Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
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 fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a 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. (Lk 2:1-20, ESV)
(Outline from a sermon by Rev. Donald Deffner)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christmas is for children. If you have any doubts, I’d like to point out just a few things to you. First, school’s out. If you are going to do anything that children want, you’ve got to start first with letting school out. There’s nothing better to lift the spirit of a child than to give them free time to play. There’s nothing like “no school” to maximize play time. Add to that six inches of snow, that magical liquid in power form that we’ve been blessed with, just in time to make it a real white Christmas. There is something wonderfully childlike in the air when the ground is covered with a fresh blanket of white. Think about the stories you’ve heard. Think about the “Christmas specials” you’ve seen on TV (although not all are really appropriate for children). All of it is aimed at children. And even the picture of that first Christmas has been made in the images a child can love and understand. Just think of the cubby cherubs, lazy lambs, cozy cows, and dozing donkeys that populate any proper manger scene. They all seem to be made with children in mind. Even here, last Sunday children played a major part of our celebration, by telling the story of Christmas to us again. That’s probably why Christmas is so appealing to so many people. It touches something of the child in us all. And so, Christmas is for children… and that’s not all bad, is it?
So how will you celebrate Christmas this year? What’s on tap for the rest of your day? I think that since Christmas is really for children, the best way to celebrate Christmas is as a child. Actually that is the only way to properly understand and celebrate Christmas. Christmas is for children because it all began with a child being born, and only when we become children ourselves can we look at Christmas and keep it properly.
After all, the familiar Christmas text, this account of Jesus birth is all about a child. There is one point that’s repeated several times. Firstborn son, baby, child... And I think its amazing that these words refer to the Creator of the Universe. Of all the ways God could have revealed himself to human beings, of all the ways he could have chosen to set us back on our heals, of all the ways he could have declared to us who he is, he chose to reveal himself as a little child. Instead of finding God in all his power and majesty (at least as we understand power and majesty), at Christmas time we remember, that we will find [God] wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, a baby.
When we look in the manger and see that little child there, it tells us something about God, something important about who he is. If you think back to the Bible Stories you may have learned in Sunday school, you might notice that God has been in the habit of working through children. It was a child that told a military captain that he could be healed of leprosy. It was a child that Jesus showed as an example of the stature a person would have to have to enter the kingdom of heaven. A young boy gave up his lunch so that 5000 other people could eat. God often works in ways that are quite different than the ways we would work if we were creator of the universe. And in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, (Heb 1:2, ESV) a child, a baby born in a lowly manger and in lowly surroundings.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is 9:6, ESV)
It might be difficult for us to understand that a sweet little baby, wrapped in rags, crying in a food trough, is “Mighty God.” But that’s what we are told. If you come to the manger and peer in from a child’s perspective, with a child’s faith, you’ll know that it’s true. For you and me, it’s impossible to believe with out God planting that faith in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That’s what happened to the Shepherds. After the angel told them what to look for, they went, they saw, and the told everyone what they had heard and seen.
But not every is ready to see Jesus and receive God “as a little Child.” There were lots of people in busy Bethlehem who were not. The angels didn’t appear to the Roman Legions, they didn’t appear to King Herod or Caesar. They didn’t appear to people in the busy inns and market places. They came to the Shepherds.
So how about you, are you ready to see Christmas from a child’s point of view, with the faith of a child? Can you see the baby of Christmas, for who he is? Can you see why he has come?
Remember what Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Lk 18:17, ESV) This is the only way to see him. This is the only way to have Christmas and eternal life through Jesus. But, everything in your nature shouts out against it, your pride, your ego and your need to be self reliant.
It is a childlike faith that admits “I need a Savior.” A child like faith that admits, “Without Jesus I am lost. I am a sinful person. I sin against God daily, in thought word and deed. I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and I can’t earn it.” It’s that same faith that holds on to the promise of God that also comes with the child in the stable. “I have a Savior. He has done everything for me.”
The biggest obstacle to a child like faith is wanting God to be who we want him to be. We want Him on our terms and by our conditions. We want to live our lives without interference, unless we are in trouble. We want to think we know what’s best for us.
In faith we come to the stable this morning, knowing what we need because we know what’s in our hearts. We come to this baby, clinging onto him with a childlike faith that says, “This child is my Savior from the sin that fills my heart. This child is God’s promise to me and the whole world.”
Is there something that’s getting in the way of your Christmas joy today? Is there an empty place at the Christmas dinner table? Are you afraid and unsure what this next year will bring? Does your heart ache over a broken relationship that you can’t repair? Look with childlike faith at The Child. There, you’ll see God’s love for you, in a way that you can understand and feel and hold on to. The Child is God for you. Wrapped in the blanking is the one who is carrying all your sin and all the hurt and pain that goes with it. That peaceful child has come to bring you peace.
As you suffer remember that he too suffered. As you live with sin remember that he was born into a sinful world, to carry your sin and take it from you. He carried it all the way to the cross and he took it into death. There’s a painting I remember that shows the classical manger scene but draped all across it is a dark shadow of a cross. We have missed the greatest meaning of Christmas if we don’t look at the Child of the manger with the eyes of faith, and see also the cross. We can confess it with the faith of a child and say, “This is Jesus, who died on the cross to take away my sin.”
There’s another thing about children. If something wonderful happens to them you can’t make them be quite about it. They’ll tell you all about it, again and again. That’s part of the childlike faith, too. The shepherds did it. They returned to their work glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Lk 2:20, ESV) I’ll bet those shepherds made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child every day of their lives, over and over again, and whispered it in their last breath. They had seen the Christ, the very day he was born. God had told them it was so through angel song. That’s the kind of thing you can’t hold in, especially when you have faith like a child, especially when you see Christmas from a child’s point of view.
Christmas is for children. There’s no secret to seeing Christmas from a child’s perspective. It’s what children do naturally. They do it because they are children. You are God’s very own child, connected to God through a childlike faith in Jesus. It is childlike when you remember that Jesus is God’s gift to you. When you gaze on that baby in wonder remembering that he was born, lived, died and rose again for you, that’s really seeing Christmas with the faith of a child. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.