Luke 2:1-20; Isaiah 9:2-9 (Christmas Eve—9:00 p.m.)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
December 24, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Luke 2:
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “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.” 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
It may have been a silent night when our Lord first appeared on earth as a man—when the Word of God became a speechless baby boy. But it didn’t stay silent for long. For soon after our Savior drew His first breath and exhaled His first cry, His army of angels knew the battle was engaged. They knew it was “D-day.” The invasion of Satan’s domain had begun. The army of angels sprang into action. They sought out the night watchmen, guarding their flock. They kept their silence no longer—how could they? How could they not bubble over with joy?
Yes it was a dark and terrible world, not at all what God had created. It had been broken and spoiled, all of it taken captive under the deadly dominion of the accuser of men. The ruthless dictator of lies, the devil, turned man against God, brother against brother, spouses against each other, children against parents, and parents against their own flesh-and-blood. He planted the weeds of selfishness, envy, self-righteousness, pride, lust, and arrogance in what had been the Lord’s beautiful garden spot. Now fear lingered in the heart of every person along with every evil passion and rebellion. Not a single person since that terrible rebellion against the Lord of life had drawn a sinless breath. Worst of all, many broken sinners do not take to heart the promises of the coming Deliverer. Sometimes we live as if we have to solve our own problems. We often live as if God, the Author of Life, has no idea how to fill up our lives with joy and peace. So off we trudge, sad and lonely, trying to keep cheerful by numbing our minds with meaningless melodies.
So how could the angels not bubble over with joy? They could see it—the beauty of it all—the perfect plan coming together. The Promised One has established a foothold in Bethlehem. He’s come to set His people free by saving them from their sins. The Prince of Peace is here to wage war against the father of all wars. So, allowed by the Lord, the angels appear before these night watchmen, and like heavenly color commentators explain what happened on the planet earth, in humble Bethlehem, in a lowly stable just moments before.
“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.” (Luke 2:10–11)
This little child of lowly birth
Shall be the joy of all the earth.
This is the Christ, our God Most High,
Who hears your sad and bitter cry;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free! (LSB 358:2–3)
Injured, troubled sinners, the Lord dispatched His landing party for you and me! Although it is smaller than anyone would expect, this army of One is greater than any ever before or ever after. For God has sent THE Savior! The Father has sent His eternal Son. However, this Son has not arrived with shock and awe as on Mt. Sinai as the kingdoms of power might expect, with “thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. . . Mt Sinai wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire.” (Ex. 19) Yet, He has come precisely as the Lord promised through Isaiah in our Old Testament lesson tonight:
“For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian” (Isaiah 9:4).
The day of Midian refers to when the children of Israel led by Gideon attacked the Midianites. Before the attack 32,000 men gathered with Gideon to fight. But the Lord said this was too many. Let those who don’t want to fight go home. 22,000 left. The remaining 10,000 were too many, the Lord said, and then selected only 300 to attack an army of tens of thousands. The 300 were stationed around the Midianite army at night with jars of clay over burning torches and trumpets. At Gideon’s trumpet blast the 300 all sounded the attack on their trumpets, broke the clay pitchers, and held up brightly burning torches. The forces of the false god were driven into total confusion and attacked themselves.
So Jesus’ attack on Satan’s kingdom was “as on the day of Midian.” He made a sneak attack, small, at night, with the brightness of His divine glory hidden under the clay jar of His humanity. But make no mistake about it—this birth was not just a cute, picturesque moment. It was the breaking of Satan’s dominion, it was the regaining of God’s rightful territory, and it was the beginning of true freedom for burdened, enslaved people. For the baby born is none other than the greater Gideon, the greater David, the very Son of God hidden under human flesh and bone, the Savior born to you!
You and I have been pressed down by the yoke of slavery, the burden of carrying guilt and shame because of all our traitorous transgressions. Behold, this Son born to you and me breaks the burdensome yoke of sin by letting it press down on Him all the way to Golgotha’s hill. And just as He bounded free from the grave, so does He declare “forgiven” and “free” all who trust in Him. Confess your weight of sin to Him and rejoice, for He takes it all away.
We who have been living in the darkness and gloom of the shadow of death, this Son born to us breaks forth in light, brilliantly shining. At the cross, bearing the full darkness of death in His own body, it appeared the light was extinguished. But He rose with rays of healing peace and joy that drive back death’s reign. Death must release and set free Christ’s people forever.
Could the angel hosts, having heard the greatest good news ever—God is here in your flesh to be Your Savior!—stand by idly, letting only one of their race speak? No! Oh, it wasn’t quiet for long. They suddenly appeared and broke out singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
Oh, see how high God’s glory is. Not just that He is awesome, majestic, high and holy above all power, authority, and might, but especially that He freely chooses to be born on earth, to be our brother, to suffer and die as we ought, all the while living as we should have. He does this, for this is love—love working to save you and me. In Christ is God’s peace on earth—His undeserved, unstoppable love come to free us and keep us in God’s grace forever.
As we sing with joy:
I was in slav’ry,
Sin, death, and darkness;
God’s love was working
To make me free.
He sent forth Jesus,
My dear Redeemer,
He sent forth Jesus
And set me free.
Therefore I’ll say again:
God loves me dearly,
God loves me dearly,
Loves even me. (LSB 392:2–3)
Frustrate Satan and hell, sin and death—thwart them with the joy only Christ Jesus gives. Let Him comfort and defend you. Let Christ feed and strengthen you. For He who once was born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger, is here for you in His Holy Word and soon will be wrapped in bread and wine and placed on a plate and in a cup for Your salvation!
Yes, we’re surrounded by troubles and heartbreaks, and Satan, sin and selfishness relentlessly attack, but don’t just sit there—sing for joy! Your Savior is born! There is peace on earth for you, come for all, to set us free. Amen.