THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD AD 2023 - CHRISTMAS DAY
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Luke 2:1-20 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
There are many different kinds of Christmas gifts. Some are big, while some are small. Some are a big surprise, while others are what you were promised for some time. Some cost the giver an arm and a leg, while others are more of the it’s the thought that counts variety. Some are just what you always wanted, while some you had no idea that such things existed and yet turn out to be ones that you just can’t live without. Some are destined to be brought out around this time every year while you end up using some every day for the rest of your life. Some mean so much much because of what they are, while others mean the world to you because of who gave it to you.
Yes, there are many different kinds of Christmas gifts - but whether people realize it or not they all flow out the One gift that we rejoice to recall and receive anew on this Christmas day. Without this one gift there would be no other gifts, whether of the Christmas kind or any other for that matter. Indeed, beloved, even in all those homes and hearts where not a thought is being given to this one gifting gift, all those brightly wrapped parcels under the tree are only there because of that gift. Without that one gifting gift there would be no Christmas after all to give rise to the occasion to give those other gifts. But even beyond Christmas, gift giving in any other religion, culture or custom, like hanukah and birthdays, all flows out of the one gifting gift.
All gift giving began and flows out of this one gifting gift that was conceived in the heart of God from the foundations of time and was given by Him when the fullness of time had come. The gift of Jesus was in the heart of God before all other gifts that He gave, before He opened His mouth to create the world and bring forth life and before He opened His hand to satisfy the desire of everything living thing. The gift of Jesus was there in the heart of the Trinity before all else even as He was the cause and source for every other gift that flowed out and continues to flow out from the heart of God. The gift of every human life, including you and me, was and will only be created because of Jesus. The gift of every star in the night sky, every creature under the sun, every tree and brook and field, every mountain and ocean only there because of Jesus. And so every gift that is given under the sun, ultimately finds its beginning and end in Jesus, for He is the origin and source of them all and they all find their true meaning and purpose in Him.
Although they are of many kinds, they all show a different facet of Him even as He contains the facets of them all. Some gifts are big while some of them are small, while He is both the biggest of them all who became the smallest for us. As God of God He is greater than all things and yet we behold Him lying as a little baby in a manger this day born as man to save us. He was the first, before all things and yet he made Himself last to redeem us. Some gifts are a big surprise, while others are what you were promised for some time, while He was the greatest surprise of all and yet was promised to us from the beginning of time. That God Himself would become man when we least expected it was the greatest surprise of all surprises, yet a Saviour was promised to us in Eden and God told us again and again that He would come and save us.
Some gifts cost the giver an arm and a leg, while others are more of the it’s the thought that counts variety. Could there be any gift that cost God more than the gift of His Son to be made man to suffer and die to save us. For the Father to offer up His own heart with the giving up of His only begotten beloved Son was a gift beyond any price. And for the Son to come down from heaven to be made man to spread out His arms for His heart to be pierced through as He laid down His life for His friends was a gift beyond all gifts. Priceless beyond imagining, and yet also gift of such thought and love that all other thoughtful gifts pale into after thoughts before it. For here is a gift given in the thoughtfulness and eternal love of the triune God turned directly toward each and every human being, turned directly toward you and me.
Some gifts are just what you always wanted, while some you had no idea that such things existed and yet turn out to be ones that you just can live without. A saviour like Jesus was what humanity has wanted from the beginning of time when we fell into sin and brought death down upon our heads. He is the answer to all that we know and feel is wrong with us and our world. HE is the healing that we need for all our brokenness He is the love that we need for all our loneliness. HE is the forgiveness that we need for all our guilt and shame. And yet until He was conceived and born and until we come to know Him for ourselves we had no idea that such a Saviour could exist, and yet when we come to truly know Him, we know that He is the Saviour that we can’t live without.
Some gifts are destined to be brought out around this time every year while you end up using some every day for the rest of your life. The gift of Jesus is a gift that many only bring out at this time of year, and sadly not even in the Walmart of Costco kind of a way where He’d make an appearance in August, September or October at the latest, but only last night. And yet for all of us He is a gift that the Church highlights for us every year at this time as she directs our eyes to Him lying in the manger in Bethlehem to save us. But for many, perhaps you and I, included, He is the gift that we make or at least know that we should make use of everyday of the year, and will need to make use of Him for the rest of our lives until our journey through this world comes to a close.
Some gifts mean so much because of what they are, while others mean the world to you because of who gave it to you. Is this not also so true of Jesus, beloved? What could be more meaningful to us than the Son of God made flesh for us, so that He could suffer and die to save us from our sins and give us the gift of eternal life? And what could be more precious to us than the gift given to us by our own dear Father in heaven to show His mercy and compassion and love for us. Yes, Jesus is all of that and so much, so much more, beloved. And so as you come to the altar today to receive anew God’s Christmas gift of His only begotten Son in His flesh and blood, the Father wants you to ponder all of these truths about His gift of Jesus as He places the Babe of Bethlehem in your hearts that you might love and cherish Him as He loves and cherishes you as He forgives all your sins and feeds and nourishes you with His divine life. Amen.