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Sermon for Christmas Eve

Micah 5:2-5a (The Nativity of Our Lord—Christmas Eve)

“From Bethlehem and Eternity”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

December 24, 2019

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text for this Christmas Eve is recorded in the Book of Micah, chapter 5:

2And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah, from you for me he will go out to be ruler in Israel, and his goings-out are from of old, from days of eternity. 3Therefore, he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor will give birth, and the rest of his brothers will return to the sons of Israel. 4And he will stand, and he will shepherd in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh, his God. And they will endure because now he will be great unto the ends of the earth. 5And this One will be peace.

 

          “O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie!” Little, small, insignificant. That certainly describes Bethlehem, which in Hebrew, Beth-lechem means, “House of Bread.”

We first really get introduced to Bethlehem in the Book of Ruth. “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. . . . They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:1-5). After Ruth returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi, she eventually married her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz.

And this is important to the Christmas story. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. So it was that, years later, God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite (1 Sam. 16:1). The Lord did not choose any of Jesse’s first seven sons to be the next king of Israel. But Jesse had one son left in field, keeping the sheep—David: “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:12-13a).

It was to King David that God made a promise. It was a continuation of the promise first made in the Garden of Eden—to send a Savior to our fallen race—to crush the head of the ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan. God said to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). In the fullness of time, there would come One from the lineage of David, a successor to his throne, who would establish the kingdom “forever.” This singular descendant of David would be the promised Messiah.

Two-hundred fifty years later, the prophet Micah would pick up the promise and carry it forward even further. From Bethlehem this Messiah would go out to be ruler in Israel “for me,” God says. His “goings-out are from of old, from days of eternity.” Indeed, this Messiah has no beginning and end, for the Messiah is none other than God Himself who shepherds the people “in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh.” “In his song, Psalm 90:2, Moses sings: ‘From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.’ There Moses used the same expression that Micah uses here, that is: ‘You did not begin with the world, but, when the world began to be, You already were.’ Christ also says about Himself: ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58).”[1]

O little town of Bethlehem . . . the birthplace of Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and the great King David . . . comes the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior. The people asked in the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” When the magi asked King Herod where the king of the Jews had been born, he asked the chief priests and scribes where the Christ was to be born and they replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet [Micah], ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matt. 2:6).

But long before the magi ever show up, there was THE night in insignificant Bethlehem that changed the town’s status forever. “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” The descendant of Boaz, Obed, Jesse, and David—the Savior, the Ruler, the Messiah promised from of old—God-made-flesh is now dwelling among His creation. For unto you is born this day in the city of David—Bethlehem—a Savior, who is Christ—the Messiah—the Lord—Yahweh Himself. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

God the Son comes to earth in human flesh in the person of Jesus. That’s what we are celebrating here. God the Son comes in strength and majesty concealed in the flesh and blood-infant born “for you.” Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has come to save this fallen race of which we are a part.

Remember, Lord of life and grace,
How once, to save our fallen race,
You put our human vesture on
And came to us as Mary’s son. . . .

For from the Father’s throne You came,
His banished children to reclaim;
And earth and sea and sky revere
The love of Him who sent You here. . . .[2]

 

Jesus, the very Bread of Life, who gives His flesh for the life of the world, is born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. Jesus, a descendant of David the shepherd boy according to the His flesh, is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life to save His sheep—all people—from the power of sin, death, and the devil, “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” (Small Catechism).

From Bethlehem’s wooden manger to Jerusalem’s cross of wood, Jesus came for you, to suffer and die for your sins so that you would enjoy complete forgiveness and once again have peace with God, your heavenly Father. Micah prophesied, “This One will be peace.” As Isaiah announced about Emmanuel, God-with-Us in human flesh, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,  on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Is. 9:5-7).

 What sin and death had done to separate you from God, making you an enemy of God, was reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ who endured cross and grave in order to establish peace once again between you and your heavenly Father. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). “Therefore, since we have been [declared not guilty of sin] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

Peace is yours for the sake of Christ, who took on human flesh and was born to bring you forgiveness and eternal life, who died in that flesh to reconcile you to God, who rose in that flesh to proclaim peace to you, and who is coming again in that flesh to receive you into His everlasting new creation. Your sin that once alienated you from the Father has been overcome. In Christ your Savior, the Father receives you as His children in joy.

O little town of Bethlehem . . . from you came the greatest gift of God to the people of the world—the Root of Jesse, the Key of David, the King, Emmanuel: Jesus Christ, our Savior. Through Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection there is forgiveness of sins and peace with God for you and the whole world.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
    Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
    The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Immanuel!

 

 

         

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 18: Minor Prophets I: Hosea-Malachi, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 18 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 248.

[2] Text: © 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship. Used by permission: LSB Hymn License no. 110000752

 


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