Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sermon for 12/30/18: The Sunday After Christmas

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

The shepherds are rejoicing. Joseph is marveling. Simeon is singing. And in the meantime, Mary is pondering. It is not that she is less than joyful, but her joy is tempered by the reality of the curse. Things are not as they should be. She should have a better place to lay her Newborn than a manger. She should not be shamed by men for the honor that God has bestowed on her. But most of all, Her Son should not have to die. Of all those ever born, her Son is innocent; her Son has not sinned. He should not have to die. But that is His sole purpose. That is why He was born. If He doesn’t die, then we would—Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon…all of us.
Mary knows joy and peace in Christ. But she also knows sadness, for this life is not as it should be. Far from Nazareth, Mary knows that Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Egypt are not her home. Does she know that Nazareth is not her home either? Does she know that she will not really be at peace until she is home with her Son in the place prepared for her? Is that what she ponders?
In the same way, your sorrow is not yet ended. Even for Christians, earthly life is not full. It is still incomplete, still full of sorrow. This is how it is for you. You are forgiven in Christ; there is no one to accuse you. The devil has nothing to say. You are holy, righteous, and innocent in Jesus Christ. You rose to life out of the watery grave in Holy Baptism, bearing God’s name. No one can stand against you. But you still hurt. Your heart is pierced—broken with children who have grown in ways you do not approve; broken with work supervisors who demean you and steal your due credit; broken with a church on earth that goes the ways of men, following dollars and prestige instead of the Word; broken with a government full of self-serving bureaucrats; broken with cities full of violence, rivers full of garbage, and bodies filled with cancers. Your Christmas didn’t measure up to Hallmark’s standards. The ordinary world returned too soon. Christmas just doesn’t satisfy like it seems it should. Even today, the Sixth Day of Christmas, seems like a let-down without the manger and the shepherds.
And yet, no matter how unsatisfied, how frustrated or tired you might be, no matter how deeply your own heart is pierced, what matters is this: Jesus was born of Mary. He obeyed the Law perfectly. He laid down His life under Pilate. He rose from the dead on the third day. Life on this side of glory is not as it should be. Husbands should always love their wives. Parents should always remember their children. Pastors should always preach the Truth without fear. But they don’t. And yet, no matter how much life has failed you, no matter how friends betrayed you, no matter how your own flesh has abased and shamed you, what matters is this: Jesus was born of Mary. He obeyed the Law perfectly. He laid down His life under Pilate. He rose from the dead on the third day.
And that is enough. It is enough to bestow joy and hope to your pondering heart. This sad life is not all there is. This fallen world will not last. Jesus was born and died and rose; He will bring you home. This love will not yet remove all your pain, stop all the violence and debauchery, or bring your children back. But it will. It will make all things right and wipe away every tear on the Last Day. In the meantime, it will give you the strength to carry on. It will comfort and console you. Jesus Himself, born of Mary, alive out of death, loves you. He gives His Body and His Blood to strengthen and nourish you in the true faith unto life everlasting. This is most certainly true. And it certainly gives you something to ponder in your heart—for the Sixth Day of Christmas, and for the rest of your life. 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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