24 December 2007                                                         St. Athanasius Lutheran Church

Christmas Eve                                                                                  Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

“Tonight . . . is for You”

 

Tonight is a night of joy, for the angel proclaimed to us: Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.

For tonight is born the Saviour, to give joy to all who live in the sadness of sin.

 

Tonight is a night of light, for the prophet Isaiah announced to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For tonight is born the Lord God, the Creator of light, the give light to all who live in the darkness of sin.

 

Tonight is a night of peace, for the prophet Micah prophesied to us: He shall stand and shepherd His flock . . . and they shall dwell secure . . . and He shall be their peace.

For tonight is born the Prince of Peace, to give peace to all who live in the fear caused by sin.

 

Tonight is a night of love and forgiveness, for the Apostle John declared to us: In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [or the atonement] for our sins.

For tonight is born the Lamb of God, to give love and forgiveness to those who live in the isolation and guilt of sin.

 

Tonight is a night of grace, for St. Paul made known to us that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.

For tonight is born the Promise of God, to give grace and mercy to those who live in the brutality and heartlessness of sin.

 

And tonight is a night of life, for Luke told us the story of Mary’s newborn son, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.

For tonight is born the Son of God, to give life to all.  To all who are searching for life.  To all who fail at life.  To all for whom life is but a struggle and trial.  To all whose life seems simply to be a long march towards death.

 

And so tonight is for you.

For tonight is the night that Mary delivered her firstborn son, but it would soon be that Son who would deliver all of us.

To deliver us from eternal death.

To deliver us by His cross and resurrection.

To deliver us through the forgiveness of our sins.

To deliver us from a pointless and meaningless life, and give us a new life.

 

And so tonight, Mary was delivered, yes.  But tonight, you see, so were we.

For Jesus’ birth has made possible our new birth.

Our new birth from above, in Holy Baptism, to be sons and daughters of God.

To live in joy, not sadness;

in light, not darkness;  in peace, not fear;

in forgiveness, not sin;  in the mercy and grace of God our Saviour.

 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Yes, for you.

For you need Him.  Desperately.

For you have not lived that new life given to you, have you?

This year or any other year.

You have lived as if God did not matter, and as if you mattered most.

Your Lord’s name you have not honored as you should; your worship and prayers have faltered.

You have not let His love have its way with you, and so your love for others has failed.

There are those whom you have hurt, and those whom you failed to help.

Your thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.

(from Rite for Individual Confession and Absolution, Lutheran Service Book, p 292)

And you know all of this is true.

By our own thoughts, words, deeds, and desires,

we have deepened the darkness, made sadder the sadness,

made greater the selfishness, increased the fear,

and given in to the reign of death.

What pain we have caused.  What pain we have not helped.

Yes, it is true, isn’t it?

 

But to you is proclaimed this night: fear not!

Fear not, for while all this is most certainly true,

tonight, Jesus has come to undo what we have done.

To be all that we could not be.

To remove from us the sins that would weigh us all the way down to hell, and lift us all the way up to Heaven.

He has come to deliver us!

The Son of God come in our likeness, that we may be returned to His.

And that is truly the good tidings of great joy of which the angels sing this night.

 

The good tidings of great joy – which is, as the angel said, for all people.

Not just for some, but for all.

Which means it is for you.

No matter who you are, where you are from, or what you have done.

No matter how old or how young, how high or how low.

There is not one person our Lord does not want to deliver.

Not one person for whom He did not come and die.

And so you can be sure – that if He did it for all, He did it for you!

The Son of God born a son of man this night, is born for you.

Which means that no matter what you think of yourself, or what others think about you, you are worth an awfully lot to Him!

 

Yes, you are a treasure of priceless worth to Him.

And so for you He comes.

He comes in time, that we who are running out of time, might live outside of time and in eternity.

And so He comes.

To bear your sin and battle your demons.

To sanctify you and lift you out of the gutter of sin.

To stand between you and the devil, crush him, and embrace you.

To join you in the tomb, and then break out in victory.

And to give you all this in the forgiveness of your sins.

 

Tonight, He comes.  Your brother, your Saviour, your Lord.

The eternal plan of God, conceived by His eternal Spirit and love.

No greater gift could you receive this night.

No greater gift, as by His same eternal Spirit and love He conceives the gift of faith in you, to believe.

 

Therefore, like Mary, let us ponder all these things in our hearts.

Like the shepherds, let us wonder at this marvel that has been made known to us.

And like the angels, let us give glory to God, who has shown such great mercy to us.

 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.