Christmas Day (A)
December 25, 2016
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the account of our Savior’s birth, which was read a few minutes ago.
Even though Christmas comes seems to come earlier every year, the commercialization of it any way, the time always seems too short. We hustle and bustle through Advent to the culmination of Christmas on December 25th, and then it’s over. It’s a time that comes and goes, leaving us wanting more. More time with family. More time of Christmas carols. More time with unbroken toys. More time off from school or work. Christmas time just flies by and then we wait until the next Christmas time rolls around.
Time, now that’s something we’re all bound to. We might want Christmas to not come so soon if we’re not done with our preparations. We might want it to come faster if we can’t wait to come to church and hear the familiar story. But we can’t hurry it up or slow it down. Time is what it is and there’s a time for everything. King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to search and a time to give up… a time to love and a time to hate. Those are the times that come and go as we move through life—happy and sad times, exciting and boring times, full and empty times. We are creatures bound by time, so it is no wonder that God used the right time to send His Son into the world.
As I read the Christmas story one of the things that struck me was Luke’s use of time. The account of our Savior’s birth begins with the time of census. Today the Census Bureau sends representatives to our houses to collect information. But when Caesar Augustus issued his decree the people did the travelling. Everyone had to travel their ancestral hometown. It didn’t matter if you didn’t have time or if the time wasn’t right, you went. And yet, as much as it was a hassle for everyone, especially pregnant women, God the census to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where His Son was born at just the right time.
Luke also highlights for us that for shepherds it was time to keep watch over their flocks by night, shivering in the cold, enduring the time until morning came. What started as a boring time, just doing their jobs, turned into a once in a lifetime event which changed their lives. Not just one day, not just December 25th, but every day for the rest of their lives.
For Joseph time meant time spent on the road travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Seventy miles or so over rough terrain with a very pregnant wife, only to arrive in Bethlehem to see that they weren’t in time to secure a room for rest, and even more concerning, the birth of Mary’s firstborn child.
Luke’s reference to time though shows that it is the perfect time for an event that would change all time. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.” Normally the time of birth is important to family and friends, but strangers, not so much. But this birth was different and so an angel is sent to announce the meaning of that time in history. So significant was the birth of Jesus, that an angelic choir sings, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Not another day, not some other day, but “Today” was the day that God would change all time. I like how Paul puts it in Galatians, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, so that we might receive the full rights of sons.” The Christmas we celebrate is a moment in time so unique, so decisive that it’s not possible for us in one day to capture the full meaning of Christmas. That’s really what our lifetime is for—to learn and to love the time that God became one of us to die for all of us.
There are four times that are the most significant in all of history—all of them are God’s times. The first is the time of creation. Nobody was there to observe it or to put it on Facebook. The time came when God created, and the best we can do is marvel at His mighty works. He continues to sustain us and His creation, all the while moving it toward His intended goal. We praise Him for the gifts He gives us, gifts of food and homes and families. All the while, watching over us and keeping our times in His almighty hands.
The second time came when Jesus was born. He was born at the perfect time – the perfect time in history so that everything spoken by the prophets would come true. The love of God took the shape of one named Jesus, born of Mary, but called also Immanuel—God with us. What He has done for us in this is to bless us and redeem us by taking the time to live with us. His time on earth was relatively short, but what He accomplished as an impact that goes beyond time. Everything He did was the perfect time and it was just as the prophets had said; from where He was born to where He would live to how He would die. It was the perfect time.
The third time was the holiest of weeks that began with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and ended with a time unlike any other – the dead God raised to life. Three days’ time and our Lord came out of the tomb and assured us that when we die, our time is not ended, but just begun. For in His resurrection, He has revealed to us eternal life where time has no meaning.
All these times set the stage for the fourth and final time – the return of Jesus. An event that will take place at the conclusion of time as we know it, and when Jesus will return nothing at all like a helpless baby but as Mighty God and Wonderful King. At that time we will see Him in the heavens with the angels who proclaimed His birth. For us who trust in Christ, it will begin a time of peace and joy forevermore.
For the millions of believers in Christ, Christmas is the culmination of much wishing and hoping and waiting. Christmas means that what we yearn for, what we really need, has already come and is here right now: the presence of Jesus. Jesus is with us and we celebrate this day with joy and thanksgiving.
The time has come for us. In Jesus, God has entered our world where we are born and die, work and play, love and dream. Let this Christmas time fill our lives with the knowledge that all our days are in God’s hands. Since God joined us in our pain and disappointments, and knows our weakness and death, then let this Christmas time bring us strength, knowing that God’s love is stronger than death, and God is able to bind up all our wounds. Since the time has come and God has rescued us from the sin that enslaves us—from the destruction we do to ourselves, to others, and to the creation itself—let this Christmas time fill us with the will to love and care for all. Yes, since the time has come and God has visited his people, let us join Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels, and all believers everywhere this day to glorify and praise God. The time has indeed come for that.
Now peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen