Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Your Savior Comes to You

Sermon for Christmas Eve, the Divine Service, for the Nativity of Our Lord, December 24, 2021, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

[An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and said,] “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:11b)
    We all know the holidays are busy with travel.  November and December are prime travel months as people move around the country, and even the world, to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.  There’s a reason why at Christmas we sing about going over the river and through the woods.  And even though travel may continue to be less this year than in years past, people are still moving.  Whether it’s by planes, trains, or automobiles, people are on the move to celebrate Christmas. 
    There’s always been movement at Christmas time, even going all the way back to that first Christmas.  Joseph and Mary traveled.  By order of Caesar, everyone had to return to their ancestral home to be registered for a census.  So, Joseph packed up the donkey, and he and nine-month pregnant Mary began the roughly 70 mile trek from Nazareth in Galilee up north to Bethlehem in Judea down south.  Today, by car that trip would take about two hours or so, but on foot, it would’ve been roughly a four day journey, and that’s if they walked an average of 20 miles a day.  Now, I’ve never been pregnant, but I doubt any woman nine-months pregnant would want to walk, or even ride a donkey, 20 miles over rough terrain a day.  So, this wasn’t an easy trip for them…but they made it.  And when they got there, they didn’t get a comfy Airbnb to stay in.  Because of the census, the whole city was filled, and the only place for them to rest was a stable in the back of an inn.  And then to add on top of that, while they slept on the dirt floor and hay, Mary went into labor, and gave birth to Jesus.  But that’s not the end of the story.  There was more traveling that had to be done that night.
    On the outskirts of Bethlehem, the shepherds were watching their sheep, and out of nowhere, a heavenly chorus came to them and announced Jesus’ birth.  They told the shepherds where they could go and  find their newborn Savior, and they sang one of the most beloved Christmas songs ever: “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to His people on earth.” Hearing the news, the shepherds couldn’t stay there.  They had to travel.  They had to move, to get going, to see the wonderful thing that the angels had told them.  And once they found Christ in the manger, they didn’t stop there.  They kept moving, telling everyone what they had heard and seen.
    Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem that first Christmas night.  Angles traveled to the shepherds, and the shepherds traveled to the manger; but these journey’s weren’t the most important movement that night.  The most important movement was our Savior coming to us.  That journey, the Son of God coming to us in humility, born of the Virgin Mary, taking on our flesh and blood, that movement is the most important movement, even though it seems  contrary to how we often think about God and faith and religion.   
    Most of us think about religion and faith being about our movement to God.  It’s about our journey through life, making our way to Him. We think we can do this with our works and our deeds.  If we just strive to do our best, if we work really really hard, if we fight and fight and fight against sin and temptation, then eventually we’ll make our way to God.  We’ll reach that final destination of heaven.  Sure there’ll be roadblocks and rough times.  Sure we’ll falter a time or two, make a wrong turn, pursuing our sinful desires and flesh instead of doing the good we know we should do, but in the end, we’ll reach that destination.  That’s how we view faith and religion.  It’s a roadmap for us to follow as we make our way to God.  But if that’s your roadmap, then you’re completely lost; because it’s not about you.  It’s not about you making your way to God because you can’t make your way to God.  Because of your sin, you can’t do it.  No matter how hard you try, you’ll never reach that final destination.  That’s why your Lord came to you.
    The most important movement is God’s movement toward you.  He’s made His way to you. He came for you, born that first Christmas night in all humility.  He came for you, born to die.  He came for you, to make that journey to the cross where He sacrificed His life for yours.  He died for you, to pay for your sin.  He died for you, so that you’d be forgiven.  He died for you, to remove your sin that is a barrier between you and God.  This is what all that travel that first Christmas night is about; your Savior coming to you.  And He continues to come to you.
    He comes to you tonight, right now, during this very worship service.  He comes to you in His Word.  Just as the angels proclaimed Christ and His salvation to the shepherds, you also hear your Savior and salvation proclaimed through Scripture read and this very sermon.  He comes to you tonight through the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, sacrificed for you and for the forgiveness of your sins.  He comes to you at all times through these means of grace, every Sunday.  He comes by these means to give you the forgiveness, life, and salvation that His life, death, and resurrection have won for you.  And through this continual coming, He promises to come to you again with all glory on that last day.
    Christ’s first coming was in humility.  Born of the Virgin Mary, He laid aside divine majesty.  He didn’t use them in full.  There were times when we got glimpses of them, through His miracles, but He laid that divine majesty aside so the He could die and be that sacrifice that you needed for salvation.  But having died and risen, the time of Christ’s humility is over.  On that last day, you’ll see Him in His full divine majesty and glory, as once again He comes for you, to give you the full gift of salvation. 
    We often think of our faith as our movement to God.  We have to travel to Him.  We have to make our way to Him.  But that’s not what our faith is about.  That’s not what Christmas is about.  That’s not why we came here in worship tonight.  We came here in worship because our Lord and Savior comes to us.  He came in His Incarnation, in humility, as a helpless baby, laid in a manager, so that He might die on the cross and rise again.  He continues to come to you in His Word and Sacraments, giving you the forgiveness and life His death has won.  And He will come for you again with great glory on that Last Day, giving you in full His promised salvation. 
    Christmas is a time of movement and travel.  We travel to celebrate with our family and friends.  But the most important movement and travel is that of our Lord.  Keep this in mind as you go your way tonight, tomorrow, and the days to come.  Remember, it’s not you who makes your way to the Lord, but your Lord who makes His way to you.  Your Savior comes to you.  In Jesus’ name…Amen. 

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