December 24, 2020 The Who, What & Why of Christmas
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Thank you for being here this evening; coming out & away from the world for a little while,
(whether here or online); joining as God’s people, in His promised presence,
to remember & celebrate His gift to you.
As an English word, we soften the ‘t’ and pronounce it ‘criss-mass’. But the word is ‘ChrisT-mass’. And that doesn’t mean /holiday, /vacation, /gifts & santa, /goodwill, /or wintertime. It means Jesus. He is the promised redeemer, ‘the seed of the woman’ from Genesis 3:15. The promise of a covenant-child & Savior was given to guilty Adam & Eve; and just 4,000 years later == He arrived. That’s a long time to wait for ‘ChrisTmas’.
When the time was right, God announced to His chosen young woman, named Mary,
that what was spoken thru Isaiah was coming true; Isaiah 7 says: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” Mary was to call The Christ by the name = ‘Jesus’.
Isaiah spoke of other names for this Promised One. Such as: Wonderful Counselor & Mighty God. In Him alone we see the Everlasting Father. He is the Prince of Peace, and called Immanuel. For the 2nd Person of the Triune God, St. John likes the title, “The Word Made Flesh.” John said that ‘altho the world was made thru him, the world did not recognized Him; He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.’
But that’s not true of YOU. He has called you to be His own people, even thru your holy baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to you so that you would recognize Him, and trust Him. You are here tonight because you have received Him, to your great & eternal blessing. For such undeserved grace, we come here to thank our God.
Altho its impossible to take Christ out of Christmas, many try; some ignore Christ,
& some commercialize Him. Some want to Hanukkah-ize Christmas. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, celebrating the retaking of Jerusalem, & rededication of the temple about 160 years before Jesus was born. Some want to Kwanzaa-ize Christmas. Kwanzaa was invented about 50 years ago, celebrating African culture and human civility. Neither Hanukkah nor Kwanzaa have anything to do with Christmas. But be on your guard: ‘substitution’ is what happens when ‘the world does not recognize Him.’
The true followers of Christ do not follow the world’s many wrong ideas. What if I were to suggest that the day is coming when there will be a very serious effort to get rid of Christmas in America. *A crazy thought? But there have been times & places in the world where the word ‘christ’ & this faith is outlawed; so why couldn’t it happen here, *if we allow it?
*Have we prevented the changing of what marriage is -in our culture-, or what gender means? *Did we recently stop our leaders from classifying people as ‘essential or non-essential’ people; or stop them from shutting down businesses because of one virus?
We do live in a world that does not recognize Him; the same world that crucified him.
But for we who know Him, Christmas is our festival celebrating the giving & sending of The Christ ~ the very Son of God; so that the world would be saved thru Him & His cross-work. Whoever believes in, & is baptized in, Jesus Christ will be saved.
How frustrating for God-our-Creator that His creatures ignore & reject Him. Yet He did not exterminate His beloved creation, like some mad scientist or deranged dictator. God proves His love for us in this way: that He sent His only Son to give His life in exchange for ours. Whoever acknowledges & trusts in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That’s what makes ‘criss-mass’ the celebration of Christ. It is Jesus, & His promise that “He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21).
The Church could celebrate the coming of the Christ-Child on any day of the year.
But, I think the Church thru history chose wisely to observe the Nativity of Jesus at the time of year when our days are shorter, like they are in Bethlehem right now. The winter solstice has just passed; Dec.21st was the shortest, darkest day of the whole year. So, it makes sense that God’s people would gather to celebrate the Light of the World, whom Rev.22 calls ‘the bright morning star.’ Jesus is our ‘sun of righteousness’ & Light of Life.
Now, Jesus was born at a time when the world calendar was not so precise; but that didn’t matter to God. As St.Paul writes in Gal.4, The Christ was born in “the fullness of time.” It was the time of God’s favor according to His own calendar. Now, St.Luke gives us a little historic detail. He writes about a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the Roman-ruled world should be counted in a census for paying taxes. He also says it was the time when Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was governor of Syria. But that still doesn’t give us an exact birth-day.
That only narrows it down for Jesus’ birth to be somewhere between the fall of 5 BC
and the spring of 4 BC. The reason why we can say that Jesus was not born in year ‘zero’
is because the world calendar was recalculated in the 1500s. Once again, Biblical Christians are not concerned about the exact date or day. What we rightly celebrate is the grace of God breaking into the condemned world ‘at God’s right time’; and that The Christ can never be taken out of Christmas; & He can’t be taken out of the actual history of the world. HE did happen; and He IS coming back again.
So, Jesus is the central figure in human history; true God and true man in one Savior. The Bible teaches us that Jesus came into the world under God’s Laws for His creation,
in order to be The One to lead enslaved sinners out from under the curse of the Law. The root & foundation of the Law is the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods = just God alone. But *WHO IS the only God; *HOW can anyone in the world know Him? *How can I know what He wants, & live before Him in the right way?
Those are not just questions for those who are interested in religious things; God himself has planted those questions into the heart of every human soul which He creates. God has planted those questions so that He can give all sinners the true answers that bring us true life.
Our first parents, Adam & Eve, walked with God face-to-face in the Garden of Eden. But after they disobeyed Him, they were evicted, and none of their children were allowed to walked with God in the same way ever since. That broken relationship with God is what you & I have inherited; that’s just the way it IS. To say ‘its not our fault’ is no excuse. Adam & Eve disobeyed His command; the punishment of that sin was death, & it was passed on to us.
Thru St.John, God’s tells us the truth: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar. If we think that we can call God a liar, or tell God that He’s not fair or just or right, that proves God’s Word about us is true, & shows us as sinners.
Like Adam & Eve, we can be dissatisfied with doing things God’s way, and we think we can do better running-the-show ourselves. As one author writes: /Youth wants age. /Age wants youth. /Homely wants beauty. /A deformity wants a miracle. /Poor wants riches.
/Small groups want to be bigger groups. ….>
….> /A child opening a Christmas gift tonight will want more or better gifts tomorrow;
/A delicious meal tonight will become despised leftovers tomorrow.
But, *what’s the real reason we’re dissatisfied with things? It’s because we’re dissatisfied with the Lord over all things. We think: *Isn’t there a better ‘god’ out there?
We think we could be /happier, /have more friends, /be better off, /be healthier & wiser if we did things our own way. God knows we’re wrong; dead wrong.
So, *how could He convince us that our way leads to death, and His way leads to life? He speaks to us; & He wrote it all down. And then, when the time was right, He came and lived among us to prove His word as true; so that we would know -for certain- that our thinking is darkness, and He is our Light.
And this is why you & I are here tonight. Jesus is the gift from the Father, who is full of grace and truth. Our Savior is called The Christ because He came anointed with the Spirit of God to rescue sinners, & to redeem us to be the people of God once again. To do that, He had to be born with flesh & blood in order to pay our penalty of the death of flesh & blood. Because that happened in real-world time, so God’s promise of forgiveness has been given to you in your world-time.
When we say the word, we soften the ‘t’ = criss-mas; but we spell it correctly:
ChrisT–mas. Even tho the world will try to remove Christ from Christmas, we will still celebrate our Savior’s birth. We have His promise to rescue us from death & hell, and to bring us back to the God who made us, forgives us, and has prepared an eternal home for us.
Just as John wrote: ‘to all who receive Him, who believe in His name, He gives the right to become the children of God.’