A Christmas Sermon
Jay W. Watson
St. Luke 2:1-20
In the + Name of Jesus
As monumentally important, cosmically significant, as the Annunciation was—when God the second person took on His humanity from the Virgin, in the Virgin; as ontologically and constitutively essential as Good Friday was—when God suffered and died to pay for your sins, this evening suggests that the Reformer was correct: Christ could have died a thousand times and it would not have mattered save for the Word, the Word, the Word! It is on Easter that Jesus showed Himself not only alive and victorious, but still flesh and blood. He let Himself be touched, handled; He ate food with His beloved disciples. One cannot begin to imagine the joy Saint Mary must have felt to cradle His dear head once again as she had three decades prior for the first time in that cold and dark Bethlehem manger. And it was at His nativity, His birth in the City of David, that this Son of David and David’s Lord would be touched, handled; He drank milk from Our Lady’s breast, but He would be the milk of the pure Word.
This night, no matter what you’ve been led to believe by sentimental enthusiasts, pious Protestants, and clever ad-men, is not about feelings and emotions, but about flesh and blood—Immanuel—the flesh and blood of God.
You see the (I suppose) well-meaning bumper stickers: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Well yes, but what about the ultimate question: “What is the reason for Jesus?”
God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
(Carols for Choirs , emphasis added)
To acknowledge and even celebrate only the birth without giving thanks for the reason—and how He who was born fixed, fixes, and wishes to fortify the fix—is tragic, and leads only to a liberal, spiritualizing evisceration of the truth.
God in the crèche, God at His mother’s bosom, God nailed to the tree, and God on the altar to be placed on your tongues is the truth—the only truth of this festival. And tonight’s festival’s only real purpose is to prepare you for tomorrow’s feast.
Bethlehem became a link between heaven and earth; God and man met there and looked each other in the face. Aha: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. The Peace of the Lord be with you always. Expanding the Reformer’s insight, we must also believe, teach, and confess: For what would it profit if He was born a thousand times in Bethlehem unless He was born again in man—in us—in you? He who was born in the “house of bread” is that “bread of life” (St. John 6:48). Jesus the Word speaks: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh…. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (St. John 6:51, 53-54 KJV).
Within the holy chalice and the holy ciborium, the body and blood of Jesus is Christmas.
Forget the “Church of Nice” and all that the deceiving world tells you, lies to you about. The Lord and His incarnation, His nativity, His atonement, His resurrection, and most importantly His presence—Immanuel—are all about saving you from hell.
Born an infant, yes, but not something to be infantilized or made saccharine sweet. The Infant in the crib is the God-man, the Prince of Peace, and the Wonderful Counselor (Is. 9:6). The same Jesus in the Sacrament is your salvation and peace from everlasting damnation.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as Man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel!
Take, eat; take, drink; for you.
In the Name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Ghost
This sermon was preached by Father Watson on December 24, 2016, at Augsburg Lutheran Church in Shawnee, Kansas, where he serves as pastor.