Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sermon for 24 December 2010, The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve

Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 1:18-25
Throughout the Entire Year
24 December 2010, The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Throughout the entire year, the message of our congregation is all tied together. This message includes everything from sermons and services to Sunday School classes and Vacation Bible School. The message incorporates your individual and family devotions and Bible Study. The full picture includes group Bible Study for all ages on Sunday Mornings and also midweek.
Tonight gives you a beautifully sung and said part of the story of Christ, but only part of the story. Christmas paves the way for the rest of the true story of Jesus Christ:
And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.[1]
You may already know this very well. It is the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, the heart of the content of our Biblical Christian message. Without Christmas, the rest of the story doesn’t happen. The rest of the Church Year, we follow Jesus throughout His life and ministry. Paul Harvey told us about “The Rest of the Story.” That’s what is told here and in your homes throughout the entire year. Here’s how Dr. Martin Luther described it:
31 Let this, then, be the sum of this article: the little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points that follow in this article serve no other purpose than to explain and express this redemption. They explain how and by whom it was accomplished. They explain how much it cost Him and what He spent and risked so that He might win us and bring us under His dominion. It explains that He became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. Further, it explains that He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe [1 Corinthians 15:3–4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18–19]. And He did all this in order to become my Lord. He did none of these things for Himself, nor did He have any need for redemption. After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12–13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, and such [Matthew 25:31–46; 13:24–30, 47–50].
32 To explain all these individual points does not belong to brief sermons for children. That belongs to fuller sermons that extend throughout the entire year, especially at those times that are appointed for the purpose of treating each article at length—for Christ’s birth, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and so on.
33 Yes, the entire Gospel that we preach is based on this point, that we properly understand this article as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rests. It is so rich and complete that we can never learn it fully.[2] [End Quote, bold added.]
Nine Lessons, eleven hymns, and a brief sermon on Christmas Eve are a start. There is more tomorrow morning, Sunday, and each Sunday after that. Immanuel means “God with us.” Our Lord Christ is present with us this evening. And your pastor and congregation are here for you throughout the entire year.
Let me close this evening with a brief story. A large congregation in a major American city offered multiple services in different musical styles and instrumentation with different age groups in mind. Over the course of many years, this practice fractured the congregation. Several years ago, they found some renewed unity beginning on Christmas Eve. Trendy songs and an entertainment attitude disappeared. Personal preferences were surrendered to the age-old song of all Christians. Congregation members of all ages were gathered together to sing Christmas carols, songs, and hymns from around the world and from all through Christian history. With one voice, they were singing songs of praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They rejoiced with angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven with some of the same texts and tunes sung by saints of old.
I share this story because the unity that congregation found is one that we may take for granted here and at other congregations in our church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. And it isn’t just on Christmas Eve. Each Sunday and each set of Sunday Bible readings have unique songs and hymns that preach the same Christ for your forgiveness, life, and salvation….throughout the entire year. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23       “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. [3]

[1] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (357). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[2] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (402). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[3] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 1:18–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.