Christmas Eve Sermon, 2016
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14).
That said, Jesus is not the reason for the season. You are.
That’s so different than what we’re used to saying, it should make you a little bit uncomfortable.
But so should this: this Christmas season, you shop and cook and clean and prepare for others, yes, but also for yourself.
We prepare more food than we know what to do with and apologize that this isn’t cooked that well and we didn’t have time to make this, too, and I’m so sorry that we only have fifteen desserts instead of the usual twenty.
We clean and clean and clean and apologize to our guests about the mess.
At no other time in the year is so much spent by so many to so little an end than Christmas. That should make you uncomfortable.
And it should be a very sobering fact that we celebrate the Savior’s birth by buying bags of stuff, eating too much, driving a lot, and skipping church.
All under the excuse of family, food, and festivities.
We all watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and agree with everything said against this present age of commercialism.
But then we go into debt buying stuff for next year’s garage sale. Even Christians make Christmas about neither Christ nor His Church.
You’ve turned yourself into the reason for the season, and the proof is in the lies we tell.
For example, no one’s going to admit that they’re as materialistic as the next person.
Every one of us will nod our heads and agree that it is the thought that counts. But we don’t mean it.
That’s what we say to spoiled children when they get socks from grandma for the third Christmas in a row. I know that, because I was that spoiled child.
If it’s really the thought that counts, husbands could say, “O Dearest Wife of Mine, you know that thing you wanted? That thing you said you needed. Those hints you so sweetly dropped. I really thought about getting that for you.”
And if it’s really the thought that counts, the response would be, “O Dearest Husband of Mine, how wonderful to have been thought of so highly! Thank you!”
If it’s the thought that counts, parents could say to their sweet, sixteen year old, “You know that car you wanted, the one we drove by and talked about, the one in your favorite color, I thought about getting that for you for your birthday.”
And if it’s the thought that counts, every sixteen year old would answer so sweetly, “Dearest Mother and Father, you are such good and godly gifts given graciously by God.”
If it’s the thought that counts, examples like those wouldn’t make us laugh.
We like the lie.
We like to pretend that we’re not selfish.
And we piously like to pretend that Jesus is the reason for the season, but, my Lord, the way we act and think and speak!
Another lie that we tell ourselves goes like this:
For Christmas, the naughty get coal, and the nice, the good, get whatever’s on their list.
My favorite song at Christmastime used to be “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen. In it, and you know the words, we sing, “So be good, for goodness’ sake.”
The majority of non-churchgoers who still call themselves Christians, when asked about heaven and hell, will say, “I’m going to heaven, because I’ve been pretty good.”
They won’t say it like that, though. They’ll say something like this: “I haven’t been to church, I don’t pray, I don’t read my bible, but at least I’m not a hypocrite. I’m honest about how not-good I am. And that’s pretty good.”
They think they’re “nice” or, at least, “nice enough” and so they think their name has been twice-checked in the Book of Life.
That’s the lie.
Christians aren’t that different. We simultaneously think that our good works are dirty rags—and—that if we were saved by our works we’d be better off than most everyone else.
When a Christian acts “holier than thou,” that’s what’s going on. It’s like they’re saying, “I’m not saved by my works, but if I were, I’d be okay.” We may not believe that with our words, but we sure do believe that with our actions.
If we’re honest, we’d all get the heaps of coal we deserve.
Jesus is not the reason for this season. You are.
But before you think I’m all “Bah-humbug” and no “figgy pudding,” think of it this way. Thus says the Lord:
“[Jesus] himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25).
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:3-5).
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
And the Angel of the Lord said, “‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12).
Jesus is not the reason for the season.
God became incarnate, He became flesh and walked among us, not for Himself, but for you.
Paul writes in Philippians chapter two: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has 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” (Philippians 2:5-11).
For you. He did that for you.
The Almighty, All Powerful, All Knowing, All Present God needed to do nothing. He lacked nothing.
To live forever in perfection, God needed to do nothing but exist.
But He wants you there.
It doesn’t just say “I bring good tidings of mediocre enjoyment for some,” it says, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
It doesn’t just say “Christ is born,” it says, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
For you, God became flesh and dwelt among us.
For you the Christ was born.
For you He was wrapped in cloths.
For you He was placed in a manger.
For you He was born. For you He lived.
And for you He died.
Jesus’ birth is an amazing gift made more amazing by the fact that it happened only because of God’s great love for you.
To serve you. To save you.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The Virgin birth is an amazing fact made more amazing by its comparison to Christ’s death and burial.
Look at the cover of the bulletin. The artist, Ed Riojas, depicts the baby Jesus in a different type of manger than what we’re accustomed to seeing: a stone slab in something like a tomb.
He wants you to see Jesus’ birth and death together.
For you He was born. For you He lived. For you He died.
For you, His body was wrapped in cloths and placed on a bed of stone.
For you, God became flesh and dwelt among us.
O Come, let us adore Him!
O Come, let us sing praise to God with the angel and the multitude of the heavenly host. O Come, let us sing the very first Christmas hymn:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2 14).
Jesus is the reason for the season.
But the only reason Jesus was born was to live and die and serve and save you all. To bring peace to earth, in life and death.
Every Christmas, that is our great and enduring comfort.
Peace on earth, and mercy mild. God and sinners, reconciled.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!