Silent Night / Luke 2:1-21 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2020 / Christmas Eve / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted Giese / Thursday Dec 24th 2020: Season of Christmas / Luke 2:1–21 "Silent Night"
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 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.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Another Christmas Eve and yet a Christmas Eve which for many of us is unlike Christmas Eves that we have known in the past, an unexpected Christmas Eve and yet around 9 months ago we were first told this year would be different. So should we be so surprised? We had, of course, hoped and prayed that it would be behind us by this point - as some had even promised – but alas it is not so here we are.
Some in our World today look to science and a vaccine as their ‘Saviour,’ forgetting that our reason and understanding are also from God, trusting in what they believe to be their own personal ingenuity they desire to rely on guidelines and public and government polices to save them. And while all of these things, when they are done for the benefit of the people of the World will produce a fruit of temporal salvation for many people - a sort of salvation that will extend the life of your friends and loved ones in these days, in the here and the now – there is today a greater Salvation that is needed. One that you by the grace of God have and others still need. One that doesn’t just preserve life for today but grants eternal life, life that will transcend death and this World and that is the lasting and truly permanent Salvation that the LORD has given in His Son, Jesus the Christ.
If you only care for this world in the here and now, and nothing beyond it, you will fight tooth and nail to keep your life in the present as long as possible hoping to capture every material thing and experience that the World can offer. But remember what the Lord Jesus said when He was no longer a Baby and had grown into adulthood and began to speak and teach publicly, He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what He has done.”
You are here listening to this message because, while you may be very interested in living a long and healthy life today, you know that there is more to this World than the things we see and touch and feel; you know that we as Christians live in a balance between caring for our neighbour in the here and now and looking with hope towards our rest in the great hereafter, in Christ Jesus, with all the faithfully departed awaiting The Day of Christ Jesus’ Second Advent on The Last Day, and what comes after that.
News of the imminent fulfilment of the long promised birth of the Messiah, the Christ, came to Mary about 9 months before it happened and it changed her year. Pr. Albrecht talked about this last Sunday in his Sermon. With her world shaken and turned upside down Marry still likely expected to have the birth in Nazareth where she lived with whatever family and friends she had around her there and she would then make the trek with Joseph up to the Temple in Jerusalem for the baby boy’s circumcision and naming on the eighth day after His birth. This is what she expected. She likely didn’t expect that they would be in Bethlehem, huddled practically in the shadow of Jerusalem, for Jesus’ birth; and the Virgin Mary likewise wouldn’t have anticipated their humble accommodations.
Perhaps Joseph, when they knew they were going to be going to Bethlehem, thought that they would be able to stay with some family in Bethlehem, we don’t know, Scripture doesn’t tell us. What Scripture says is that Joseph was from the House and Lineage of King David who was also from Bethlehem (That’s why they were going there to be registered) but by then maybe everyone in his close family had moved from Bethlehem or maybe the family there was small and poor and could not host them, whatever the reason was for the mean estate of their accommodations in Bethlehem we don’t know but we do know what Scripture tells us: That when the hour had come for the Virgin Marry to give, “birth to her firstborn son [they] wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger [a feeding trough for animals], because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 ESV) Which means they likely didn’t have family and friends on hand, it was just the three of them Jesus, Mary and Joseph in what was basically a barn; maybe they had for company a goat, or a donkey, or a cow (The Christmas Cards and painters and hymn writers like to think of it that way, and so do we)
We perhaps don’t like to think of them as alone there that night. We don’t like to think of how Silent that Night was. Yes the silence was interrupted by the sudden visit of nearby shepherds who had had angles appear to them singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!,” shepherds who had angels say to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Scripture doesn’t say the shepherds stayed all night, or that they came back for Turkey on Christmas Day, or leftovers on Boxing Day; they may have left as quickly as they came, so more likely Mary and Joseph were very much alone with the baby Jesus most of the time in those days.
Everything about the coming of our Saviour required patience: This coming was long promised and while everyone waited countries rose and fell, families gained power and lost power, fortunes were won and spent down to the last dime, centuries passed, millennia passed before the Angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary with the news, and even then it was not instantaneous, then the time of waiting started all over again for the completion of the pregnancy and that in and of itself came with its own longing and expectation. Yet even when the Christ Child was born, then what: a silent night and a childhood that was for the most part relatively quiet. Yes the wise men, the magi from the east, eventually arrived a couple years later, and yes those visitors from the east tipped of Herod the Great to Jesus’ birth, and yes Jesus had to be whisked away to Egypt for safe keeping for a couple of years, but that safe keeping was indeed safe, because it was quiet and uneventful and when the dust had settled and it was safe to return the family made their way back to Nazareth in Galilee and it wasn’t until Jesus was thirty years old that things really started to happen. So for the better part of twenty eight years Joseph and the Virgin Mary needed to be patient. And it looks like Joseph didn’t live to see Jesus revealed to the public as the Saviour by John the Baptizer at the Jordan River. Joseph likely died before that time, he sort of just fades out of the account of Jesus’ life. And then once the Public Salvation Work of Christ was underway, about three years into it, to her dismay everything went sideways overnight and the Virgin Mary found herself standing at the foot of her son’s cross and watched Him die: And that all happened around thirty three years after that Christmas Eve: in the span of a life thirty three years in a long time, but not so with the LORD.
We like things to happen more quickly, and we in this moment need to be reminded of the silence of waiting, the patient act of enduring all that comes to us, trusting that we are in God’s Hand, and that just as Jesus was with Mary and Joseph that night as they sat alone huddled by the manger (perhaps surrounded by a couple animals) Jesus is also with us; Because Jesus was not born only to them. It is true that they were the ones who change his diapers and brought Him up through childhood into adulthood and you can thank them for that, but even still Jesus was not born only to them. He was born to us in the city of David, He was born to the whole world, and He was born to save us, but not only to save us, to be with us. So however this sermon finds you the day you receive it remember you are not alone. You have Jesus, you have Emmanuel and He has you, God with us and you with God. We remember Him this day as a baby that you could cradle up in your arms when in truth He has you cradled up in His. And no matter what the world throws your way you are in the safest arms, you are in the arms of God. This is true if things are moving along as expected and it is likewise true during the unexpected times, even today when what you thought was going to happen doesn’t and your World is turned upside down.
For today then: The LORD bless you and your family and friends in Christ Jesus and bless you also with a peaceful and quiet Christmas time. There will be time in the future for loud and crowded gatherings and when they come they will be all the sweeter, as I’m sure it was for Mary and Joseph when they were finally able to be with their family and friends once the Roman Government Census was completed past and behind them and the threat of danger from Herod the Great was lifted. You may feel like you have lost the whole world, or at least a lot of your whole world this year, and as hard as that is it’s ok because this life and the things we have in it are temporary, look now with eyes see, and with ears to hear, look toward what has been gained for you in Christ Jesus, in Him your soul has been saved and you have gained Eternal Life. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luther’s Small Catechism, The Creed: First Article and Explanation “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.”
 Matthew 16:26–27
 Luke 2:14
 Luke 2:10–12
Photo Credits: Baby Feet (Main Blog Post Photo) by Omar Lopez from Unsplash; Newborn Baby by Carlo Navarro from Unsplash; Close Up of Hay by Mitch Fox from Unsplash; Hands Holding Baby by Jill Sauve from Unsplash; Reminder of the Crucifixion at Christmas by Josue Rosales from Unsplash.