December 25, 2021
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 Gospel from St. Luke.
When I was in high school, I did some volunteer work for Kay Orr who was running for governor of Nebraska. It was a requirement for Civics class, and when she won, I didn’t give it much thought. But then I got an invitation to the Inauguration Ball, and I felt pretty darn special; until I learned there were two balls. One was for the Governor and the bigwigs, the other for us lowly volunteers. But hey, an invitation is an invitation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go so I don’t know if I missed out on something special or not. That’s the chance you take when you turn down an invitation. On this Christmas Day, there’s invitation to an event you don’t want to miss so come all ye faithful.
You’re invited to the celebrate the birth of the Son of God, the Savior, Jesus Christ, and this invitation isn’t like any other. It’s not an invitation to a graduation, a confirmation, or even a wedding. It’s far, far better! This is an invitation to a birthday party of sorts, to see the eternal God born in human flesh. As we will confess shortly in the Nicene Creed, Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. As Saint John puts it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Or as we sing in O Come All Ye Faithful: “Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.”
God puts on human flesh! There is no greater mystery or greater joy than the Incarnation of Jesus, His conception and birth. It’s no wonder that so many of our Christmas hymns invite us to rejoice: Rejoice this Happy Morn, Now Sing We Now Rejoice, and of course, Joy to the World. It’s a time of joy at our salvation! So come all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant! Come and adore Him!
You know how you sometimes get an invitation and you do not want to go? It happens, right? Maybe you’re sick or, maybe, you just don’t feel like celebrating or socializing. Sometimes you do end up going, sometimes you skip. Today, you’re invited to come see the Christ Child who is born for you, and that’s true even if you don’t feel joyful and triumphant.
Let’s be honest, the joy of Christmas is often lacking. Do we really need to list the reasons why? Stress, tension, shopping, traveling. We buried our sister in Christ Louise Schultz on Thursday, and while we’re sad, she was 103. But what about those who died who weren’t 103? Tallon Johnson, who some of you knew, died on Wednesday at just 20 years old. Or what about the grief we’re feeling for those who aren’t with us this year?
It’s okay to not be joyful, just know that you’re still invited to come and see the Christ. This invitation is for all, and it’s especially for you who aren’t joyful and triumphant. If Jesus was still in the manger as the nativity scenes depict, it would be tempting to ignore the invitation. But He’s not, so come hear Him! Come all ye who are broken, addicted, trapped, and afraid. Come all ye who are depressed, poor, aching, and frustrated. Come all ye who are anxious, stressed, lost and confused. Come all ye who are divorced, separated from loved ones, sinned against, and alone. Come all ye and hear what Jesus says to you:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1-2) This is the Word made flesh talking to you! He hears your prayers. He dries your tears. He gives His peace. He invites you to Himself because you’re the reason for the season! So come all ye faithful!
I wonder if we’re missing a verse in O Come All Ye Faithful, something like “Oh, come all ye unfaithful!” While that wouldn’t be joyful at all, it sure would be appropriate. Can the unfaithful come and see the Christ? Yes! Most definitely yes! Especially the unfaithful – that’s you! When you sin, when you do something you know is wrong, or when you fall in a moment of weakness, you’re being unfaithful. The disheartening truth is that we’re not ever totally faithful and so we need someone who can make us faithful, and that’s Christ and that’s why He came!
In the great hymn, O Lord How Shall I Meet You Paul Gerhardt wrote: “Sin’s debt, that fearful burden, Cannot His love erase; Your guilt the Lord will pardon And cover by His grace. He comes, for you procuring the peace of sin forgiv’n, His children thus securing Eternal life in heav’n.” He comes precisely because we’re an unfaithful lot. He comes because we are unfaithful sinners. As the Epistle from Titus says: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.”
That my brothers and sisters in Christ is what Christmas is all about. It’s about the incarnate Son of God, laying in a manger, under the watchful eye of Mary. It’s about the incarnate Son of God, hanging on a cross, under the grief-stricken eye of Mary. It’s about the angels sent by God to proclaim the birth of His Son. It’s about the angels sent by God to proclaim the resurrection of His Son! All of this is for you! The joy of Christmas is also about the pain of Good Friday, the sadness of Holy Saturday, and the unbridled joy of Easter.
So come all ye whatever you are! For the message of the angels is for you. What did the angels say to the shepherds? “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.” Maybe you’ve got a heart full of Christmas joy this morning, maybe you don’t. But these words, “For unto you” are your invitation to draw near to Him, hear His Words, and find peace, joy, release, and trust. He invites you because He gives you Himself, and in Him we are triumphant!
I once heard about “come as you are parties”, and they sound kind of fun. You get a call and you have to attend the party however you are at that minute. In your pjs? Off you go. Covered in grime from a car engine? Don’t freshen up, just go. I suppose there are limits, if you’re in the shower, I hope you’re allowed to get dressed. Christmas is a come as you are party. Come joyful, come sad. Come triumphant, come defeated. No one will be turned away. Come and adore Him for this isn’t just any invitation! This is the invitation is for you to see the Son of the Father, now in flesh appearing, the Son who has born for you.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen