“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Imagine for a moment the scene: two, lowly parents walking the streets of Bethlehem after a long trip from Nazareth. Every door knocked on, the response is the same – no vacancy, that is, until they found room in a barn. Nothing is ideal, but this is the way that it is to be. In the end, God is there, recognized by ox and donkey, praised by angelic choirs. The stars adjust themselves to look down upon the scene. It looks like heaven.
Don’t be fooled. Salvation is not in heaven. Salvation is on earth, where the Savior was born for us. Salvation is earned for us by a baby being born, a baby who would go to the cross for our sins: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
What a joyous announcement from the angel! A Savior is born…to me and to you! The angels break out in a joyous chorus: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” But the Savior is not born to the angels and the archangels in heaven. He doesn’t come to save the angels, but He comes to save you. He comes to the shepherds in the fields and the priests of old; He comes to the doctor, lawyer, police officer and trash collector. He comes to mankind in order to redeem mankind. The angels are secure in their holy bliss – we are not. And so He comes for the good and the bad, for the faithful and the unfaithful, for the person who recognizes their sin and for the one who doesn’t. He is born unto all. He is born unto you.
This is news that should be shouted from the rooftops, and yet it is pushed to the back burner in favor of parties, cards, eggnog and gifts. The importance of our Savior’s birth becomes nothing more than an afterthought at best. But Jesus’ birth is anything but an afterthought. God saw fit to send forth a Savior to our world. This Savior is not for when we want Him but when we need Him.
Right now is when we need Him most. In a time where sin runs rampant and unchecked, in a time when sin is viewed as “bad choices” and nothing more than that. The Savior is born to give you life, to satisfy your soul and forgive you all of your sins. He is put into a manger, not only because He is rejected by men and there is no room for Him in Bethlehem’s inns, but also because He gives Himself to you, as food on earth.
This is the great message the angels sing about. This is the cause of the shepherd’s arrival. They see a Baby lying in a manger. But more than a baby, this is their salvation. This is your salvation.
As miraculous as this event is, we want to know more. We want to know how exactly was this accomplished. We want the inside scoop from Mary about her angelic visit with Gabriel. We want to know what it was like when the shepherds arrived. None of that matters. We don’t need to know how God did what He did. All we need to know is that God did it – not for Himself but for you.
That is the meaning behind this night, that God would be born among us in order to die for us. Luther, in one of his sermons for Christmas, writes the following: “This Gospel is so clear that it requires very little explanation, but it should be well considered and taken deeply to heart; and no one will receive more benefit from it than those who, with a calm, quiet heart, banish everything else from their mind, and diligently look into it.” Just what does Luther mean? Everyone has heard the Christmas Gospel time and time again, and yet it is hard for us to accept this for what it is. It is simply the promise of salvation fulfilled for mankind.
This is the reassurance of the Gospel, that no one has to wonder, “Was He born for me? Did He die for me?” The answer is always yes. For all, He came. For all, He died. On some, God’s chosen elect, He will create faith through His Word. These will receive the gracious gift. They will enjoy eternity, not because of anything they have done, but because God’s favor rests upon them. Again, Luther writes, “He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born, neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you glad tidings of great joy. Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all people.”
This is His will, His promise, and His grace. He is God. His is man. He is born unto you and He is your Savior. He will take up flesh, to be God and man at the same time, without compromising either. You receive a reward that you did not earn.
The manner of His birth was in keeping with His mission: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There would be no posh palace on earth for this King. His reign on earth would be marked by humility and Luke sets that up for us from the beginning, by focusing on where the Christ Child was born.
This is the Christmas story which Luke tells us. This is the story which we have heard year after year. This is the story which we have seen time and time again in a Charlie Brown Christmas. The Baby is Christ, the Lord, says the angel. He is the Messiah, the anointed One. He’s the One that God has promised through the ages, the One for whom His people have waited through centuries of darkness and suffering. God the Father has specifically appointed His Son to go about this work, and He will accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. No matter what appearances indicate, no matter how the manger and cross look, this Christ will not fail in what He has come to do.
There is indeed great joy that the angel speaks of to the shepherds. This is the comfort and exceeding goodness of God that, if a man believes this, receives the peace that the angel declares, a peace among those with whom God is pleased. In this case, that is us. We, the chosen ones, have God’s peace. This is a peace beyond understanding, a peace that is always with you. It is the peace that Christ purchased for you, the peace of knowing that your Brother is God’s own Son, and therefore all will be well with you. Christ takes care of His family, so He will take care of you. He has already purchased forgiveness and eternal life for you. He will not forget about you or let you slip through the cracks. You are His own.
For you, God has seen fit to deliver you the greatest Christmas present one could ever ask for – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the nations, come to the world as God has promised, to go from the manger to the cross. The promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament is now fulfilled. The Word was made flesh in the form of an infant, and that Word made flesh died so that the gates of heaven would be opened for us sinners. Here is Jesus, our Savior, the Anointed One and our Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.