December 25, 2015: Christmas Day

Text: Titus 3: 4-7: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Dearly Beloved In the Christ Child:

Who is more mesmerized and excited by Christmas: adults or kids? Well, that’s easy. It’s kids. The gifts, the lights, the trees, the food—it all combines to raise their excitement level through the roof! I suppose that is why people say: “Christmas is for kids.” And the rest of us, well, we just enjoy seeing those smiling faces and shining eyes and listening to squeals of delight. Now, I have another question: Who is more awed by Christmas? Now that I’m a bit older I have to say: adults, specifically Christian adults. In my own case, my awe over it all increases with each year that goes by.

I’ve preached on Christmas Day for 31 years. I sat in the pew and listened to sermons and sang carols for 30 years prior to that. I know the basic meaning of Luke 2 and the birth of God’s Son. I know the words of John 1, “The Word became flesh and dwelt for a while among us, and we have seen the glory of the only begotten Son of God full of grace and truth”—I know those familiar words better than most. I also know the words of Paul in our lesson: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” But, with age my total awe over those simple words and my lack of total comprehension of them has only gone up. They are so full of meaning that no human can plumb the depths of their profundity.

On Christmas, God was born. But God is timeless. God created time. Time is in God. How could God place Himself into something He made? Isn’t that limiting? But then I remember the passage: “With God all things are possible” and I shake my head in awe. On Christmas, the eternal Word of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Who is the creative force and power of all that exists, That Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God decreed and agreed to be contained in the fleshly confines of a little Baby. Finite flesh contained infinite God. How is that possible? Yet, He did so in order to save our souls. Yes, a Baby was God’s vehicle to defeat all the forces of evil and to make us alive forever! On Christmas, God’s kindness and love, His grace, appeared in a manger to save lost human beings including me. As the old carol says: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight.” He contained within that Baby form all human emotions, all human pain, all human joy, all human everything! And He took that jumble and resolved it into the resurrection to eternal life and never-ending peace with God Almighty! To my human mind, all these things sound so fantastic as to be impossible. Yet Christmas proves once again to us that God did it! He did it in Jesus Christ!

“But when the grace of God appeared.” Grace is a thing. It is love and kindness, one active and one passive, joined together into an organic whole. Christ combines both. Just as He is true God and true Man at the same time, so He is pure love and perfect kindness at the same time. He doesn’t just represent God’s grace to us, He actually IS God’s grace Who agreed to be born and held and cuddled in human arms and in human hearts! Again, I know this to be true, but I don’t fully comprehend it and never will this side of heaven. These profound paradoxes don’t disturb me, however. Instead, they give me a tremendous sense of belonging to God and to His eternal circle of timeless truth. Through the Spirit’s power of baptism and faith in it all, they link me forever into God’s perfect, peace-filled kingdom. And that link of faith is really the hand of a Baby, who today outstretches it to you and me! So, our entire lives and futures rest in a Baby. To the human mind that seems so outlandish and impossible as to be scary. But the Christian finds total rest and contentment in that fact. Once more it reveals the awesomeness of our God! So, yes, the older you get the more you truly do appreciate and marvel over Christmas……Amen