Blog / Book of the Month / "The Little Christmas" Sermon / Isaiah 60:1–6 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 6th 2019: Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"The Little Christmas" Sermon / Isaiah 60:1–6 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 6th 2019: Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Posted in Epiphany / 2019 / ^Isaiah / Audio Sermons / Sermons / Pastor Ted Giese

"The Little Christmas" Sermon / Isaiah 60:1–6 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 6th 2019: Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 6th 2019: Epiphany Day / Isaiah 60:1–6 "The Little Christmas"

          Arise, shine, for your light has come,

                   and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

          For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

                   and thick darkness the peoples;

          but the LORD will arise upon you,

                   and His glory will be seen upon you.

          And nations shall come to your light,

                   and kings to the brightness of your rising.


          Lift up your eyes all around, and see;

                   they all gather together, they come to you;

          your sons shall come from afar,

                   and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.

          Then you shall see and be radiant;

                   your heart shall thrill and exult,

          because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,

                   the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

          A multitude of camels shall cover you,

                   the young camels of Midian and Ephah;

                   all those from Sheba shall come.

          They shall bring gold and frankincense,

                   and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

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. The 12 days of Christmas are ended. Each year they go from December 25th until January 5th. And just as some people put up their Christmas tree in Advent before Christmas starts there are others who will leave theirs up into Epiphany before they take theirs down. It seems that Christmas, and the celebration of it, has a desire to spread outside its 12 days, to be a cup that runneth over, a tree with branches reaching out further to cover more than is expected.

Did you notice that in last week’s Gospel when Marry and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem from Bethlehem that they brought with them two turtledoves as part of the sacrifice of purification, circumcision and naming?[1] In the 12 day of Christmas song the 2nd day is two turtledoves, a reminder of that sacrifice and also a picture that points to the gift of the Old and New Testaments; but the gift on the first day of Christmas is a Partridge in a pear tree. The partridge in a pear tree represent Jesus — the partridge because it’s a bird that will sacrifice its life to save its children. Scripture too paints a picture of Jesus and His tree, the Cross of Good Friday, from His Holy Tree come the fruits of forgiveness and “the fruit of the Spirit [which are] love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” about which St. Paul says, “against such things there is no law.”[2]

The coming of the Christ Child means that the events that will lead to Jesus’ death and resurrection have finally kicked into full gear, like a tree that has been through the winter months the branches are now budding and the leaves are coming. This is why Isaiah writes in our Old Testament reading saying, “Arise, shine, for your Light has come!” Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, as a gift, and not just a gift for Israel, he says to the long expectant Israel when this thing happens the “nations shall come to your Light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah tells them to “Lift up [their] eyes all around, and see!” But see what?

         “the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

                    A multitude of camels shall cover you,

                   the young camels of Midian and Ephah;

                   all those from Sheba shall come.

          They shall bring gold and frankincense,

                   and shall bring good news.”

In our Gospel reading from Matthew today, the Magi come with good news, the birth of the true king, the Messiah, but King Herod doesn’t find their news “good,” the Magi visit Jesus bringing Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh in a house, not in a manger. In the Gospel of Luke, the arrival of Jesus in the manger is met with angels and shepherds, but no wise men. These events happened around couple years apart from each other and not on the same night; today and for many long years they have served as book ends to our celebration of Christmas. For the West we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with angels and shepherds at the beginning of the 12 Days and then there is the little Christmas, that’s today, the Christmas of the East with Wise Men and gifts, sometimes in our part of the world you’ll have heard of it as Ukrainian Christmas, but it is also called the Christmas of Gentiles, the Gentile Christmas, that is Christmas for the none Jews, Christmas for the whole world: The World that God so loved;[3]  The gift of Christ Jesus.

Isaiah points to this gift being for the nations and so does the prophet Ezekiel when he proclaims from God saying, “Thus says the Lord GOD: “I Myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I Myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”[4] The baby Jesus is the tender one, His cross is finally planted on mountain height of Israel in Jesus’ crucifixion, and the birds of every sort, the nations, will dwell and will nest in the breaches, under the outstretched arms of Jesus.

Repeatedly and in various ways God spoke of this gift of Messiah, this gift of Jesus for the nations all through the Old Testament. In Isaiah 49 we read how Israel was to be “as a Light for the nations [so] that [the] salvation [of God, His Christ, this Jesus] may reach to the end of the earth.”[5] Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew says to all those who follow Him, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Why is it that we put lights on our Christmas tree … is it only because lights are pretty? Or is it because in Christ Jesus our “light has come.” Some at the top of the Christmas tree put the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Wise Men to Jesus; others put the Angel that heralded His birth to the Shepherds; still others put the Christ Child Himself at the top of the tree.

St. Paul talks about the gift of Christ being for the gentiles, the none Jews, using the image of a tree to teach truth that this reconciliation is for the whole world when in his letter to the Roman Christians Paul writes, “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles … If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”[6]

Our Christmas trees are spruce or pine or fir trees not olive trees but you get the picture. The Tree of faith that we have been grafted into by the kindness of our heavenly Father and the work of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ Jesus is for everyone, and even if someone has been knocked off the tree in their unbelief they too may be one for who an old leaf is turned over again and they may likewise be grafted back into the branch from which they had fallen off. This is what grace is like. God’s love in Christ Jesus is for all people, for all time, for the nations, for those who may at this moment be an enemy of God, as Paul says in Romans, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by [Jesus’] life.”[7] The World looks at the cross of Christ Jesus, the World Looks at the image of His crucifixion and sees only death and the curse of the law,[8] but Jesus has taken the cursed tree of death and with His blood has drained it of the wrath and poison and made it a blessing to the nations, to all people, therefore the Christian is invited to look upon it and see Life. You are grafted into a living tree, a Christmas tree which will never lose its needles, an Olive Tree that will bear fruit forever and ever without fail.   

Now even a plastic Christmas tree will eventually wear out, but not the Tree of Life that you have been grafted into, not Christ Jesus and His Tree, that Tree will never wear out it is evergreen and eternal, the gifts that are found there don’t grow old as the gifts we share with each other do.

Yet again, with all authority, on the day of His Ascension the resurrected, living, Christ Jesus gave the command one more time to His Jewish disciples, and by extension to those who would follow them in the faith, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[9] Our Partridge in the Christmas pear tree, who sacrificed Himself for us all, calls us to invite every bird to dwell and to nest in the breaches of the Christian Church, and this same Christ Jesus has forgiveness for you for every time you fail to make the invitation and think ‘well that bird has their own religion: they are Muslim, they are Hindu, they are a staunch Atheists, they are a Jew.’ Fear not when Jesus says “make disciples of all nations” He means it, when God the Father and Holy Spirit through the rest of Scripture say that this Salvation is for all people, that is exactly what God means.      

“Arise, shine, for your Light has come,

                   and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

… “nations shall come to your Light,” Jesus Christ the Lord.            

So Have yourself a Merry little Christmas, the Christmas of the Gentiles, a Charismas for everyone. 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.

[1] Luke 2:24
[2] Galatians 5:22–23
[3] John 3:16
[4] Ezekiel 17:22–24
[5] Isaiah 49:6
[6] Romans 11:13a, 16–24
[7] Romans 5:8, 10
[8] Galatians 3:13–14
[9] Matthew 28:19–20