Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Promise is for You!

[Here you'll find, first, the video of the 7:00 PM traditional candlelight worship service for Christmas Eve from the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. Below it is posted the message shared that night. Have a blessed Christmas!]

Three decades after the first Christmas, the day when Jesus was born, and weeks after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, on the first Christian Pentecost, Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, told a crowd: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…” (Acts 2:39) 

Peter was urging that the men and women, boys and girls, and babies who had just heard the Word about Jesus should repent–that is, turn from sin–and be baptized, trusting in Jesus to be righteous enough and sinless enough to cover their sins and make them fit to stand before God and live under His favor, in this world and eternally.

Every year, in many countries across the world, families and friends gather to celebrate Christmas, the feast of Jesus’ birth. They do so in churches and nursing homes, office parties and private homes, in Christmas movies and Christmas specials. 

But only a fraction of these events, even the ones occurring in churches, have anything to do with Christmas, the day when Almighty God the Son, the second person of the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, laid aside the glory that has been His for all eternity to also be a human being, one of us, in the Person we know as Jesus.

When people gather for Christmas dinners tomorrow, the subject they will most avoid–more than they'll avoid talking about politics or COVID-19, the causes of inflation or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez–is Jesus, the Christ, or the meaning of Christmas for both today and eternity.

But once again tonight, God’s Christmas Word comes to us in the first Christmas sermon ever preached, this one by an angel. And He tells us that the promise of Christmas is not just about some sweet-by-and-by-time-in-the-sky or about the soppy sentimentality of Hallmark movies. This “promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.” 

Right now. 


In fact, this is a message it’s urgent for us to hear and absorb at this very moment.

So, let’s listen to the sermon of the angel again tonight. 

The word angel, you know, comes to us from the Greek in which the authors of the New Testament composed their writings. The Greek word is aggelos and it means messenger

Angels, servants of God and humanity, are spiritual beings that God occasionally sends into the world in different guises, in order to bring messages to us. On the night of Jesus’ birth, God sent an angel to shepherds caring for their sheep in fields near Bethlehem.

The first thing the angel said in his sermon to the shepherds was this: “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 2:10) There’s a lot of swagger in our world today. People like to talk about the things they’re not afraid of. Christians do this too, confusing fatalism for faith. 

But do you know what we most fear? It isn’t illness or death or poverty. We are most afraid of God and God’s perfection! 

That’s why we don’t like to talk about God at Christmas or any other time.

When we actually come into the presence of God, we see the distance between God in His righteousness and us in our sin and selfish willfulness. We see that, no matter how good we may try to be or seem to be, we’re not worthy to be with God. We remember all the commands of God we break each day: holding other things, like our families, higher than we hold God; murdering others with our anger, intolerance, indifference, and grudges; committing adultery with our minds and words, if not our bodies; and on and on the sorry list goes.

This is why the angel’s words are important for you and me tonight. “Do not be afraid!” 

“I know your sins,” God is telling us through this angel. “But I love you anyway. I want you anyway.” 

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, God’s Word tells us. (Proverbs 9:10) But when God comes to us, as He does at Christmas, we needn’t and shouldn't run and hide!

The angel says next: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) The Good News of Christmas is that the baby Jesus, born this night in a cave and laid in a phantne, a stone feeding trough, will also one day be laid in a stone tomb, having paid the price for our sin on a cross. 

The Bible tells us that you and I are sinners from the moments of our conceptions (Psalm 51:5), deserving damnation and death. 

But when the sinless Savior Jesus dies on a cross for us, the price for our sin is eternally paid

As we trust in Him, He allows us to live free of the fear of God’s condemnation! 

This is what the angel means when he says that Jesus coming at Christmas “will cause great joy.” 

Joy is life lived in the awareness of God’s grace, God’s undeserved favor and forgiveness. When you know that because of Jesus, you are one with God, you have joy no matter the hard experiences of life! 

A pastor asked for prayers for his family and himself this past week. His wife of 51 years had just died. “We grieve,” he said, “but not as those without hope!” 

We have joy through faith in Jesus, knowing that we still live in His grace, whatever our situation!

Then the angel tells the shepherds and us: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Messiah, the word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or Christos, Christ, in the Greek of the New Testament, are words that mean God’s Anointed King

Jesus isn’t a king all about winning elections, wars, approval, or news cycles. The “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus will later say of Himself. (Matthew 20:28) This King rules through the love of God. It’s the same love that caused God to create humanity in His own image; that caused God to not give up on you or anybody else. 

This King has been born to you and for you

This King is your Savior, saving you from sin, death, and the devil. He saves all who trust in Him to live with Him today and tomorrow when you have your Christmas feast, as you visit loved ones and friends in nursing homes and hospitals, and every day of your life as you make decisions, fail, succeed, laugh, and cry. Jesus comes to be your Savior tonight and always, friends!

Finally, the angel says, “This will be a sign to you…” (Luke 2:12) God recognizes that the shepherds, accustomed to the false promises and harsh judgments of the world around them, may need more than the angel’s sermon to believe the Christmas message. 

So, through the angel, God gives a sign to confirm it. “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths [like the cloth in which the body of this baby, grown to be a man, will be wrapped after becoming the sacrificial Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world] and lying in a manger [like the stone tomb in which He will one day lie and from which He will rise for us].” (Luke 2:12)

What sign will God give you so that you can believe in this Christ child? 

Today, He gives you three major signs by which you can know and believe in Christ: Holy Baptism, by which we go through death and resurrection with Jesus, become God’s own, and the Holy Spirit calls us to faith in Jesus; Holy Communion, in which Jesus comes to us, body and blood, and assures us of the forgiveness of our sin; and God’s Word, in which God speaks to us as surely as the angel spoke to the shepherds on the first Christmas!

“The promise [of Christmas and of God in human flesh appearing] is for you and your children and for all who are far off…” 

This Christmas, don’t avoid Jesus Christ amid the celebrating. 

Receive Him. 

Give your sins to Him. 

Believe in Him. 

Tell others about Him.

Rejoice in Him, knowing that in Christ, you are loved deeply and eternally by God. 

Merry Christmas, friends!