24. December 2012
The One whom prophets foretold has appeared. His infant face now shines upon us. He is the true Light who shines into our darkness. A heavy shadow hangs over His creation and He will not ignore it. His land is shrouded with suffocating dark and He will not let it be. Praise the One who breaks the darkness with His redeeming Light!
This darkness fell in Eden. Through one man’s rejection of God in His Word, death became reality. Haunted are the sons and daughters of Adam. Terrorized by evil. Tormented by guilt and shame. Weighted down by grief. Mortified by death. Only brief glimmers of daylight shine through the ever present storm clouds. Brief glimmers of God’s promise give us hope.
On this holy night 2000 years ago, a thick curtain of darkness hovered over a Bethlehem stable. A shunned mother with a seeming illegitimate son is sheltered with a reluctant surrogate father. No family will take them in. No light shines from on high. No midwives standing at the ready. Not even a proper birthing bed or cradle for the child. For this young woman and her infant son the world is broken. A tragic struggle for an unwed mother. The surrogate father will always be doubted. The son Himself will be considered nobody. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Eyes of man cannot see reality through these unlit days. We see only darkness in our world, in our life, and in ourselves. But when gathered together in this sanctuary our eyes are truly opened. We are given hope. You are enlightened with eyes of faith, illuminated by the Word of Promise. Something about tonight calls even the most despairing out of the woodwork. Much like Easter, you know you won’t be let down by this holy night. Amongst readings and carols, Sacrament and candles, you know the central truth of the Christian faith will be proclaimed.
Jesus Christ our Savior has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. It is a Gospel night! In the midst of darkness, a light has burst forth. The heavens have opened and the glory of God appeared. The storm clouds break and the darkness scatters. The glory of God shines from a stable stall, from a lowly manger, from a virgin mother, from a small child named Jesus. Hope bursts onto the scene. The only-begotten Son of God took on flesh and was born of earthly mother. Born like us so that we like Him will never die.
Did anyone notice? It seemed just another dark chapter in the dismal history of man. Our LORD is born in utter humility. God was made creature amongst creation in Jesus. Living amongst animals, resting in a manger bed. We esteeemed Him not, said Isaiah. Such it began and such it continued. The boy caught an ear or two when He spoke in the temple. Some took notice of the carpenter’s son. Multitudes would gather to hear Him speak. Many would be fed by His miraculous feeding. Are you the one or should we wait for another? But when push came to shove nearly everyone scattered. Who stayed by Jesus until the bitter end but only the women and St John. The rest of the world rejected Christ at the cross just as they ignored Him in the manger.
Well, not quite everyone. From this lowly cattle shed began a new Israel. From a holy family is multiplied a holy nation. The message reaches shepherds in the field. Angels from the realms of glory shone with the brightness of Christ’s own light. Shepherds are given the sign of the Good Shepherd. First, Mary and Joseph worship their newborn King (and son). Then shepherds join them in holy adoration. Magi in twelve days greet Him from afar. Disciples and Apostles gather to Him. And when He sent His Spirit a great heavenly host joins angels and archangels in praising God. Christ establishes by His birth and resurrection a holy nation and priesthood, a church of His own body.
We remember tonight the beginning of the end. The darkness is defeated. You are redeemed. Your yoke of burden is broken. The staff of the command is cracked. The rod of the oppressor is shattered. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The King has come, infant lowly and nothing much to look at. But He is true heir of David whose kingdom will never end. He shines with everlasting light, banishing all gloom and sadness, and enlightening the hearts of all mankind.
Within these hallowed halls, Christ Jesus never ceases to shine. You know this would be true tonight. How could any Christian avoid the brilliance of Jesus? It’s pretty hard to wreck Christmas. All you have to do is sing a carol or two and the true light shines through. But did you know that we rejoice this way every week? Every week we sing “Glory to God on the highest!” Did you know that Christ conceived, born, suffered, died, risen, and ascended rules over this kingdom each week?
Our Lord sits here upon His throne, dispensing His own blood-bought righteousness for you, His holy subjects. In His holy church Christ governs the hearts of men with His holy Word. He establishes His holy habitation here and upholds it with His justice and righteousness. Sins are forgiven, life given, and salvation won. Darkness can no longer abide. The brilliance of Christ’s mercy banishes the darkness to the depths of hell.
While our lives still have darkness now, we know where to go for the true light. We know that while we remain here in the flesh the light only peeks through when Christ is heard and received. We are not without hope for we know and receive the true Light. We know where He dwells with us and us with Him. Here heaven and earth kiss each other. We receive now in part and then will know fully. In the end darkness will scatter, sadness banished, and all sorrow cease. Only the Light of this infant babe will be everlasting. Of His peace there will be no end.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church