THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD -EVE AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Christmas is for nice people, not for naughty ones or so the list and the songs say. You’d better not shout, pout, or cry, or they’re might be a lump of coal in your stocking come Christmas morning. Christmas is for people who are good and kind, not for bad and mean people. Christmas is for giving people, not for grasping people. Christmas is for generous people, not selfish people. Or so the stories go. Christmas is for open accepting people, not for close minded prejudiced ones.
Christmas is for nice people, however, you might define that, and they’re certainly plenty of different ideas about that out there. I’m just waiting for another version of the Dicken’s classic to appear, where Ebenezer Scrooge is recast as Donald Trump-like figure, or some factory owning industrialist pumping out tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Or perhaps, a remake of Dr. Seuss’ cautionary Christmas tale, where the small hearted grinch is some enviro-nazi who makes off with all the Who’s Christmas trappings, because the holiday is too hard on the planet.
Whatever side you may fall on, of the many debates in our world these days, the one universal truth that all could agree on, is that Christmas is for nice people, which is the biggest fairy tale of all, beloved. In fact it is a down right lie - a lie that rather surprisingly has a rather dark and sinister force behind it. A real one that is, not one that’s just painted that way, because we disagree with it. The lie comes from the heart and source of all evil, the utter darkness that is opposed to all goodness, because he is opposed to the One who is the source of it all. Yes, I’m talking about the devil.
A lie that encourages people to be nice, kind and good? Why on earth would Satan who revels in hatred, nastiness and evil want to make the world believe such a lie? Wouldn’t that go against everything that he stands for? Everything that he wants? So it appears, but what better way to hide the liar then by telling a uncharacteristic lie? When evil tells a lie about goodness, people might even be fooled into believing that the lie is God’s. Furthermore anything that allows us to divide one another into us and them, especially, when the them are the bad ones, and we are the good ones, allows for some of the worst forms of hate. There is nothing so nasty as a self-righteous person.
No contrary to what the stories and the songs may be saying to you, Christmas is not for nice people. In the first place, if it were, then Christmas would be for nobody, because as the kids have already made clear to us from Holy Scripture in their pageant, the nice people simply don’t exist. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Open graved throats? Lips with the venom of asps under them? Curse and bitterness filled mouths? Feet that are swift to shed blood? Leaving a path of misery and ruin behind them? No, not the stuff of nice lists. And there’s no ‘them” here. The “them”, as God lays it out, is us, all of us. No, one is righteous, not one. There is no one that any of us can raise a pointing finger against, no matter how much we might like to do it. The Divine judgement on any such pointing finger, is a loud and clear, “Right back at you.”
And so if Christmas is going to be for anyone it can’t be for the nice people, it’s got to be for the naughty ones, or the downright nasty ones, for the Ebenezers and Grinches of the world. It’s got to be for people like me, and dare I say it, people like you. For me and you, yes, beloved, that is who Christmas is for, because it is for sinners … for people who have failed God and failed each other … people who aren’t what they were made to be … people who aren’t what they should be. Christmas is for sinners because at the heart and centre of Christmas is a Saviour, and only sinners need one of those.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord! That “For unto you” is meant for each one of you, even as it is meant for all those who hear it, every time it is proclaimed anew when the Holy Gospel is read. The angel does not proclaim an exclusive “unto them”, only a universal “unto you”. The Saviour born in Bethlehem is the Saviour of the whole world after all, which is why He would send out his disciples to that whole world with the Good News of what He had done for it. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” He said.
Of course if Christmas is for the good people, then it doesn’t need the Son of God lying as a baby in a manger. It doesn’t need a Saviour! Which sadly is the case for many, the stable is a dark old abandoned shack for them with an unused vacant manger. Perhaps, here you can begin to see why Satan would want to promote the lie about Christmas being for the good people. The last thing that he wants is for people to go unto Bethlehem to see this thing that has come to pass, that the Lord has made known to them.
He would do anything, even encourage them to be kind and nice and good, to be giving and generous, to be open minded and accepting, and any number of other good things, to keep them from finding Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger, because he knows that if they do, they will be lost to him - snatched forever from his power by that infant hand that has come into the world to be nailed to a cross to rescue and save them from their sins.
The Good News of this night that God wants you to hear, to know and to believe, beloved, as He draws you into that lowly cattle shed where a mother and father stand watch over the Light of the World, as He lies nestled in that humble feeding trough, is that Christmas is for you. Because the Saviour lying on the hay was born into this world, so that He might be made sin for you and be cursed on the cross for you, so that forgiveness and life might be yours now and forever.
Christmas is for you, and I’m sorry if that might offend you because it means that I’m saying that you’re not a very good person, but you need to know that even as I say that, that I truly rejoice this night that Christmas is for me too, because I know how desperately I need it to be. Christmas is for sinners only, yes indeed, but thanks be to God there is just such a Christmas for people like us - a Christmas with a Saviour who is Christ the Lord born to suffer that we might be forgiven, born to die that we might live, in peace and joy forever. Amen.