Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

Christmas Eve December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve.17 “A Very Eschatological Christmas” Luke 2:1-20

It’ll change ‘ya. It’ll change your life. This is said of many things in our world, from Diet Dr. Pepper (and other drinks, Dilly, Dilly!), to cosmetics—that new diet, or gym membership; it’s said of sports equipment, cars, investment banks, cell phones, Facebook, movies, well… just about anything that can be marketed and/or will be under your tree tomorrow morning—“It’ll change ‘ya. It’ll change your life.” And that’s precisely what we’re hoping for at Christmas, really, in the end, isn’t it? To find that magical something that will change us, that will change our lives for the better. Take away the humdrum, the sadness, the disappointment, the loss—something to cover, or conceal, something to compensate for all those things we don’t like about ourselves. That’s what we’re really looking for tonight, right?

Well, yes. Yes, I think you’re getting to the real reason for the season. You always knew it wasn’t really about Santa or the egg nog or the presents under the tree, or even the snogging under the mistletoe (fun as those things are). It’s not even about the holiday cheer or gathering with family and friends. Christmas has a rather deeper and darker purpose; and, deep down, you always knew this. Christmas is a Rescue. It’s God come down to save us from ourselves. To change you—to change your life. And if this is not what you’re looking for, if this is not what you find this Christmas, then you’ve missed the point of it worse than the early stages Mr. Scrooge.

To admit it though—that’s tough. To admit that we’re not really in it for the presents, the cookies, the tree, the gatherings, all the usual fripperies and fineries. That we’re in it for the change that needs to take place in us—not many get there; even fewer can say, honestly, that: “i’m still standing in the need of prayer… and i don’t know the path/ or what kind of pith I’ve amassed… i can admit to conceal/ no thats not how thats sposed to feel/ oh no/ its not for broader appeal…”!? ‘Cause such a confession would take you, uh, well… into the territory of repentance and that is not a place modern people like to visit. Scary and dark! We’re never sure we really want to change that much!

But it really is why we’ll light a candle in the darkness here, again, tonight; sing “Silent Night” and hope that this time, it takes—that, this time, “it’ll change ‘ya. It’ll change your life.” I suppose what we’d really like is for everything and everyone else to change to suit us—for God to remake the world so that my desires, wants, sinful wishes would work out the way I’d like them to. That’s the change we want, probably, if we were brutally honest. But it is not the change we need, according to all the prophets and apostles that God sent over the millennia—even though much of Christendom has devoted itself to bringing about precisely this sort of change, by trimming the old liturgies, lectionaries, creeds—making them vehicles of change in the world so that we and our hearts of darkness don’t need to change one, single bit…

Well, Peter, that’s not what God does. But, I think He can help you, anyway. Christmas really comes only one way—His way. And the change He was born in a barn to effect is a change in you. “Will it hurt?” Excellent question! I see you’ve been reading a bit of the Story on your own, if you ask that. And I think you know the answer: “Well, Ma’am; it’s not an entirely benign procedure.” Which is to say “It’s going to hurt like hell, actually!” Jesus never said the change He is and brings was painless, easy, or pleasant (somewhere, He says something about not coming to bring Peace on earth, actually—all the carols to the contrary—but coming to bring a sword, fire, a bit of chaos, actually. But He does say it is necessary; and that, on the far side of the cross, the chaos, the bleeding, the loss, and the dying—is a new you, who will finally fit into the Kingdom He is and brings. And you do want to fit into His Kingdom, I promise you! You really do! For this is the world we were made for, the Place we will come to and recognize as home; and arriving there, finally with Jesus, will know it and ourselves for the first time…

But as we are now, we don’t fit with Jesus or His Kingdom, at all. It’s why we have this nagging sense that something is wrong with us, wrong with the world, or wrong with the fit. And that suspicion all the prophets eagerly wish to confirm! If you sense this world is pretty messed up, like Skynet or Office Space or Blade Runner or some combination of all of the above, you’ve guessed correctly. You’re onto something, there…

So “follow that path!” is the prompting of all the prophets and the apostles! Go down that dark trail, that road less traveled by. And know, that when you do go down that dark path, you’re not the first. You’re following these guys…

“Now, there were in that same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night…” They weren’t anyone special. They were a lot like you. They had their hopes, their fears, their dreams, but they kept those things to themselves because, really, they were crazy dreams, unlikely to come true. Nothing about their lives so far suggested such hopes and dreams were anything but madness. They were the castaways of polite society, living on the margins. If God did come and do something, wouldn’t He come for the great and the glorious, the beautiful people?

Yet… “Behold! An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid”—so afraid it hurt! I told you it was not an entirely benign procedure—this change in us that God is and brings! But the angel told them, “Do not be afraid, for behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people: for there is born to you this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!” So, when the angels were gone away into heaven, the shepherds said, to themselves: “what have we got to lose? Let’s get on over there, and see this thing. Now…”! And in the seeing, the Change takes place, as John says: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is…”

The swaddling cloths are a bit different tonight—words of some quirky guy in Gandalf-style robes, a bit of bread and wine, some sing-talking. But the Lord Jesus is present, hidden under these humble swaddling cloths no less than He was present in that manger at Bethlehem that night for the shepherds to see. The Word shows you how to look, and looking, you’ll see Him as He is; and, by such seeing, the Change takes place…

Outwardly, we appear no different, at first. Like Him, we remain humble, lowly, poor, despised. But, oh—inwardly! sharing His sufferings, His cross, like this, now, we are changed into His Image, are fitted for Heaven, to live with Him there—where Peace, surpassing understanding, guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Merry Christmas! Amen.

Services

23 September 2018

18th Sunday after Pentecost

8:30 Divine Service with Communion

11:00 Matins

9:45 Sunday School

Adult Bible Class with Pastor

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.