January 1, 2023: 1st Sunday after Christmas

Let us pray: Dear Savior, without Your coming at that first Christmas truly our lives would be empty and barren.  We would not possess the reality of Your humble love for us.  We would not be certain of Your forgiveness.  We would not know beyond any doubt that in a world filled with war, we have eternal peace with You.  And blessings, blessings would be nothing more than longed for dreams that would never become concrete reality.  So, today we join with all the saints who have ever lived in praising You for Your coming.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE SAVIOR OF OUR LIVES!

TEXT:  Isaiah 63: 7-9

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Made Perfect In God’s Sight By The Baby Jesus:

          When did people start to celebrate Christmas?  Well, the earliest mention we have of it in history dates to an ancient Roman calendar which mentions it in the year 336 AD.  However, I cannot imagine the Bethlehem shepherds ever forgetting their Christmas Eve experience.  I have no doubt that they marked that special night on a regular basis.  I cannot imagine Mary and Joseph ever forgetting their Son’s birthday, either.  And how about all those rooming at the inn that first Christmas?  They heard the shepherd’s tale and saw the Baby Jesus.  And then there are the Wise Men.  And don’t forget the Apostles who later wrote about it all in the Gospels.  We do know that Easter was the primary day of focus for the earliest Christians.  We know that Epiphany became a special day for Gentile believers fairly early, too.  But I’d bet, and I’m not a betting man, that many humble believers reveled in Christmas joy almost from day one. 

          As we look at today’s text, we’re given a glimpse into an even bigger and grander sweep of history and also the knowledge and joy of Christmas.  Isaiah lived about 700 years before Christ was born.  And yet, right here he touches upon the truth of the Savior, even calling Him by that name, and thus alludes to His birth.  For if Jesus came to earth, He had to have been born.  Think back to Isaiah’s earlier remark about a virgin conceiving a child Who would be called: Immanuel, or God with us.  It’s obvious to me that the ancient prophets and their adherents knew the truths of Christmas.  Likewise, they worshipped accordingly while longing for that special day.  In fact, saints from all the ages have heard, pondered, and drawn comfort from the reality of Immanuel coming to bring us Godly peace.  So, today, on this 1st Sunday after Christmas 2023,

JOIN WITH THE PROPHETS IN HONORING THE CHRISTMAS KING!

I

          Ask the average person: “What do you think about God?  Describe Him.”  What do you think the answer would be?  Well, if you analyze all the world’s religions, or even those who deny God’s existence, their answer is quite negative.  God is a demanding being who places huge strictures upon human beings.  We must “obey!” or else!  The modern agnostics would view God as very judgmental because His commandments crimp their lifestyles.  Christianity is the only religion in which God is spoken of as: compassionate and kind.   It is the only religion where man is not expected to meet God, but God condescends to meet man—and better yet, to save human beings out of pure and perfect love. 

          Like all the ancient prophets and all the OT believers, Isaiah had the knowledge of Who God really is.  In short, He knew about God’s Son, Jesus Christ, both his and our Savior.  And here, 700 years before the 1st Christmas Isaiah foretells and proclaims the truth that brought us to church today.  “I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel (God’s faithful believers of every age), according to his compassion and many kindnesses.  He said, ‘Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me’; and so he became their Savior.” 

          If you parallel that truth with today’s epistle from Galatians 4 in which St. Paul lays out the truth of Christmas, you’re left with but one conclusion: OT believers and prophets knew of Christmas and celebrated what it was all about.  They, too, just like you and me honored the Baby Jesus!

II

          Sometimes we feel rather small and insignificant.  Sometimes when Sunday morning attendance is lacking we feel anything but part of a huge army.  But, that is a totally wrong-headed view!  All the saints who have ever lived have celebrated the meaning of Christmas—God has come to save His people!  All the saints knew that the Baby Jesus was full of compassion and kindness.  All of them knew, just like you, that God could not leave us alone as lost sinners, clueless sinners, beings tossed back and forth throughout life by the forces of evil.  Instead, our kind God sent His only Son into this world to save our souls.  Christ made peace, eternal peace between God and us when He died on that cross.  And then, then He eternally confirmed that peace by rising to life from our graves.  All this love and compassion is wrapped up in the Baby Jesus.  All this is what makes our celebration of Christmas pregnant—full and rich in meaning.

III

          Isaiah elaborates on these truths in these words: “In all their (His people’s) distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.  In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

          Most of you know that throughout the OT the “Angel of the Lord” would make various appearances.  Most of you know that that Angel was Christ in pre-incarnate form.  By taking on human form and becoming one of us, that same Jesus felt distress, pain and suffering.  He felt your distress, your pain, and your suffering.  Already in the manger He felt cold, He felt pain, and He felt aloneness.  He walked in your shoes.  And yet love and mercy pulsed from Him and led Him to redeem, to buy us back, from all the evil this world can ever throw our way.  Moreover, Isaiah also gives us a poignant picture of that Savior, yes even the Baby Jesus, carrying us, carrying our load of inner frustration upon His slender shoulders.

          If we could remove for an instant the wall dividing the earthly from the eternal, what do you think we’d see?  What do you think we’d hear?  We’d both see and hear a humongous army of saints and angels honoring Jesus—right this instant!  So, whether you’re alone at home or sitting in the pew at church, continually Join With the Prophets In Honoring The Christmas King!  His kindness has called each of us into this mighty army!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH……

Pastor Thomas H. Fox