Christmas Eve – Pr. Anderson Homilies
December 24, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 2nd chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
The Grace of God cannot be more visual than what it is right now. Thousands of years in the making and a promise from ancient times. The Israelites knew of God’s grace. He had provided for them time and time again. He brought them out of Egypt. He provided for them in the wilderness. He chastised them as a father chastises his children. And as they made mistake after mistake, He never abandoned them. Now on a lowly night, in the stable for animals, God was about to descend from the heavens. It wasn’t this great announcement for all of the kings of the earth. It wasn’t in a palace. The King of glory came down from heaven, and He was laid in a little manger.
Watching the sad divisions of the world, there is hope to be found. God doesn’t see divisions among man, He sees the division between man and Him. We were created to live with Him forever and in one act, it was all thrown away. Now the world has to deal with the consequences. Some will try and try to make things right with God. Some will look to earn His favor. His Holy Law tells us that we have failed. We don’t deserve His love.
Yet the grace of God has been revealed. His grace is Himself. He restores the divisions. He came down from heaven to save all people. This lowly baby, fragile and small, would grow to have wisdom and stature. He would learn the will of His Father in heaven. This task to live out His Father’s will would not be easy. We know because we live in this fallen world every day. In our failings, God reveals His love, a miracle of God in the flesh. This is all done for us, “a great and mighty wonder” for us to ponder and cherish.
#113 v. 1-2 – “A Great and Mighty Wonder
1. A great and mighty wonder,
A full and holy cure:
The Virgin bears the Infant
With virgin honor pure!
Repeat the hymn again:
“To God on high be glory
And peace on earth to men!”
2. The Word becomes incarnate
And yet remains on high,
And cherubim sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.
How can something so small, and so perfect train us. We have witnessed those cute little babies. We have held them in our arms. Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world and a lot can be learned in His little birth. We see a mirror of ourselves. Jesus started His earthly life as a baby just as we started our earthly lives as babies. The difference is that instead of seeing us in our fallen state, we see a baby who is true God. This baby born of Mary is perfect in every way. As He grows up and follows the will of His Father, He teaches us the perfect example of following God’s will.
To follow God’s will means to obey His Law. The will that Jesus followed is the same will. Many will think that God is hiding facts from us. He is straight forward. The problem is that we see what the law and our flesh want and we side with our flesh. Not only does Jesus teach us how to be submissive to God’s law, He teaches that we need to make a clean break from our flesh. This is so hard to do. When we attempt to do it on our own, we continue to side with the flesh.
It feels so hard to renounce our flesh, but that is what we must do. To do it, we go back to the manger. We look into it and see the grace of God. Though small and weak, it is this grace that allows us to renounce our evil deeds and desires through His work of redemption. It is only through His work, not our own that we are able to see the difference between right and wrong. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God doesn’t just provide the way out, He frees you from bondage, sin and grief!
#128 v. 6-8 – “Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising
6. From the bondage that oppressed us,
From sin’s fetters that possessed us,
From the grief that sore distressed us,
We, the captives, now are free.
7. O the joy beyond expressing
When by faith we grasp this blessing
And to Thee we come confessing
That our freedom Thou hast wrought!
8. Gracious Child, we pray Thee, hear us,
From Thy lowly manger cheer us,
Gently lead us and be near us
Till we join th’angelic choir.
Oh, how we want to be in control of our lives. Isn’t this one of the excuses we have when it looks like our lives have completely fallen apart. To try and take control, we are usually doing it all on our own. We struggle and struggle, until finally we have to give in. There is no way for us to fix the situation. This is where many will turn against God. Where is His love? Giving God demands will never work. His law points out all of our failures.
So where should we turn? “…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God has not abandoned you. Even what could appear as your darkest days, there is no hiding from Him. He sees your struggles and infirmities and He brings you comfort and strength through His promises. Can you “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age?” You do through the work of God Himself. Every good work that you do with faith in Christ is produced by Him.
What about what the world says, what about friends and family? They could laugh at and make fun of us. As Christ shines His path out for you, it will be hard. But it is Christ who gives you the strength and it is Christ who shines through you as a beacon for all to see. Your light will be an example for others, just as Christ is an example for you. He is your constant. You will survive this present age in Christ Jesus exclaiming, “I am so glad when Christmas Comes!”
#127 v. 1-3, 6 – “I Am So Glad when Christmas Comes”
1. I am so glad when Christmas comes,
The night of Jesus’ birth,
When Bethl’em’s star shone as the sun
And angels sang with mirth.
2. The little Child of Bethlehem,
The King of heav’nly grace,
Came down from His exalted throne
To save our fallen race.
3. He’s now returned to heav’n above,
God’s Son He is alway;
He ne’er forgets His little ones
But hears them when they pray.
6. I am so glad when Christmas comes:
Let anthems fill the air!
He opens wide for ev’ry child
His paradise so fair.
When there is an event that is coming up in our schedule and we are excited, it can be so hard to have patience and to wait for it to come. Maybe it was when we were younger, waiting for our birthday and Christmas. I remember the excitement at the beginning of the school week waiting for the end of the year, all day fieldtrip. Now imagine that you are waiting for a promise of God that is thousands of years old. Many waited and waited and died waiting for this promise. Then a lowly virgin hears, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with You!” (Luke 1: 28) The shock and awe hearing the angel Gabriel, who comes from the presence of God, telling you that this promise of long ago will be fulfilled with your child!
And now wait for a nine-month pregnancy. The anticipation and excitement Mary must have had. To finally behold “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” God keeps His promises. Every single one of them. The glory of our great God is in a little child in a manger. This hope that all of those who died had, waiting for this precious child, you have the joy of hearing about it! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). The hope that you have in your Savior who brought you Salvation through His death on the cross, to give you life everlasting. The great appearance of your Savior, “away in a manger.”
#119 v. 1-2 – “Away in a Manger”
1. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
2. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
While many will be cheering on their favorite sports teams at the end of the season, many will hope that their team does not give up. At the end of the season, it is all or nothing. No one wants to fight hard and come in second. To get that team going, all members have to work on all cylinders, doing their part. The moment that one is hurt or one isn’t feeling up to the task, it all falls apart. While we try to not have our lives fall apart, there are many events that can happen where we will want to just give up. We can’t go on any further.
Thankfully when our Savior gave Himself up, it wasn’t giving up like we feel in our lives. God never gave up on us. When it mattered most, instead of deciding we weren’t worth it, He did something unimaginable. The Son of God knew this plan of Salvation. He knew of the terrible sufferings He would endure on our behalf. He endured nails and spear so that we would be redeemed. He gave Himself to suffer the punishment for our sins. With the lawlessness of our sins taken away, God looks down and sees us purified. We are not only His because He created us as creatures to inhabit the earth. We are His most precious possession, adopted as sons of God. Christ’s death on the cross is the only reason to never give up. You have been redeemed by Christ’s blood that you might have eternal life. “What child is this” that such a blessing can be given to you? This is Christ the King, the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.
#145 – “What Child Is This”
1. What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
2. Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
3. So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby;
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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