The recording above is a recording of the full service. The text of the four individual meditations is found below the "Read More" link below the PDF of the worship folder.
Homily One – There Is Room and Welcome There for Me
“There is room and welcome there for me.” This is the message of Christmas. As we ponder the mystery of the Nativity, as we look at that scene as it stands before us in ceramic and wood, we wonder if there really is room there for me. Am I good enough to gather there? I’ve heard the Genesis account – our first parents willing plunged all of creation into sin and death. I’ve heard St. Paul: “We were held captive under the Law.” This is a universal problem. No one is free from sin. We each know what we have done against God, against ourselves, against one another. The Law leaves us beaten and bloodied. No one escapes its condemnation.
So we wonder—is Christmas’s grace really for me? We look at such a wonderful scene, we hear the glory proclaimed in the hymns, and we wonder. We come in half-belief. We ask, just like those shepherds likely did on the first Christmas evening: “Can this really be for me? Is there room for someone like me at the manger of Christ the Lord, the Savior born this night?”
As condemning as the Law is, the Gospel is comforting as it tells the conditions this night has set in place:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
“I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.”
So, come in half belief, come wondering if this Child, Christ the Lord, will forgive you. When you come you will find that there is room and welcome there for you.
Homily Two – I Find Him as They Said
If you ask the shepherds, they found the Messiah. If you ask the residents of Bethlehem, it’s just another baby, but one born to a delusional, unwed teenage mother. If you look at what you see with your plain eyes, you see a child of poverty, of unfortunate circumstances. Your eyes see hay and straw so rough. You see the scorn and rejection of forcing a mother to give birth in the barn. Even if you don’t agree with what you think resulted in this birth, you don’t even have the decency to allow this poor woman the dignity of giving birth indoors?
But this is God, our God, our God of order. He does not deal in coincidences. He chose this. St. Paul writing to the Galatians, says that Christ was born in the “fullness of time.” All the circumstances surrounding that first Christmas were exactly what God wanted. God chose to send His Son into a barn. Jesus said yes to the Father’s will and gladly entered this world surrounded by manure and mice and animals. But it’s one of the most beautiful images of God’s love for you. It’s second only to the crucifix, that image of Our Lord succumbing to death so you do not have to. This is what God willingly did for you.
Your heart may be as unlikely a place to find Him as well. None of us are pure and holy. None of our hearts are a throne fit for the King of the Universe, the Lord of all creation. But God deigns to dwell with you, most lowly. He gladly comes to you to make His dwelling in your heart, to clean it and make it a place fit for Himself.
And He does that through Holy Baptism, through His Word, through the Supper. These are all unlikely places to find Almighty God, but He willingly and eagerly contains Himself in these means to come to you to save you. In each of these Means of Grace you will find Him, just as He has said. It’s a reminder of the Incarnation, of God entering into time and space to redeem His children. Here Christ comes for you, to be near you, to give you His love and salvation. So come to this place, and find Christ, just as they said.
Homily Three – How Should I Not Have Known Isaiah Would Be There
“How should I not have known Isaiah would be there, his prophecies fulfilled?” And what is it that Isaiah prophesied? “Comfort, yes comfort my people.” Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned. You have received from the Lord’s hand double for all your sins.
Isaiah and all the prophets foretold the Prince of Peace, the one who would come with healing in His wings. They pointed to the One who would usher in eternal peace, a peace which God’s people have not known since that brief time Adam and Eve lived in Eden. They lived in eager expectation of the One who would lay down His life as a ransom for many, the Sheep who would be silent before its shearers, the One who would destroy sin and death.
And their word has been fulfilled. The Messiah has come, as was foretold. Though none of them were at the manger that Christmas night two thousand years ago, each of the prophets’ words were heard. That remnant who believed, people like Simeon and Anna, Zechariah and Elizabeth treasured those words and were sustained by them. So as they heard of the birth of the Savior, they heard Isaiah speak again and rejoiced with him that the Christ had come as was foretold.
And because of the One who has come, Isaiah stands in heaven today. He celebrates Christmas there with the angels and the archangels. And one day you will celebrate Christmas in heaven with Isaiah and all your loved ones who have gone before you. The Lord will bring you to the bright courts of heaven and to the endless day.
Homily Four – To Die, to Live, and Not Alone for Me
This is why Christ has come—to die, to live, and not alone for me. Christmas is incomplete without the cross. Jesus didn’t come to be the cute baby. He came to be the crucified Lord. He is the Conqueror, the one who has broken the devil, sin, woe, and most importantly, death. He gave His life in place of ours. He stepped in the way of the devil’s hatred and the Father’s righteous punishment. And that’s what began tonight. As Christ was born of the Virgin Mary He took the first step to crushing the Serpent’s head.
Tonight Jesus speaks to you from His manger: You are free from the sins that grieve you. He is no mere baby. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the universe for you. So He bids you “Banish all your sadness! One and all, great and small, come with songs of gladness.” You shall live with Him forever there on high in that joy which will vanish never.
Tonight Christ was born to live, to die, and not alone for you, but for all.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.