Born For You And Me

St. Luke 2:1-20

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Luke 2:10-11 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  Fairy tales begin with the words, “Once upon a time.”  But the Christmas Gospel begins with the words, “And it came to pass.”  Fairy tales take place in no particular place or time.  But today’s Gospel occurs in the real town of Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus and Quirinius.

This is tremendously important for us to recognize.  For, in our culture we do not need to be reminded that Christmas often focuses on make-believe and fantasy and fiction.  Now, those things can certainly have their proper place, but it seems that for many the “stuff” of Christmas – the lights and gifts and music and Santa and Elf on a Shelf and “holiday” music – all of that can too easily become a flight into unreality, a temporary escape from the real world and real life.

And that is exactly the opposite of the Christmas message.  St. Luke emphasizes that what he is writing is real history; it actually occurred in a real place and at a real time when certain real officials were in power.  It was no myth or fable; it was a true, accurate, and factual account of the way things really were.

Christmas is not about escaping into some dream world.  It is about our being redeemed by a real Lord and Savior.  It is about the real Son of God, entering our real world in His real flesh and blood.  It is about a first-time mom giving Him birth in the cold of night among real animals and hay and the smells that go along with that setting.  It is about the Lord of all taking upon Himself the form of a servant that He might rescue us from our sin.  No, there is nothing unreal or imaginary about Christmas, for Jesus and His love and forgiveness are quite real.

In our sinfulness we all have fallen away from God, wanting to go our own way and do our own thing.  And in the process we have become less than human.  And so in order to save us from perishing eternally, Jesus the Son of God took on our human nature and caused Himself to be placed in the hay of a manger in order to raise us with Himself.  He became like us so that we may become like Him.

God the Son took our humanity into Himself so that we might be made new in Him.  By His conception and birth Jesus has sanctified and purified our nature; His incarnation permeates and hallows all of mankind.  God has greatly exalted us not by becoming an angel or any other creature, but by becoming a true man, our human brother.

Our Lord’s lowly birth teaches us about the humble life that He would lead for us, and the lowly death that He would suffer in our place.  The wood of the manger would later be traded for the wood of the cross.  In fact, it was the tradition in some early Christian art to portray the birth of Christ as having taken place in a cave, perhaps on a hillside.  This was done not only because animals in that region were often kept in caves or stables built into a hillside, but also because this foreshadowed a later time when Christ would be buried in a cave-like tomb.  Indeed, just as Jesus was here wrapped in cloths in His birth, so also He would be wrapped in cloths in His death.

Jesus, the Son of God, was born among us and became man for this very purpose: that He might die in the flesh in our place and shed His blood in order to purchase us from the powers of darkness.  He was made to be like us in every way, except without sin, so that He might be our perfect stand-in.  As true man He was our substitute in suffering and death.  As true God He paid the infinite price our sins required, a price we could not even begin to pay.

Therefore only in this God-man is there eternal life.  Only in Christ – who was laid in a manger and who is now bodily raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father – only in Him is there salvation, for only He could accomplish it.  Every other religion is at best an illusion and a false hope.

The angels tell us of our only real hope: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Fear not!  Do not be in terror any longer of your sin or death or judgment, for your sins are forgiven.  Christ the Savior is born for you and has come to rescue you from the devil’s prison house and to bring you into the eternal kingdom of God.  Light has shattered the darkness forever.  Rejoice in the Good News, for all of this is for you.  Jesus is born for you and to you.

The angels certainly rejoiced over what God was doing for all of mankind.  After announcing the good tidings to the shepherds, a whole multitude of the heavenly host spilled out of heaven and burst forth with praise to God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”  The very coming of Christ is a sign of God’s good will toward us, a sign that He wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  Only Jesus brings real peace on earth – not simply temporary peace between people, but eternal peace with God.

In Christ we who were once at war with God and at odds with Him are now reconciled and put right with Him.  God and man come together in Jesus, for He is Himself both God and man.  Those who believe and are baptized into the body of Christ are thereby reunited with God.  Jesus truly is our Prince of Peace.

Christ came that the last may be first and that the humble may be exalted.  We must, therefore, approach the manger with humility and penitent faith.  We must come as beggars to receive the treasures that Christ brings.  For He Himself is our Good Shepherd; He brings us into rich pasture and still waters; He leads us in the paths of righteousness; He guides us through the valley of the shadow of death and into the house of the Lord where goodness and mercy abound forever.

The shepherds were given a sign: a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  You also are given a sign of where to find Jesus.  He is to be found humbly mangered in the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar.  He is truly and really and bodily present there for you in His body and blood in order to bring you all the blessings of this holy day.

Was not Jesus born in Bethlehem?  And “Bethlehem” means “house of bread.”  So He who is the Living Bread from heaven comes down to make this place a Bethlehem, a house of the Bread of Life, to satisfy your spiritual hunger and to fill you with His life.  Even as the manger is a place where beasts feed, so let us eat of the Holy Sacrament of Christ that our humanity may be eternally restored and renewed in Him who is truly human and truly divine.

Let us with Mary treasure up all these things and ponder them in our hearts in true faith. And let us with the shepherds glorify and praise God for all the things which we have heard and seen in Christ, just as it has been told to us.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.