Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for coming on this night so many years ago! Thank You for taking on our flesh and blood and shouldering the burden of our sin and our mortality. Thank You meeting us in a manger in love and humbleness. Thank You for reaching out Your hand to us filled with mercy and forgiveness. And thank You for sending us angels to announce Your birth so that there would be no doubt as to Your majesty and goodness. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE CHRISTMAS KING!
TEXT: Luke 2: 9-14: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”
Fellow Redeemed In the Blessed Babe of Bethlehem:
Every year I write and receive Christmas letters from relatives and friends. We always get a kick out of those letters, too. That’s because most of them contain a lot of “spin.” They recount the past year and the family exploits in glowing terms. They make it appear as if everyone is always happy, every child is always golden, and their lives are to be envied. You know the type. You literally have to “de-code” them to discover the truth. And then you promptly forget their contents.
For the past few years I have injected humor into my Christmas epistle. (Yes, Pastor’s can and do have a sense of humor—usually!) This year Debra Ann and I talked over what we should include in our letter. I must confess we led a boring life. So, I began by talking about what we didn’t do in 2006 and wish we had. I’ve already received word from one person that they had a good laugh over it! So, I guess it was memorable after all!
Tonight’s text is memorable for another reason. That’s because it contains a timeless story about how God Almighty saves human beings. Everything in it is true. We don’t have to “read-between-the-lines” in order to decipher it. And yet, its glorious message is worth discussing again, again, and again because it is so glorious. So permit me to lay before you:
GOD’S CERTIFIED CHRISTMAS LETTER TO ALL HUMANITY
When I receive notice in my mailbox of a certified letter, I know that something is up. It means it’s important. It means the sender really wants me to receive it. On that first Christmas Eve in the Bethlehem hills, God literally sent a certified letter to all humanity. And to make sure we received it He sent it by heavenly post—through angels.
Angels are spirit-beings, created by God to honor and serve Him. A vital part of that service is their work of watching over us mortals and protecting us. That’s where the term “guardian angel” comes from. Additionally, they happily praise God and honor Him in heaven for His goodness and love—love now extended to lost humans in the form of the Christ-Child. And since all angels reflect God’s essence and are confirmed in His goodness, in the Bible they are all referred to as male. I’ve always liked that. I find it comforting to know that I have a spiritual warrior in my corner who’s not wimpy like modern art conveys them to be today. And by the way, if anyone ever finds a carved male angel to serve as a Christmas tree ornament, let me know. I’ll buy it! I’ve even searched on E-Bay and there’s none out there….
Angels are divided into ranks in heaven. You have regular angels, archangels, seraphims and cerubims. One archangel, Gabriel by name (which means: God is mighty) served as God’s voice to both Mary and Joseph. We don’t know whether or not he also was the one who appeared to the shepherds, but it seems likely. And God sent him because He wanted those humble men to know without any doubt the wonderful contents of His Christmas Letter to the human race. For you see, the heavenly angels never make mistakes.
When Gabriel appeared to the shepherds he reflected the unveiled glory of God. They were dazzled by his brilliance on that dark night. They were awed by his purity. And they were terrified—because his glory was in direct opposition to their own sin and mortality. And the first thing he said was: “Do not be afraid.” Those are words of love and kindness. Yes, such is the message of Christmas. And then comes the most important part of God’s Christmas letter: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.”
God’s Christmas letter isn’t for a select few. It isn’t just for His “friends.” That’s because He had no human friends. By nature all people, all of us, were enemies of God. We were born into a condition of rebellion against the Creator inherited along with our pride from Adam and Eve. The chasm that existed between God and man is seen by the terror these men felt in the presence of an angel. And yet, God’s love for us overcame that chasm. He bridged it by sending us a Savior in the form of His Son—“wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” –No fear there….
Yes, God sent His Christmas epistle to all people because Christ came to save all people. That’s the depth of Godly love. And yet, the key words from those angelic lips were: “a Savior has been born to you.” “To you” is personal. It strikes the heart. There can be no mistake as to God’s intent. “To you” also elicits faith. As we think about the masses who hear the Christmas story and reject it as fanciful, or who walk away with a yawn—“been there, heard that” our hearts are saddened. For by throwing away God’s Christmas letter they are really throwing away His gift of eternal life. They are spitting on Jesus. Ah, but not you! For by God’s grace you have taken God at His word. Yes, “to you” means “to you!”
Then to reinforce, to certify, the profundity of what Gabriel said, an entire army of angels appeared in the sky and sang out the real meaning of Christmas. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
That’s what tonight is about—God’s glory and His gift of eternal peace to those who long for it in humble faith. So, as much as part of us wishes we could have been there that night and seen and heard this message with our own eyes and ears, in the end it really doesn’t matter. That’s because we possess God’s certified letter to all humanity! That Christ Child is ours! Yes, that angelic message still resounds here this very night! Amen