Son of God
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 2:1–2:20
The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
December 24, 2018
“Who is Jesus? Son of God”
What it is that you love most about Christmas? If I were to ask each of you this question, I’d probably get as many answers as people I asked. Maybe it’s the beautiful decorations we see all around us. Maybe it’s the festive spirit at this special time of year. Maybe it’s those wonderful foods that we enjoy around the holidays. Maybe it’s the presents under the tree, or spending time with loved ones, or something else entirely. For me, it is the music that makes this blessed season what it is. Where would we be without the beloved carols of Christmas? They fill our hearts and minds not only with fond memories of Christmases past, but they point us to the deep and profound truth that love came down at Christmas. When all the tinsel, glitter, and trappings of Christmas are stripped away, what remains is this: God’s great love for us came down to us in sending Jesus, born of Mary in Bethlehem’s stall, worshiped by the angels and visited by the shepherds on that first Christmas night. What would you say if I asked you another question: “Who is Jesus?” Like the other question, I might get as many answers as people I asked. Who is Jesus? That’s the question that we’ve been addressing throughout the Advent season, the days leading up to Christmas. And tonight, as we ask that same question, “Who is Jesus?”, we find out that among all the other things Jesus may be, he is the Son of God. That becomes the theme for preaching on this Christmas Eve. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Later in this service, the Sanctuary lights will go down and we will do something that is near and dear to our hearts: we will sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. It is a beautiful and moving time in worship. One stanza of this beloved carol says this: “Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light Radiant beams from your holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at your birth, Jesus, Lord, at your birth.” This is who Jesus is: the Son of God, “love’s pure light.” Surrounded by candle light and beautiful decorations, it’s rather easy to wax sentimental about Christmas. But there is a practical, hands-on response to God’s gift of his own Son that moves us from emotion into action – love in action. The reformer, Martin Luther, from whom our church takes its name, writes about this:
… you have no other commandment than to serve Christ and render obedience to him. Direct your works that they may be of benefit to your neighbor, just as the works of Christ are of benefit to you. For this reason Jesus said at the Last Supper: “This is my commandment, that you love one another; even as I have loved you.” Here it is seen that he loved us and did everything for our benefit, in order that we may do the same, not to him, for he needs it not, but to our neighbor. This is his commandment, and this is our obedience. Christ helps us, so we in return help our neighbor, and all have enough. Notice then how far off those are who expend their energies uniting good works with stone. Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold? Of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and ceremonies in the churches, the clergy’s robes, the sanctuary? Of what benefit to him are the many candles or the singing of vigils and liturgies? Do you think that God wants to be served with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but if you see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or suffering in body or soul, you are to leave everything else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him with words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example for you to follow (Luther’s Sermon for Christmas Day, as quoted in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004; pp. 224-225).
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived and served, who suffered and died and rose again for us. In the wood of Bethlehem’s manger is the wood of the cross. Jesus the Son of God was born in order that he might die on the cross, laying down his life that we might have forgiveness, life, and salvation. That is God’s Christmas gift to you. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have done, Jesus the Son of God loves you totally and unconditionally. Long after the presents under the tree are unwrapped, long after the holidays guests have gone home, long after the beautiful decorations are put away, God’s Christmas gift to you – Jesus the Son of God – will continue to be just as fresh, meaningful and relevant for your life. Now, what will we do with this amazing gift? How will we respond to all that God in Christ has done for us? Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was an American journalist and editor, social activist and religious figure, a convert to Catholicism and a key leader in the Catholic Worker Movement (https://www.biography.com/people/dorothy-day-9268575). She has some things to say about what are to do with God’s Christmas gift to us: “It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, asking for room in our hearts… among the first generations of Christians… a room was kept ready for any stranger who might ask for shelter; it was even called ‘the stranger’s room’; and this not because these people… thought they could trace something of someone they loved in the stranger who used it, not because the man or woman to whom they gave shelter reminded them of Christ, but because – plain and simple and stupendous fact – he was Christ… We are not born too late. We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in everyone we come in contact with… For he said that a glass of water given to a beggar was given to him. He made heaven hinge on the way we act toward him in his disguise of commonplace, frail, ordinary humanity. Did you give me food when I was hungry? Did you give me to drink when I was thirsty? Did you give me clothes when my own were rags? Did you come to see me when I was sick, or in prison or in trouble? (Dorothy Day: Selected Writings, as quoted in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004; pp. 179, 182, 185).
Jesus the Son of God, for whom there was no room in the inn, now asks for room in your heart. He who loved you and laid down his life for you desires to make your heart his home; the place where he may live and reign in your life. Will you give him that room, that space, in your heart and in your life? Jesus isn’t looking for temporary lodging; some place just to hang out until a better place comes along. Jesus isn’t looking to share your heart and life with other things pretending to be God, but which are actually of the devil. No, Jesus wants room to take up permanent residence in your heart and life – all of your heart and all of your life – as his forever home. And when that happens, by the grace of God, our life doesn’t narrow and shrink in on itself. Quite the opposite! Life bursts forth and expands exponentially! We become the vessel, the instrument, of Jesus the Son of God to serve as his hands and feet and mouth in the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life and in mine, we become like those shepherds on that first Christmas night: “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). When this service is over, when we return to our homes and lives, the real work of Christmas begins: to love others as God in Christ has loved us.
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God, “love’s pure light.” May that light which shines in the darkness, and which the darkness has not overcome (John 1:5) shine brightly in you and through you. A happy and blessed Christmas to you. Amen.