Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Who laughs last. . .

Sermon for the Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas Day, preached on December 25, 2022.

The devil must has surely laughed on Christmas Day.  To think that this is all God has to do battle with an army of darkness, a world set against Him, and the demons that inhabit hell.  Really?  It is as if the devil were expecting something mighty and then finds out it is just a baby.  The devil laughed at the idea that all of his might would be met in the face of a child.  No baby can answer the power of the devil, undo the devil’s ownership of our souls since Eden, or free the world from the grip of death.  What a joke!

The world laughed as well.  So the Son of God is born of a Virgin from an eminently forgettable village and delivered in another forgotten bump in the road.  The disciple got it right.  Can anything good come from Nazareth?  And imagine that, the Savior of the world is turned away from house after house and settles for a stable and a manger as His first home.  The world loves a come back story where the person of humble origins makes it big but this is a joke, right?  No, the world takes no notice of a Savior who cannot even find a decent bed and who is born of people without pedigree or promise.   What a joke!

The people of Israel laughed as well.  The mighty successor to David with the promise of glory to restore the shine to Israel would not be born as this boy was.  He came to His own people – the people whom the prophets has prepared so that they might recognize the Messiah, believe in Him, and follow Him.  They were not ready for the glory of God in flesh and blood – at least in the flesh and blood of an infant.  What a joke!

The joke is on them.  Hidden in flesh is the Word that spoke all things into being.  The Lord of all creation is made flesh not as a joke or even a surprise but so that He may wear our flesh and blood, lived under us according to the Law, and accomplish all things in order to save us.  All thing were made through Him but they did not recognize His face or honor Him as Lord.  The Light of the world cannot be dimmed – even by doubt and rejection.  He shines with the brightness of the one true Light.  He is the face of God and His is the power of God to make sons and daughters of the Most High out of the likes of you and me.  He has come with the new birth of water and the Word so that our sins might be forgiven and our lost lives restored.
The Law was given through Moses, on a mighty mountain, burned into tablets of stone, and carried down to seal a people into a covenant relationship with God. But that Law could not save – it could only highlight the need for a Savior.  Grace and truth is come through Jesus, the Word made flesh.  His fullness fills all who are empty, restores all who are lost, revives all who are marked for death, and delivers heavenly glory to earthly sinners.

The devil and the world laughed that first Christmas and so did the children of Israel who had waited forever for this moment.  This could not be the way God would save us and the face of this child is not the face of God.  But it is.  No one has seen the Father except the Son but the Son has revealed Him.  He is the surprise of a compassionate God who is relentless in His pursuit of a people lost to Him by sin and marked for death.  He is the hope of a God who is merciful and who delivers more than justice but forgiveness.  He is God whose holiness is big enough to cover all who call upon Him and whose blood can cleanse ever sinner from every sin.  That is the miracle of this day.

Though there will always be people to reject Him, the devil is not laughing now. The infant Redeemer accomplished all things for us and when the cost of that salvation was His own suffering and death, He did not shrink from giving it up for us all.  This is the shape of that Word made flesh – He is not some inaccessible and distant deity but the God who was made one of us in order to save all of us.  The people then could not quite wrap themselves around this but you have.  It is for this reason you are here.  God has become His people’s Savior and we know Him as the Word made flesh.  To all who will receive Him He gives power to become the children of God.  They are born again not of flesh but of the Spirit,  God’s own creation made new.  And it begins with the face of a baby who reveals the face of God.

Today is not so different.  The little men who govern think believe their own lies and make war to prove their greatness.  They come and go and do not remain.  To win an inch in this world is to lose your soul.  We all know that. Demons still rule the darkness by lies and deception.  The world is not so different.  Children still are dismissed – not even human.  The child is not worth our time or money because we love ourselves too much to bother with marriage and family.  The pastor who wrote “Your Best Life Now” had his hand on the pulse of our age.  We would give up eternity for a moment every time it was offered.

But Christ is the same.  He is the Word who presided over creation and came in flesh and blood to preside over our redemption.  Like Isaiah in the cave, we are tempted to find God in the mighty and threatening but here He is in the still small voice that speaks love and redemption to all who will hear Him.  Christ is and always will be the Word made flesh for us and our salvation.  But the devil laughs no more.  By the face of a baby, by the face of flesh and blood, by the suffering of the cross, by the death and the tomb’s cold darkness, and by a life the grave could not hold, the devil, the world, and our flesh have been overcome.

In the appearance of weakness, God showed His strength.  In the face of a baby boy, we saw the unseen face of God. In the defeat of the cross, He won our lives. The devil tried laughing and the world tried ignoring, but the baby boy prevailed and won the day.  And to all who will not be scandalized by the surprise of God’s mercy and reject Him who came to save us, there is still hope, still mercy, still grace, and still peace.  That is what we count on today.  To all who receive Him He gives power to become the sons and daughters of God.

Christmas can be real bummer.  Plans get messed up, families fight, hopes are dashed, and we toss out our great expectations with the remains of the wrapping paper.  We had hoped for more, perhaps even thought we deserved more than we got.  What fools we are.  Nothing comes in the way we think it should – not even God and His redemption.  But to all who lay aside their presuppositions and their disappointments, the Word is still there.  The Light still shines.  The glory of God is still revealed.  Sins are still forgiven.  Death is still overcome.  Life will not end.  And it is all because God insisted upon doing it His way.

Don’t laugh at the gift of grace because it shines through the face of Mary’s infant Son.  Don’t write off the baby and the manger because you do not think He is ready for the big enemies that haunt us.  Don’t look at those who rejected Jesus then and those who reject Him still.  Remember this.  To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God born not of flesh but of the saving will of our Father in heaven exercised in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, His Son.  No one has ever seen God except those who behold the face of Christ by faith.  We have seen it all.

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