Christmas Eve Sermon

Christmas Eve
Luke 2:14
December 24, 2013
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Glory to God in highest heav’n
   Who unto us His Son hath giv’n!
While angels sing with pious mirth
   A glad new year to all the earth.

Martin Luther’s children’s Christmas hymn ends with the hymn of the angels, sung for an audience of shepherds:

Glory in the highest for God
and upon earth peace,
among men favor
     -Luke 2:14

Glory to God in highest heav’n.  It is a peculiar glory that comes at Christmas.  The glory of God is a frightening thing.  When God revealed Himself to Moses, He said that His glory is lethal for sinful mean.  When the angels come from heav’n above with heavenly splendor, their glory is enough to make the shepherds quake in their boots—and they are simply God’s servants.  In fact, angels are so frightening, that almost every time they appear in Scripture, the first thing they have to say is “Fear not.”  The glory of God is a frightful thing.  Yet this particular glory of God—the glory of which the angels sing—is a glory that brings peace on earth.

What kind of glory is this, that we sinful men would not fear to behold it?  To you this night is born a child/of Mary chosen virgin mild/This little child of lowly birth/shall be the joy of all the earth.  The glory of God is wrapped up in human flesh, in humility, in weakness.  God makes Himself approachable; He makes Himself a peer, a friend.  Yet the infant child is the full glory of God, Because in Him dwells bodily all the fullness of the divinity (Col. 2:9).

The Son of God makes Himself the Son of Man for a reason; and it is His purpose from the foundation of the earth.  He will Himself your Savior be/From all your sins to set you free.  The one who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a wooden manger would 33 years later be stripped of His clothes and nailed to a wooden pole.  Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest/Through whom the sinful world is blest!/Thou com’st to share my misery/What thanks shall I return to Thee?  Too often our thanks sounds more like the Pharisee’s—I thank You, Lord, that I am not like other men—instead of: I thank You, Lord, that though You are by nature quite unlike other men, You have made Yourself like men, to make peace between God and man.  You have made Yourself like me, to bear my sin and be my Savior.

Even angels marvel that the eternal Son of God would take human flesh, and they sing with pious mirth at the birth of this dear Child.  Yet, it’s not just the song of the angels.  Every week the Holy Christian Church joins Her voice with the angels’ choirs and sings, Glory be to God on high/And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.  For Christ came at Christmas, in the flesh, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and He also comes in the Divine Service, in the flesh, wrapped in bread and wine.

Glory to God in highest heav’n/Who unto us His Son hath giv’n/While angels sing with pious mirth/A glad new year to all the earth.  When I was a child and sang this hymn, I always thought of that last line as a reference to the holiday that happens a week from today.  Happy New Year!  Pop some chapagne!  But now I think it’s more than just ringing out 2013 and ringing in 2014.

The birth of Christ is a singular event in human history.  When God becomes man, nothing can be the same; everything changes.  The birth of Christ is the hinge in human history, upon which the gates of heaven swing open.  Without God in the flesh, man has no access to God.  But through Christ, the doors open.  Not so much that we would enter, but so that God would pour out heaven upon us.

He will on you the gifts bestow/Prepared by God for all below/that in His kingdom, bright and fair/You may with us His glory share.  That’s what the angels mean when they sing

Glory in the highest for God
and upon earth peace,
among men favor

Heaven has opened, and its treasures pour out.  It is indeed a new year, a new age, a new generation, a New Testament.

Merry Christmas.

In + Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
VD+MA