24. December 2011
Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord
We have arrived. The festival of our Lord’s nativity is here. For weeks the church has anxiously awaited this most joyous occasion. We have restrained ourselves from sumptuous meals. We have held back from singing the Gloria with the angels. We have contemplated the Lord as judge and king. We have heard his forerunner John the Baptist call us to repent for the kingdom of heaven is now at hand. Our eyes followed his scrawny finger towards the manger as he pointed and declared “He is the Christ!”
This brings us again to end of a long and exhausting journey. We have been traveling this road since that fateful day, when our mother and father ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, we have longed for salvation. We have hoped for redemption. We have waited for the desire of nations. The serpent deceived us and we ate. The doors were barred to paradise. Yet, our merciful God promised a brother who would crush that miserable enemy’s head. He would open that door and enter. His train of witnesses will follow Him.
We knew what was needed. The Lord will provide for himself the lamb for the offering, my son. The only-begotten son of Abraham is spared. The only-begotten of God is given. The Lord will provide. He will sacrifice and be the sacrifice. The light of this burnt offering will pierce even the darkest recesses of the heart. The hike up that mountain was shrouded in darkness. The wandering the wilderness had only the twinkling stars and dim moon to guide. Even the so-called Promised Land shone only for a moment and then was eclipsed by our great wickedness. Yet, this was not forever. We have seen a great light. The darkness is overcome.
This great light has caused the nation of God to multiply. It is a kingdom of rejoicing and harvest. The bonds that once held us fast are broken. The yoke and staff destroyed. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. He is our king. This altar is his throne. He established his reign and upholds it with his righteousness. It is finished, from this time and forevermore.
He is the shoot that sprouted from this rocky soil. He is the tree and He is the fruit. Under the shelter of his boughs children play. Animals graze. Snakes and adders neither hurt nor destroy. All are fed with wisdom and understanding. Counsel and might. Knowledge and fear. Righteousness and faithfulness are the sap that nourishes His branches. His branches bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
This tree is ever glorious. Its shines like the sun, rising upon the hill. All nations have come to this light. Kings and princes have watched and followed its rising. Its radiant beams shine upon our faces, warm our dreary souls, and cause our heart to thrill and exult. Lift up your eyes and see, all around. Your Lord is the everlasting glory. Even the heavens are rent open. Angels and light stream forth. The way is clear. The light has come.
Those Angel hosts announce the birth. His name is Emmanuel. He is God with us. He is Jesus for He saves us from our sins. Born of Mary to redeem Mary. Adopted by Joseph to redeem to Joseph. Conceived of the Holy Spirit, just as all fellow brothers and sisters are born through Word, womb, water, and Spirit. He is born to redeem. We are born again with him, redeemed.
How can we know unless we hear? How can this good news be heard unless a messenger is sent? As we huddle outside, wondering, wandering, and waiting, we need to hear. We need to know. And the herald angel of the Lord calls out: Fear not! Why? I have for you good news, of great joy, for you and all people. For unto you is born a savior. It happened. We have arrived in the city of David. We have heard and we know where to find Him.
He is wrapped here in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He is covered with linen and pall and lying on a wooden altar. This is a sign for you. God the Father has provided the lamb. God the Father has given you His only-begotten son. The name of this place is “the Lord will provide.”
Humble? Yes. Meek? Absolutely. Lowly? No question. Here are our Savior sits, enthroned on his manger, his mercy seat. Here angels break forth in song. Here the heavens are opened and light and glory of the only Lord shines around you. Our voices ring out “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among among those with whom he is pleased.”
Let us come, shepherds, angels, magi, and all to the stable and find salvation lying upon this manger. We come and worship Him, Christ the newborn king. We offer Him gifts rare, treasures of voice, of song, and lives. We have heard his voice, called by the shepherd, called to be His people Israel. His wayward sheep are gathered. His lost coin is found. His prodigal has returned. The feast is prepared. Let us eat and be satisfied.
Let us once again go to Bethlehem, the house of bread. Let us eat and be satisfied. This is love, sending His only Son into the world, so that we would live in Him and He in us. Love is not from us but from God. First God offered His son for you, to atone for you, to feed you with righteousness. First, the unblemished lamb is sacrificed and then we are redeemed.
We have seen Him face to face. We have received Him in the chalice upon our lips or the wafer upon our tongue. God abides in us and we in God. So, we have come to know and believe the love God has for us. We have arrived. The festival of our Lord’s nativity is here. Christ your redeemer is born. The feast has begun.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church