THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD - DAY AD 2018
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.
Christmas is about many different things for different people. For some it’s about the feast. They spend hours preparing what they want to be the perfect meal. For some it’s about family. They look forward to getting together to make and share memories. For some it’s about the perfect gift. They spend days in the mall or online searching for that one gift that will make someone’s Christmas perfect.
The perfect meal? The perfect gathering? The perfect gift? For the perfect Christmas? Is it possible? Many a store would have you believe that it is, especially if you buy whatever they are selling. Even long before Martha Stewart came on the scene, many have tried, perhaps including you at times, I know I at least have, especially when it comes to the gift department.
I have no less than tortured myself over getting the perfect gift. I have fretted and worried over whether or not it would be liked, that it would be the right brand, the right colour, the right size. I have wrestled with the question of whether or not I was buying what I liked, or what the person really wanted. I have spent hours in the mall picking up, putting down, going away, coming back, until I finally took the plunge and bought, because I couldn’t go home empty handed.
When I do finally get it home, it’s not over. No, it’s not. The parcels are tucked away in my closet but every time my mind turns to them, as it did as I wrote this sermon, all those questions come flooding back. I’ve been hopeful at times, that I got it right, but it’s never over until the paper comes off on Christmas Day. Even then, every word and facial expression is weighed and measured to try and figure out if I got it right. Needless to say, at times I can be a real trial to the giftee.
The perfect gift? Have I ever gotten there? The gift that will make someone’s Christmas? No, can’t say that with any kind of confidence. Good gifts, the odd time maybe even a great one, but perfect? No. I’ve never gotten there, and the sooner that I realize that I never will, the better off we’ll all be. The perfect gift? From me? No, it ain’t going to happen, because it can’t. it’s impossible and any suggestion that it is, is a lie. Of course the world and it’s prince are really good at lying, sending many into a frenzy at this time of year, willing to trample others down, trying to get just such gifts.
Wanting to please someone, to make them happy, to give them joy, to bless them with a gift? Yes, those are all good things, beloved, as is putting some effort into making everything about this time of year nice for your family and guests. And taking joy in giving to others, doing for others? No there’s nothing wrong with that, God after all, takes joy in giving and doing and blessing us. But will any of it be perfect? No, it will never get there, not for people like you and me, not even for poor Martha, no matter how many days ahead you start getting ready, or how many people you have on staff to help you.
The very fact that we can be deceived into thinking that it ever could be, reveals the problem here, beloved. Sin. Yes, sin, that all stems from the lie that we were told and believed that we could get things perfect on our own - like God. Yes, beloved, the idea that we can get it all right in our preparations to celebrate Christ’s birth is fuelled by nothing less than idolatry, self idolatry, which can be hard to see when we’re trying to do everything for others. No, poor miserable sinners can never get it perfect, no matter how hard they try. Whatever we set our hands to, no matter how good a thing it might be, is always going to get mucked up by our hands. The sooner that we accept that, the greater peace and joy we can have in what we do.
Perfect. No, I will never wrap up the perfect gift for anyone. I will never place it under the tree. As a sinner I could never find it, or afford it, or give it. Besides all of that, Someone has already beaten me to the punch, and gotten it already and given it. Nothing I ever do can compare with that Gift. Nothing I ever give can compete with it. And the wonderful good news of this day is that, that gift sets me free from fretting over my giving … my doing. Knowing and living in truth that Someone has already made Christmas perfect for everyone on my list, leaves me free to simply joy in letting my giving and doing ride on the coattails of all that has already been given and done.
Yes, the Good News of this day is, that God has already got Christmas perfect for me and for everyone else. The perfect gift was and always will be the gift of this day - Mary’s little baby boy wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger. No gift, no matter how thoughtful, no matter how costly, could ever compare to that gift. And the sigh of relief causing truth is, that because God has given His only begotten Son to be born, as a Saviour for everyone that I know and love, the pressure is off. The perfect gift? God’s got that one covered for me, for this Christmas and every one to come until the end of time. May He ever keep us from losing sight of that truth.
The perfect meal? Yea, that one’s all looked after too. No, turkey, potatoes and pie or countless kinds of Christmas cookies, can never compare to the feast that is spread out on the altar for us today, beloved. Here is the highest of all feasts, the sweetest of meats, the finest of wines, the Stewart gal could never come close to anything like this, even if she started getting her gravy together a week before the main day, or has a full bottle of rum, bourbon, brandy and cognac in her eggnog. Martha’s many preparations will never come close to the portion born of Mary laid out here. And so yes, the good news is that the pressure for dinner is off. The Lord in His supper has already wowed them for you, with His body and blood and the forgiveness, life and salvation that they give.
And that gathering? Yep, your good God has got that one looked after for you too. In this very hour. Here is the family gathering par excellence. Not only do we have our brothers and sisters in Christ gathered together here - our forever family, but we have all the hosts of heaven who are present with Christ here in this place - angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. What other Christmas gathering can boast the presence of the very angels who sang out their herald song over the Bethlehem’s field, the blessed Virgin and faithful Joseph, or all our departed dear family and friends? At God’s gathering we get to celebrate Christmas with all those who are with Christ, dear husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, grandparents, as well as all those spread across the world, as they gather wherever they are, before Christ on this day.
The perfect meal? The perfect gathering? The perfect gift? For the perfect Christmas? Is it possible? With man? No. But with God. All things are possible with God. And so my dear, dear beloved, rest and rejoice this day, because God has looked after the perfect Christmas for you and all those that you love, in Jesus. Amen.