgy.  Angels are a popular subject today in song and art, in bumper stickers and license plate frames.  Sometimes it may even seem as if they overshadow the Creator of the angels.  But Jesus is “as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”  He has inherited the name “Son” which is superior to the name “angel.”  The angels gladly take their place as servants of God and messengers of his good tidings of great joy.  Through their example, we can learn much about how we, too, ought to worship the Savior.
          God has spoken to us by his Son.  Humble yourself before him.  Sing his praises.  Proclaim the Good News of peace and forgiveness through the Babe of Bethlehem.  “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Ps. 98:1).

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