S-1403 CD/3A 12/25/2013 Hymns: LSB, (O) #87; #94; 102; (S) #109; 76; 85; (C) #647
Texts: Isaiah 62:10-12; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:1-20
Theme: “Coming in Haste, Leaving With Praise” (Luke 2:15-20)
Question: “Are you in a hurry to get someplace? Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to you! The text for our Christmas celebration is from the Gospel of St. Luke: “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’” (Luke 2:15-17).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Merry Christmas! Christmas morning is always a wonderful time for those of us who know and love the Lord who was and is God in the Flesh—Immanuel! It is so special to us that we often reach out to those we know and love and share with them the Christmas joy we have because of the Baby Jesus!
The Christmas season is like that for us. Receiving great gifts make us want to share it with others. We often get so excited about a gift we received that we communicate it with the world. Texts, email, and Facebook are full of Christmas blessings and Christmas thanksgiving. They speak of the perfect gift—the engagement ring, the job promotion, or the newly announced expectation of a child or grandchild. We get good news and good gifts; and we want to share it by any and every means necessary.
The same is true today of the greatest gift we have ever received! We get the news from Dr. Luke in his Christmas account. There he tells us of the great news the shepherds in the Bethlehem’s field received so long ago from an unexpected visitors. Luke tells it this way: “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’” (Luke 2:8-11).
God in His divine mercy has kept His promise of sending a Savior. He sent His messengers to earth to inform the world that the Savior has been born. The shepherds heard the wonderful angelic news. The long-awaited Messiah was born at last! So many generations of shepherds and carpenters, priests and peasants, kings and queens had waited for this moment in history. Now it had arrived. This greatest of news warranted the greatest of delivery services. The Angel announced this wonder and then the entire choir of angels joined in! Can you imagine the scene and the sound above Bethlehem’s field? Wouldn’t you want to have been there to receive the announcement? I sure would want to! PAUSE.
Moved by this amazing and profound news, these lowly and despised shepherds knew what they had to do! You don’t get earth-shattering news and then go back to watching your sleepy flock! Oh no! There is something to do. Thus the Spirit stirred their hearts and feet and they made haste! They beat tracks! There wasn’t anything or anyone that could keep them from this sight that the Lord made known to them. No mountain, no hill, no valley and not even the coyotes, lions or tigers would keep them away. They were moving with haste. They were not walking, they were running. So excited! After all these years the greatest news the Jewish people had been waiting for—has come—The Savior promised of old is here and He will bring about redemption and salvation. No wonder they went in haste.
When they finally reached their destination, what joy filled their hearts! What they saw, while announced by the angels, was completely unexpected. They saw a young, nervous father, a younger, caring and loving mother and a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth. There was no crown! There was no Scepter! There was no palace! Just a baby like all other babies born into the world, lying on a bed of straw. But this was no ordinary baby. What they saw with their eyes, was Baby Jesus—and with their eyes of faith; God in the flesh. Only God could do Messiah this way.
Having seen the Gift of heaven with their eyes, they danced with joy because of God’s kindness in keeping His promise to deliver mankind. And what they did next was such a blessing to many including you and me today. What these simple men of faith saw the Holy Spirit led them to do something different. They were forever changed. The flocks and herds, hills and valleys and yes even the shepherds would never be the same. The echo of the angels’ song still wafts over creation. Luke records their actions this way: “And when they saw it [Baby], they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).
Today as we gather in the fields of Armour, SD we join our voices with the eternal choir praising the Lord who would save us in such a wondrous and simple way. Today, we lift our voices heaven ward saying:
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room And heaven and nature sing And heaven and nature sing And heaven, and heaven and nature sing Joy to the world! the Savior reigns Let men their songs employ While fields and floods Rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy Repeat the sounding joy Repeat, repeat the sound in joy” (TLH 87 vs. 1-2). PAUSE.
This praise is so much more than just a couple choruses of “Joy to the World.” If our praise is fleeing like this, it betrays the reality that we have been forever changed. By the grace of God, like the shepherds we have knelt at the manger and with eyes of faith have seen the Baby born to Mary. We have read and heard of the mighty deeds He has done to save many. We have stood with our eyes fixed upon Him hanging on the cross, as the blood dripped from His side, skull, hands and feet. We have heard the voice shatter the silence, “Father, forgive them!” and we have stood with the women by the empty tomb and heard another angel announce another glorious news, “He is not here, He is Risen as He said!”
Having been brought here today by the Spirit, we have once more been privileged to see the salvation that God has promised us. However, we see it in more than just swaddling cloth. Our salvation grew to be a man who would bear our sins in the body that was once that swaddled infant to keep Him warm, now is naked to be mocked by all. That same body, whose hands were once so tiny, small and perfect, would receive the nails that would forever mar them. God’s perfect Lamb, born to Mary would be our salvation on the cross of Calvary. This He is FOR US!
Because the Lord has shown us this salvation, not only at the manger, but at the cross and empty tomb, like the shepherds we too are forever changed. The Holy Spirit uses our lives and voices are added to the eternal chorus that praises our Lord who has given us this spectacular gift. So changed, we are sent into the world living lives of praise that point others to the same manger and cross. We use all the gifts that God gives us to make known what we have seen and heard.
Having come here in haste, we leave with praise on our hearts and lips forever and ever. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA!