The Mystery in the Manger

Christmas Eve – December 24, 2018  — Deacon Rex Watt

Luke 2:8-20

 

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The contrast is striking.  While every year the Christmas retail season starts earlier and earlier and the hype gets more and more intense, the first Christmas was not an intense affair at all.  If anything, it seems to be quite calm and quiet in comparison to today’s festivities.

Now in our culture, you cannot blame people for trying to make a buck.  Ethel Merman, the famous actress/singer of a generation ago, belted out her signature song, “There’s no business like show business,” and she was right.  Show business is fine in its place.  But show business has no business in God’s business.  Christmas has its entertainment side and its retail side, but we have not come here tonight to be entertained.  We are here on God’s business.  And God’s business is to call a halt to all the busy-ness of our hectic lives and this hectic season so that we might discover anew the good news of great joy that was proclaimed so long ago to shepherds on Bethlehem’s plain: “Today… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

As Mary looked down at the tiny baby wrapped is swaddling cloths Scripture tells us that she, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  What were all those things?  It wasn’t the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, for those didn’t come until later.  It was the words spoken by the angel to the shepherds, who in turn had told them to Mary and Joseph.

Could it really be that the Lord, the God of hosts, who feeds all creation, who opens up His hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing, could come as a helpless infant boy?  “Good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Lk 2:10), the angel had announced.  This was no pipe dream.  These words were from the very mouth of God.  Her firstborn son was none other than the long awaited for Messiah, the promised Redeemer, God in human flesh and bone.  No wonder Mary kept all these words and pondered them in her heart.

You and I can do no less on this holy night.  For when all is said and done, there is nothing else to say or do that could add the smallest luster to this day.  This is the Mystery in the Manger: God in diapers, here among us.  God in a crib – who some 30 years later will be God on a cross, made to be sin for us that He might remove forever the curse of sin and the sting of death.

This little baby, so cute and innocent, so meek and so mild, came for one purpose, and one purpose only.  He came for you, and he came for me.  Those cute little feet, with those tiny little toes (you know, the kind that we take ink prints of and put up on our nursery walls or on infant

t-shirts), would soon walk the dusty paths of this earth, be anointed with tears, and be pierced with nails for you, and for me.  Those cute little hands, with those cute little fingers, would soon be fashioning furniture, healing the blind and the lame, feeding the multitudes, and be stretched out and nailed to a cross for us.  Those swaddling cloths will be exchanged for a tunic that will be stripped away from his body, which will then be beat, spit upon, flogged, and crucified for you, and for me.  That cute little head will have a crown of thorns mashed down upon it causing blood to flow from head to toe for us.  That cute little mouth with those reddish rosy lips cooing in the cool evening Bethlehem breeze will before long cry out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as He hangs on the cross paying the penalty for your sin, for my sin, for the sins of the whole world.  Soon after that He will utter His final words, “It is finished!”

Finished!  Hmm.  Soon, in a few hours actually, the world will be finished with Christmas.  Everything will fade away.  The glitz and the glitter will soon be packed up and put away to be stored for another day, another year, actually.  The excitement of children and the happy glow of all that we’ve come to expect from this holy night is illusive and fast fleeting.  All too soon it’s come and gone.  But not this: Treasure in your heart the Mystery of the Manger, God made flesh for your salvation.  He comes for every soul distressed, and lonely, and grieving.  He comes for every wounded mind and heart.  He comes with peace that passes all understanding, with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He comes for you…and you…and you…and you.  (Sigh) And for me.

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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