Christmas Eve 2018

Let us pray: Dear Lord, tonight as we begin our celebration of Your birth, separate the wheat of Divine truth from the chaff of human tradition.  Focus our hearts and minds, not on the gee-gaws of this season, but on the Divine meaning and significance behind it all.  Yes, Lord, fill our hearts with Your divine joy, just as You did for those shepherds of old.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 2: 8-20

Dearly Beloved By the Blessed Babe of Bethlehem:

Parish Pastors learn rather quickly that there is one thing people will rebel against in any church.  That is, changing a Christmas tradition.  Even good Lutherans will usually fight changing a tradition more than false doctrine.  But if you ask them why they engage in Christmas traditions and the reasons behind these sacred cows, most cannot give you an answer other than: “We’ve always done it that way.”  Society at large is even worse.

So, why do we have Christmas trees?  Why do we celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th?  Why do people so embrace candle light on this night?  Why do we engage in gift-giving?  All are traditions.  But few know the reasons behind these traditions.

Christmas was not celebrated in the very ancient church, Epiphany was.  Christmas didn’t become celebrated much until about 336 AD!  And then it was adopted by the church as a Christian holy day because the pagans were using that time to commemorate the solstice.  Our ancient forebears wanted to Christianize it, so they picked the 25th to mark Christ’s unknown birth date.

Christmas trees in the house came into vogue under Dr. Luther.   Remember that Messianic prophecy about a “shoot coming from the stump of Jesse’s tree”?  Christ is that shoot and on Christmas He began to grow into a vibrant tree of life who shelters all under the loving shade of His branches.

Candles are popular Christmas traditions.  To the pagan candlelight in the midst of the darkest season of the year gave them hope for Spring and Summer.  But to the Christian, candlelight reminds us of the shepherds in the fields under the stars and then the heavens opening up to reveal angelic choirs surrounded by the brightness of Divine glory.  So, all these Christmas traditions are ultimately sourced from Biblical truth.

But what about gift giving?  Why do most folks go into debt to exchange Christmas gifts?  Is it just because it’s a nice sentiment?  For some, yes.  But the Christian recalls the Wise Men and their tribute gifts given to the Baby Jesus. More importantly, they serve as a physical reminder of God’s gift to us, Divine Love and Divine forgiveness and eternal life, lying in a manger.

We live in an age where Christmas traditions have become more important to most than the Truth that they are meant to convey.  Quite frankly, that’s why most Americans are more involved in last minute holy day preparations tonight than are attending church.  They are literally “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”   But not you!  And not the shepherds!  And not Mary and Joseph!

How fitting it is to once again hear that angelic message: “Do not be afraid!  I bring you good tidings of great joy.  For today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you!  He is Christ, the Lord!”  How fitting it is to once more hear: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests!”

This isn’t merely human tradition.  This is the truth of Christmas.  This is the truth that stands behind everything.  The Light of the World has come to banish the darkness of evil and sin and death from our lives.  He comes to turn our hearts to joy!  For we didn’t ask God to send us a Savior, but He did!  The singular truth of Christmas is that God, Whom the heavens of heavens cannot contain, Who is infinite and beyond the confines of space; This God was contained and born and is found only in the confines of finite human flesh, a Baby, all to save your soul!

We Christians enjoy our seasonal traditions because God has given us the knowledge and insight into the Truth that undergirds them.  Yes, the whole fabric of time and the entire weightiness of human existence is held up and in place by a Baby!  It’s a paradox to our minds.  It defies human reason.  Yet, it is the truth that sets our souls free.  So tonight of all nights, embrace that Truth with joy, gladness, and thankfulness in your hearts!  Merry Christmas!  Amen