Lessons and Carols, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
The presents are wrapped. The cards, sent.
The turkey, in my case, is brining. It’ll go on the smoker at 7am tomorrow morning.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.
We’ve sung: “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” And adore, of course, means worship.
We’ve heard that “[Mary] will bear a son, and you [Joseph] shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
We’ve sung “Joy to the World,” and we’ve heard that yes, Mary did—in fact—know.
There are so many reasons for joy…
There are zero reasons for joy, true and lasting joy, for non-Christians.
And in every lesson we’ve heard—in every carol we’ve sung—that’s true.
Consider what we just sang: “He [the Lord] rules the world with truth and grace / And makes the nations prove / The glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love…”
If Jesus, born this day in the city of David, our Savior, Christ the Lord, if He rules the world with truth and grace and makes Christians prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love, that’s an easy and joyous thing.
We believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord, who has redeemed us, lost and condemned persons, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
We know that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the true faith.
It’s easy and joyous for Christians to prove this, because it’s a question to which we know the answer.
When you take a test or watch Jeopardy! and you know the answer, or at least think you do, with what joy do you fill in the blank or yell at Alex Trebek, right?
That’s fun. That’s joyous. That’s easy.
When you’re tested on information you know, you answer quickly, without fear, enjoying it all.
But when you’re tested on information you don’t know, how much of a terror is it to sit through that exam? All you can do, sometimes, is write your name at the top, turn in a blank test, and hope the test is graded on a curve by a merciful teacher.
If Jesus, born this day in the city of David, our Savior, Christ the Lord, if He rules the world with truth and grace and makes non-Christians prove the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love, that will be utter terror, because two things will happen.
Either they will not know the right answer, and their blank test will condemn them.
Or they’ll know the right answer, but, having written down and lived something different than what they were taught, the wrong answer they lived by will condemn them, and then, what they knew but didn’t write down, what they knew but didn’t live, will be for them their everlasting shame.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! / Let earth receive her king; / Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room / And heav’n and nature sing…”
Christians sing this with joy, because their heart has been prepared to receive Jesus Christ the Lord.
But for the non-Christian, there are zero reasons for true and lasting joy because when the Lord comes He’ll separate sheep from goat, Christian from non-Christian.
That test is not graded on a curve…
…But we do have a merciful teacher.
“Hark! The herald angels sing, / ‘Glory to the newborn King; / Peace on earth and mercy mild, / God and sinners reconciled!’ / Joyful, all ye nations, rise, / Join the triumph of the skies; / With the-angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’”
“Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! / Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! / Light and life to all He brings, / Ris’n with healing in His wings. / Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, / Born to raise the sons of earth, / Born to give them second birth. / Hark! The herald angels sing, / ‘Glory to the new-born King!’”
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
Unto you all is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Jesus wasn’t born only for Christians. He didn’t die only for Christians. He didn’t love only Christians. He didn’t teach only Christians.
He was born, and lived, and taught, and loved, and died for all. For you.
With the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Concerning sin, that all are cursed with the inheritance of the Fall.
Concerning righteousness, that the blood of God shed on the cross purchased all.
“God and sinners [are, indeed] reconciled.”
And concerning judgment, that, by the Newborn King, the ruler of this world is judged, found lacking, and cast into the fire.
This test is not graded on a curve, but our teacher, our God, is merciful.
He desires not that you would burn but that you would believe, and that by believing, that you would have life in His name.
This Christmas, there are so many reasons for joy.
In your families and in mine, I pray for one more to be added.
Glorious now, behold Him arise: King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia! Alleluia! Worship Him, God Most High.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!