Friday, December 25, 2015

Sermon for 12/25/15: The Nativity of Our Lord

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Dwelling Among Us

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Jesus, the Son of God, was born so that you would be born again. The Son of God shows up as a little baby from the womb of the Virgin. From the womb of the church, in which the waters of baptism cleanse sinners, you are born as a child of God, born anew by water and the Spirit. The Son of God took on flesh and was born from the Virgin's womb. He did this so that He would wipe out your sins and everything that stands between you and God and between you and the people around you. He came to make you a child of God and show you your heavenly Father. St. Paul writes to Titus that the kindness and love of God appeared.
If you asked anyone from Old Testament Israel where God was, they knew. In the wilderness they made a Tabernacle. They set up a big tent, and in that tent the Lord came and dwelt. The Lord filled that Tabernacle with glory and smoke and fire, so people always knew: this is where the Lord was. But this time He didn't come in terror with smoke and fire. This time He came in a way that we can receive without fear. God Himself came dressed in the flesh. The angels pointed Him out: the Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. There was no question where the Lord was that night. When the angels spoke to the shepherds, they saw the glory of the Lord, and they were sore afraid. But the angel says, "Do not be afraid." A Savior is born. You don't have to be afraid any more. God is here, but He's not here to kill you. He's here to save you! He's not here to burn you to a crisp, but to snatch you from the fires of hell. The Lord isn't here to punish, but to be punished. He’s not here to cause you to suffer, but to suffer for you. Here is a God who shows His love by coming in the flesh to take our place and die for our sins. You can't be afraid of that God. He has come to take away your fear by making peace between you and your Father. When the little Tabernacle is born on Christmas day, He is born to save sinners. Why would God come to us? Why does God dwell among us? What is the reason that the Lord would even get near us? Simply put, He has come to save us. God the Son is not afraid to be born of a woman and to suffer all, even death, to rescue you from your sins.

And He does it to give you new birth, as Paul tells Titus, “through the washing of rebirth and renewal.” Christmas isn't just about Jesus being a baby. It's about you being born again: not from Mom's womb, but from the womb of the Church: the holy font. The water that the Spirit overshadows now is not the water of Mary's womb, but of the font. But just as Mary gives birth to the Son of God, so the church gives birth to you at the font by water and the Word. As St. John wrote, “To those who believed in Him He gave the right to become the children of God.” Mary gives birth to the Father's Son. The font gives birth to you, a child of God.

And now the Lord dwells in you through your Baptism. When others look at you, what do they see? Do they see the smoke and fire of an unforgiving, threatening person? Or do they see passed on to them the gentleness and kindness and love of God which has been given you in Christ? Dear, beloved, baptized children of God: The world which the Word made did not receive Him. His own people didn't even want Him. Let it be by your good works that others will receive you with joy. And what if they don't? What if you try hard to be patient and loving to others and they still despise you and want nothing to do with you? Well, do as Jesus did: come to them anyway; give them whatever help they need. That is Christ at work in you. Who knows how the Spirit will work in their hearts?
Jesus, the Son of God was born so that you would be born again. You are not what you were. You belong to the Lord. Once you were orphans. Now you are God's children. You didn't choose it. It wasn't yours by being born the first time. But it's yours now in the new birth given to you by the Spirit with the water of the font. Now, in this holy Divine Service, you can see Jesus. He is here: just as surely as He was in the Tabernacle; just as surely as He lay in a manger; just as surely as His own words make holy the water and the wine and bread. Don't ever doubt where Jesus is to save you. He's right here in His church, dwelling among us with His gifts. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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