S-1356-1SAC/C 12/30/2012 Hymns: O) #123; S) #114 L.S. #124; #125; C #47
Texts: Isaiah 9:2-93, 11-15; Acts 4:1-12; Luke 2:21
Theme: “Not a Plastic Jesus” (Luke 2:21)
Question: “Have you seen the blow up nativities?” Armour, SD
Blessed New Year faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our New Year’s Eve is from the Gospel lesson: “And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).
Saints in Christ, outside in front of our church we have a manger scene that we set up during the Advent and Christmas season. They are brightly colored, illuminated at night and early morning, and all with the lifelike joy of a department store mannequin. The set includes sheep, a cow, the shepherds, three Wise Men, Mary and Joseph, all staring past the lifeless baby Jesus with dead plastic eyes. There are also around our town nativity scenes that blow up—the kind that have to be anchored with wire to the ground. These plastic figures are made in a country that doesn’t even believe in Jesus and are so light that a strong wind can blow them in every direction. Some of these figurine have actually blown away that the owners had to chase after the plastic baby Jesus rolling down the street.
Unfortunately, the Christ of modern imagination is no more substantial than the lifeless Jesus of the plastic manger scene. As soon as any hardship, difficulties, crisis or challenges of the soul, the imaginary Jesus just blows away before the winds of trouble, scudding down the street in need of our rescue. The plastic Jesus of popular imagination neither suffers nor shares life’s experiences with us poor sinners. The plastic Jesus has no feeling or concern about us poor miserable sinners. The plastic Jesus can’t touch, feel, comfort, console or help.
However the Jesus Born of Mary is NOT a hollow plastic saint who comes to make a good scene or fine appearances. Instead, this Jesus is real, takes our flesh and chooses to bear all its burdens for our sakes. This real Jesus comes to our rescue and deliverance. This real Jesus has eyes to see our hurts, hands to heal our wounds, soul to show He cares and a heart that demonstrates God’s love.
This real Jesus doesn’t wait for someone to run after Him to be rescued because He has blown away by the strong wind of life’s challenges. No, this Jesus—the Real One, comes to our rescue and deliverance. He doesn’t come to make a good scene or fine appearances. Instead, He takes our flesh and chooses to bear all our burdens upon Him. By this act of taking our burdens, He frees our humanity from the corruption caused by sin.
This Jesus is real and true and He came to earth to be one with us. In order to earn our rescue, He was willing to be circumcised on the eighth day for us. He places Himself under the Law for us. He is real enough so as to undergo a bloody circumcision as a sign of His further shedding of
blood. The cross is not far from the temple. But He, the Real Jesus, bears the burden of the temple and carries it all the way to the cross.
He is circumcised so that we don’t have to be. We now live without being compelled to be circumcised. We Gentiles are latecomers—and yet no less grafted in through what Jesus, the Incarnate One, undergoes, including circumcision for us and on our behalf. PAUSE.
You and I, have no real Jewish blood in us. Yet, we are invited to the banquet of salvation. For God had chosen the people of ancient Israel, giving to them the divine promises and the perfect seal of His Word given to Moses and the prophets (Rom 1-2). God promised that He would bless Israel through the offspring given to Abraham. The Messianic line was given to the patriarchs and fulfilled in these last days by the incarnation of God’s Son (Heb 1:1-2). Unfortunately, those who ought to have depended on the promise begin to depend on themselves instead. They act as if the sign of God’s grace in circumcision is their own work. Their own works of righteousness became substitutes for the work of that offspring of Abraham, who would be their perfect substitute and ultimate sacrifice.
Likewise, we too, act at times like our Jewish counter parts saying to ourselves, “I am baptized now and I can live the way I want to. I can come to church or not. I can come to the Lord’s Supper or not. I can give my offerings or not. I can do what I desire and God still loves me.” We fool ourselves by thinking we have it all, when we don’t have the Real Jesus growing in our hearts. We think God owes me and He needs to bless me by His grace just because I have my name in the church’s roster.
How foolish we are, when we make Jesus just as shallow and hallow as the plastic Jesus made in China or other countries. How foolish we are, when we think Jesus will do anything that we desire, if we only blow Him up, He will waive His magic wand and bring about our hearts desires. How foolish we are when we think our piety earns us points with God and His grace will follow.
And we are foolish enough to listen to the world’s ways of teaching instead of the Real teaching of the Messiah—Jesus by thinking “Jesus has done His work, and now it is up to me to prove myself worthy of receiving His benefits.” If that is how we think, we shall fail miserably, just as Israel did when she relied on circumcision.
Let me assure you precious saints on this final day of the year of our Lord 2012 and as you listen to the last sermon of this year, our efforts are worthless, and our works avail us none, as Isaiah reminds us, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Is. 64:6). PAUSE.
Tonight call upon the Holy Spirit to help you see into the manger and behold the REAL Jesus. For the Word of God stoops to take on human flesh of the Virgin Mary that He might become an object of human experience and sense. He does all of this since we could not climb up to the Throne of Grace and see Him in heaven. We could have never opened the gates of heaven by ourselves or by our works. But He chose to deign to come and be with us and for us.
The incarnate Word of God has come so that He may reveal to us the love of God. He has come to show us that only in Him and through Him are we able to know the true God—not the one made in a Chinese factory, but the One who created heaven and earth and everything that is in it. You and I can’t mount up to find Him; He stoops down to find us in the midst of His bloodied weakness, which begins at His circumcision.
He does this by taking on our human flesh of the Virgin Mary. He becomes visible, touchable, reachable and audible. He becomes the One upon whom we looked when He was pierced for our transgressions. He becomes the One who stops the twelve-year flow of blood when touched. He becomes the One who is subjected to brutal treatment under rough hands. He becomes the One who for us was nailed to the accursed tree.
In the flesh He also becomes a son of Abraham and is subject to the responsibilities and debts that came upon Abraham and his children. He Himself fulfills the whole Law, undergoing circumcision, and in that shedding of blood foreshadows yet more blood being shed from His own veins. That profusion of blood clears us of the Law’s debt both by perfectly fulfilling the Law and by bearing its full penalties under the wrath of God. Jesus is not a plastic saint, for His blood is REAL, RED AND RUNS to YOU to SAVE YOU from sin and hell.
Thank God that our Jesus is not a plastic but REAL. AMEN.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA