"God's Gift For Sinners!" Luke 2:1-20

December 25, 2022
Rev. Nathan J. Rusert

December 25th, the day that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judea. God gifts us "Great Joy!" Sermon text: Luke 2:1-20. Sermon Theme: "God's Gift For Sinners!" Preached for Christmas Day, 25-Dec-2022, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Tell City, IN by Rev. Nathan J. Rusert

Episode Notes

Christmas Dawn, The Nativity of Our Lord           25-December-2022
Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-20
Sermon Theme: “God’s Gift To Sinners!”

I.N.R.I. 2Co 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. How much did you spend on Christmas? According to statistical reports in 2018 we spent $147B online, $505B in retail stores. 1 in 5 Americans go into debt at Christmas time. 19% people don’t like the gift they receive. Many “ugly Christmas sweaters” were once carefully chosen and given with love. While we run to find a bargain -70% of us think that Christmas is too focused on money. Our becoming poor trying to “buy” the perfect Christmas is robbing us of the Gift of Christmas. Sadly even some Christian Churches buying into a Hallmark movie mentality have shuttered their doors today. They claim that Christmas is a family day. A day to stay home in matching pajamas, open gifts, and sip hot coco. They have sold out the gift of Christmas pursing a fleeting feeling worshiping a false idol. Jesus preaches, “Mat 10:37-39 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (38) And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (39) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
        Today, December 25 is the birthday of Christ Jesus of the Virgin Mary in lowly stable in Bethlehem. 150 years prior to any pagan Romans trying to steal away December 25th to invent a new festival, Theophilus (115–181), bishop of Caesarea, said: “We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on whatsoever day the twenty-fifth of December shall happen.” St. Telesphorus, bishop of Rome from 126–137, established the custom of the Midnight Mass — the celebration of the Divine Service in honor of the birth of Christ at midnight on December 25. St. Hippolytus (170–240), another prominent member of the Roman church, calculated the birth of Christ to December 25. St. Luke’s gospel records eyewitness historical data - to quote from a LW article: “Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, was a priest “of the division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5). In 1 Chronicles 24, we read that David organized the divisions of priests and assigned times for their service. Each division would have served twice a year in the temple for about a week at a time. The division of Abijah was assigned the 8th and 32nd rotations. This would put Zechariah’s group on duty around the Day of Atonement (Sept. 22–30). During this week, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, and when he returned home from the temple, John the Baptist was conceived (Luke 1:24). That would put John’s birth in late June — and from time immemorial, the church has celebrated John’s birth on June 24.
    But St. Luke’s chronology doesn’t stop there. Six months after Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple, Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth (Luke 1:26). Six months after late September would be late March. March 25 has always been the date celebrating Christ’s conception in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary. (We’ll come back to that date in a bit.) Nine months from March 25 brings you to late December … December 25. “ Don’t surrender the Truth of the Gift to the lies of those who deny that God created this world and entered human history in time to redeem it. Don’t throw out the Gift trusting in your own reason and strength. Rather humbly kneel with shepherds are rejoice this morning in God’s Gift to Sinners”
      St. Luke the historian records (vs.1-2) The greatest Roman emperor must bow to serve the infant Jesus. Again we are dealing with actual history that is attested to in Roman records. Almost 4 centuries earlier the Lord promised through the prophet Haggai - Hag 2:6-7 "For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; (7) and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.” The nations are shaken as Augustus orders a census to tax his subjects. The heavens are shaken as angels sing to shepherds - the Gift - “the Desire of All Nations” - Jesus - is born - FOR YOU!
      History continues (vs3-7) Study history - it is the record of our Creator’s work to reclaim lost mankind. It isn’t a blind meaningless listing of dates. Those who try to rob you of history work to enslave you. Study history by reading, researching, thinking, weighing out the sources, and above all see how the Lord often uses faithful men and women to accomplish His saving purposes. Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and His building of His Church has brought blessing upon blessing to our world. Without the Gift of Jesus and Christianity we wouldn’t have modern science, medicine, schools, hospitals, libraries, great works of music, art, and governmental systems of the people.
        Joseph, a humble carpenter, becomes the guardian of The God’s Gift - of Jesus in utero. By the heroic act of obedience. The command is given by Rome and he obeys. Traveling eighty miles from Nazareth in the north to Bethlehem, near Jerusalem, in the south. We don’t know if he even had a donkey for his pregnant wife to ride. To walk that distance would’ve been a good three day journey. Sleeping on the ground, protecting his wife and her Baby from wild beasts and robbers. He obeys for Joseph is of the house of David. His great ancestor King David obeyed King Saul and would not lift a finger to harm the one whom the Lord God placed into authority over his nation. Learn from Joseph to receive God’s Christmas Gift with heroic obedience - trusting that you are where He has placed you to accomplish His purpose of saving sinners, even you, through Christ Jesus.
      Joseph receives God’s Gift - Jesus - through loving care for his wife Mary. He finds a safe place for her to give birth - a stable - a cave - under the escarpment that Bethlehem was built on. Here he humbles himself to serve as a nurse maid - as Mary goes into labor - and gives birth to her firstborn Son. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep Him warm, then laid in the stone feeding trough - a manger. The world has no room for its King, but He comes, in poverty to make us sinners rich. He gives it all up - FOR YOU!
      While men sleep in darkness - the Light of the World is born. Heaven’s holy angels cannot keep quiet while men sleep - the message of Christmas must be preached! (Vs.8-12) The little town of Bethlehem has been blessed with the birth of the Everlasting Ruler - just as the prophet Micah had foretold six centuries earlier. The Good Shepherd has come to bring peace to straying sheep - it will cost Him His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death on the cross. He will pay it all - FOR YOU!
        Never tire of hearing the heaven sent preachers sermon - (vs.10-12) Listen - stop living in fear! Listen - it is good news FOR YOU - you living in darkness of sin, darkness of grief, darkness of shattered hopes - he preaches to you - sinner - who have lost all hope and cannot free ourselves from our sins. He preaches “good news of Great Joy!” This is Jesus’ name - “GREAT JOY!” He sends His preachers that we might know “Great Joy - Jesus - our God and our Lord!” Sacrificed for our sins and risen to declare us forgiven, the Father’s beloved children, made alive by His Holy Spirit. “Great Joy” washes us new -regenerates and renews us as God Holy Spirit richly and daily applies the fruit of the Cross - forgiveness of sins, real life, and eternal salvation!
      Learn from the shepherds sitting in darkness - receive the gift by listening! Listen to the messengers Great Joy sends you from heaven to preach “good news” to you every Sunday. Listen! “For You” God’s only begotten Son enters human history as a tiny infant - your Brother - He comes not to show you how to live a perfect life - He is “Your Savior!” He comes working forgiveness of sins FOR YOU! He comes rescuing you from death and the devil. He comes bringing eternal salvation -FOR YOU!   This news is “For all people!” It is FOR YOU - for you are part of “all people!” He is Christ - the Messiah - King, Prophet, Priest who comes to save YOU - by His rule, His Word, His sacrifice!

    He is found in simple means (vs.12) The shepherds would find Him in the grotto stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in the stone feeding trough manger. We find Him where He promises to be - wrapped in the swaddling clothes of water, Word, bread, and wine in the grotto of His Holy Christian Church - He is really present everywhere two or three gather around His Word preached and found wrapped up in His sacraments given according to His command.
      Now all heaven breaks loose in hymnody!(vs13-14) Learn from the angel choirs to receive the Gift of Christmas with songs of praise. Praise songs don’t focus on your personal feelings, experiences, or commitments - true praise sings giving all glory to God on high - He in spite of our stubborn sinful rebellion - brings us peace through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son! His will is always good and gracious - keeping us in His Word and Faith until we die! True praise songs speak little of self and all of my Savior! Open your hymnals and sing! The holy angels would look the silent in the pew as ignorant unbelievers. The Christian Church sings forth Christ’s praise - from cradle to grave - into eternity. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Receive God’s Gift for sinners with a song!    
        The shepherds cannot be kept from opening the Gift! (Vs.15-18) Immediately they leave their flocks to find the Lamb of God - He has come to take away the sin of the world! They find baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and repeat to them the sermon and song of the angels. They can’t keep the gift to themselves - the must tell others. That’s what we desire with the gifts we give - we don’t want them put on a shelf to be forgotten, never used, or re-gifted. We rejoice to see the gifts we give used, bragged about, and shared in life - not to become an “ugly sweater.” Learn from the shepherds to open God’s Gift to Sinners - every day! Find Him wrapped in the swaddling water of your baptism - wash away your old sinful self - drown him - kill him by contrition - then rise to be clothed with Christ’s perfect life and love. Freed from sin by God’s grace through faith in Jesus YOUR SAVIOR. Freed from the prison of self serving your neighbor in love. Tell everyone the good news - just like the shepherds!
            Receive the Gift! (Vs.19-20) Be like Mary - be pregnant with God’s Word - treasure the Holy Scriptures up in your heart! Ponder them! They are all about God gifting real sinners a real Savior - Jesus in real history. A real Savior who gifts you His life in real baptismal water, real words of forgiveness, real words breathing forth the Holy Spirit, really placing His living flesh and blood upon your lips in bread and wine. Follow the shepherds back to your daily vocation glorifying and praising God for His Gift. Heard in His Word. Seen in His Sacraments.
            How much did Christmas cost? It cost Jesus everything - in love He paid it all for you! Be rich in Him! Amen.

Content Copyright Belongs to Emmanuel Lutheran Church