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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Christmas Eve, Dec 24, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and Peace to you from God our heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN.

The text for our meditation this evening is the Gospel Lesson for tonight from Luke 2. There we read these words: For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN. You may be seated.

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why: Somebody is coming to town. He's making a list, and checking it twice. He's going to find out who's naughty and nice. Somebody is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good; so be good for goodness' sake. Somebody is coming to town.

Yes, you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why: Somebody is coming to town.

And we're not going to talk about him tonight, because Someone better has come to town: Namely, He's come to the little town of Bethlehem.

Consider for a moment the words to the Christmas tune I just recited. Is this a nice guy-one to put your trust in? He's an all-knowing sort of individual who knows you while you sleep and while you're awake. He makes a careful list of who's been naughty and nice, and that's what his favor is based on.

"Nice" means presents. "Naughty" means coal, and there's no middle ground; you're one or the other. Not only that, he's a touchy sort of judged: If you just cry or pout, it's enough to knock you out of the "nice" category. No talk about mercy or pardon or forgiveness in that song: Be good for goodness' sake - or suffer the consequences.

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why: Somebody is coming to town.

But dear friends, you better face the facts: You do cry, and you do pout. In fact, there's nothing quite like the hectic holiday season to bring out the crying, pouting, impatience and annoying characteristics in all of us. The season of peace becomes the festival of stress. If Christmas is all about one who grades you on your good behavior -well, let's just say that we'll all be able to keep our coal-fired appliances running well into the new year.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

So we're here tonight to hear of a better One who comes. The angel announces His coming to the shepherds like this: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger" (Lk. 2:10-12).

Note what the angel doesn't say: He doesn't say, "Unto you is born one who will examine your lives and see if you're nice enough for God to like you." He doesn't say, "Unto you is born another judge to point out your faults." He doesn't even say, "Unto you is born a good role model; and if you follow His example, then you'll be nice, not naughty."

He says, "There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." You see, you don't need another judge or another role model in the manger.

Centuries before, God gave the Ten Commandments to tell you right and wrong, what you should do and what you should not do; and for all those centuries, man proved beyond a doubt that he couldn't keep the Ten Commandments. You and me, we are cut from the same cloth-made out of the same sinful flesh; we don't-we can't-obey God as we ought; and one more role model isn't going to make us any better.

You don't need a role model in that manger at Bethlehem. You need a Savior; and that's who was born in Bethlehem.

Be very clear here: A Savior who forgives sins is not the same as a corrupt judge who dismisses sins. That Baby in the manger took sin very seriously. He didn't declare, "Since I'm born, you can do whatever you please, because sin doesn't matter anymore."

He was born in Bethlehem with a specific destination in mind. Don’t we sing in one of our Lenten hymns, ....nails and spear will pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.

That baby born there in Bethlehem was and is the Son of God become human flesh, and He came to take His Father's beating for your sins.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

That baby is so often falsely accused of being an unmerciful judge who came to condemn you, but nothing could be further from the truth. He came to save you from condemnation, to intervene and redeem you before the Judgment comes.

True, the Bible declares that He will sit on the throne as the Judge on the Last Day; but this Judge has already sentenced Himself to death in your place, paid that price, and risen again to deliver you. There is no other judge more merciful than that. That is why we rejoice to confess our sins and trust in His forgiveness, for He has redeemed us from our sin. And that is why it makes no sense to deny Him and His forgiveness-for why would anyone suffer such severe punishment when the sentence has already been carried out?

He's the One we sing about tonight. What we do here tonight is a worship service not just a prayer meeting or a carol sing. Through the Scripture readings and songs we have sung, we once again have proclaimed the Word of God, the One who came to the town of Bethlehem and who continues to come to you now in Word and Sacrament.

Oh yeah, that jolly man in the red suit looks friendly enough, but don't be fooled; he's all about judging you based on your behavior, and there's not a lick of forgiveness in those twinkling eyes.

But the One who was laidin the manger-the Son of God made flesh, He will always look at you for exactly who you are andwill always declare to you the greatest gift of all: "Heaven is yours, because I forgive you."

Dear friends, remember, no matter what season of year it is, you can still rejoice, still lift your voices and sing, Christ Is Risen.

I would like to invite the choir up here to tell you that "Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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