Christmas Eve 2018
The Child Who is the Lord
December 24, 2018
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
When a child is born, there are questions we typically ask. Parents ask, “Is he healthy?” “How much does he weigh?” Grandparents ask, “What did you name her?” “Who does she look like?” Nurses and doctors closely examine the child and want to know, “Is he alert?” “Are her lungs clear?” We expect these kinds of questions.
But there are other questions we never expect to hear at the birth of a healthy child. Who would ever ask, “Who will handle his funeral arrangements someday?” Or, “What cemetery do you think she’ll be buried in?” Or, “What will cause his death?” “For everything there is a season,” the Scriptures say. And the season for asking about a person’s death is usually not at his or her birth.
One of our hymns asks a similarly unusual question about a child born in Bethlehem: What Child Is This? However, it is a fitting question because this Child is born in a most unusual way. His mother is a virgin. His birth is announced by heavenly hosts praising God. So, What Child Is This? The wonderful answer is proclaimed by an angel: “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.” This Child is no less than the Lord Himself, the Lord of heaven and earth. The same Lord who walked in the Garden of Eden calling to Adam and Eve, now lays in a manger. The same Lord who blessed Abraham, now is the blessing the world has been waiting for.
That certainly is good news. But what makes God’s appearance in human flesh good news of great joy is that He came in order to redeem us. The Lord of creation became part of His creation in order to recreate what man had broken. The Immortal One was born in a specific time and place to unite Himself forever with His mortal creatures.
What if the Lord had taken on flesh in order to confront mankind and demand payback for the sins committed against Him? What if He had appeared among us with a human face in order to scowl at us for our selfishness? Thanks be to God that His incarnation is instead “good news of great joy” for us, as the herald angel declared.
The reason why it is good news of great joy is that at this Child’s birth we do ask the normally unthinkable question, “How will this Child die?” For this Child was born to die. This was God’s plan even before the Child was born. This is what the heavenly angels are talking about when they say His birth will bring peace on earth. This Child will die because of us, and He will die for us.
The prophet Isaiah said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” The angel said, “Unto you is born this day... a Savior.” Unto us, whose worldly passions conceive and give birth to worldly thoughts and ungodly living. Unto us, whose sinful hearts give birth to cruel and hurtful words, even against those who love us most. Unto us, whose sinful natures drive us to live as though God does not matter and we matter most. Unto us—sinners—this Child is born.
So repent, and rejoice greatly for this holy night! But don’t forget to rejoice also for His holy death. For already at His birth, His cross, death, and burial are foreshadowed.
What Child Is This? The One who had a Mary at His birth and multiple Marys present at His death. What Child Is This? The One who had a righteous Joseph at His birth and a righteous Joseph, Joseph of Arimathea, at His death. What Child Is This? The One who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger at His birth and was wrapped in a shroud and laid in a tomb at His death. What Child Is This? The One whose birth was honored by magi bearing myrrh and whose death was honored by faithful women bearing myrrh to His tomb. What Child Is This? This Child is the great light that has shown on us who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on us who walk in darkness. What Child Is This? This is a real human child who has a real human body. His body suffered, was pierced for our transgression, bled, and died. But on the third day, His real human body came back to life again, the firstfruits of the resurrection of our human bodies too. So let’s do something that is normal at the birth of a child: let’s look at this child, closely, carefully, and consider who He is.
The prophet Isaiah said all authority would be upon those little shoulders. This Child used His authority to free you from hell and destruction. He has the lips of the Wonderful Counselor. He comforts your troubled conscience with the most wonderful counsel you could ever hear: “I forgive you all your sins.” He has the hands of the Mighty God. He set aside that might to have His hands nailed to a cross and extend mercy to you through His Holy Meal. He has the arms of the Everlasting Father, arms that spread out on a cross to draw you to Himself, to wrap His arms around you in Holy Baptism, and to welcome you home as prodigal sons and daughters. He has the royal head of the Prince of Peace. But His head was crowned with thorns in order to place on your heads crowns of glory.
What Child Is This? This is the Lord who has saved you. So, “Haste, haste to bring Him laud,” “Hail, hail the Word made flesh,” “Joy, joy, for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary.” Born for you. Blessed Christmas. In the name of Jesus. Amen.