The Church’s Song of Jesus

Christmas Eve                                                               December 24, 2018

 

“concerning this child”

 

Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Concerning a child, you can’t really say anything bad. About a baby, what can you say?  “The little guy is so small and cute, just look at that smile.”

 

The Christmas story almost begs to be reduced to sugary talk about little babies and how wonderful it is that Almighty God would come to us not as blazing fire out of Heaven, but as a cuddly baby in his mother’s arms.

 

He is small. We can remember the first time we held a little baby in our arms—so little, so humble, so dependent.

 

He’s small. The shepherds out in the field, they come to see the little baby. The angels had burst out of the night sky, praising God and saying to the shepherds,

Glory to God in the highest,

And on Earth

peace among men with whom he is pleased.

 

So they come to see the little baby:

Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

 

They come to see the little baby, and, Scripture tells us, “they made known the statement which had been told them concerning this child.”

 

Concerning this child, what were the shepherds to think?

 

A little baby is born. Not unlike all the other births the shepherds would have known—the births of their own children, or of nephews and nieces and such—but with this child, the angels burst out of Heaven to instruct the shepherds to report to the manger.

 

What should the shepherds think, concerning this child? We can guess what they thought, at least part of it: “He’s just a baby boy, so cute, so small.”

 

He has angels singing of him while the glory of the Lord shines around them; he has angels announcing that the sinner is to fear not, for this child is good news, is a message of great joy, not only to his own family, but to the whole world, to all people; he is, the angels tell the shepherds, your Savior; he is the Christ, the Anointed One of the Lord in Heaven. You will find him in a manger, but this baby is from God on High, and on Earth, this baby is peace and life to all people upon whom God has placed his good favor.

 

And then, the shepherds must’ve thought: But he’s just a baby, so small, so little. In the way of the world, Jesus is small, really small.

 

Here’s where we find our Lord—in the smallness. To the shepherds, it was a little baby cradled in arms, unable to eat or drink or stay warm without his mother’s help.

 

The message to the shepherds, though, was that this little baby is God himself, in the flesh, coming in the way of smallness, coming to the sinner not to condemn, but to forgive, not to destroy, but to redeem, not to overpower and control, but to cleanse and heal, to comfort and give gifts. Had he come to condemn and destroy and overpower and control, he would’ve come not as a baby.

 

The shepherds had much to consider, concerning this child.

 

He himself could’ve burst out of the night sky in all his power and judgement. He came not from the sky, though, but from the womb of a virgin. And out of the sky he had the angels sing his Name, sending the shepherds to that mother and her child.

 

The shepherds had much to consider concerning this child. Small, and gentle, and even dependent:

—he is great joy to all people,

—he is Savior for every sinner,

—he is Christ the Lord, the Anointed One of the most high God,

—he is God-in-the-flesh, the Glory of God come down among men,

—he is peace on Earth to all.

 

But he’s so small!

 

If the shepherds thought he was small then, all they had to do was wait some 30 years, when he’s a grown man.

 

Then we see just how small God can make himself for the benefit of the sinner.

 

As God in the flesh, as a man, he stands in front of the Pharisees, and hearing them use God’s Word to condemn others, but to say nothing about their own sin, he doesn’t smash them, as they deserve, but he even listens to them condemn him.

 

That’s making yourself small.

 

Standing in front of the Priest Caiaphus, seeing how he is using the Temple not as God’s gracious, holy place to sanctify his people, but as a power base for Caiaphus himself, Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, doesn’t destroy Caiaphus, but listens to Caiaphus blaspheme and humiliate him.

 

That’s making yourself small.

 

And the same with Herod, and with Pontius Pilate. In the way of the world, they are all bigger than he is. All up to the cross. Where he is smallest of all, a man crushed by the sins of the world, a man reduced to humiliation at the hands of those he was standing in for, a life taken away, because he refused to crush those who were crushing him.

 

Among those who make themselves big, He makes himself small.

 

That is our salvation. The Man, Christ Jesus, the grown son of Mary, God-on-high come down low in the flesh, crushed for our sins, having made himself small.

 

The shepherds had much to consider, concerning this child.

 

And so do we.

 

He now comes to us small.

 

In the smallness, maybe, of a little girl singing his Name, or a little boy rejoicing that he has a Savior. Not big in the way of the world, but in Heaven, voices that have the angels singing along.

 

In the smallness of a husband and wife speaking forgiveness to one another, knowing that the forgiveness they speak is nothing other than the forgiveness Jesus spoke from the cross.

 

In the smallness of a hushed conversation of a mother comforting a child, or of a friend consoling a friend, with the confidence that the comfort and consolation spoken is none other than the voice of Jesus speaking grace and forgiveness into our lives.

 

In the smallness of the words of a sermon, of the words and water poured out in Baptism, in the smallness of the Body and Blood of the Son of God coming to his people to cleanse them, giving them communion with God on high and unity with each other in his doctrine.

 

In a world demanding bigness, we look for God’s smallness—God in the flesh as a baby, God coming in salvation at a cross, God making us one with him in his Body and Blood, God bringing sinners into oneness with him and with each other wherever his Word of Gospel is spoken. In this smallness, God is bringing his glory to Earth.

 

His glory is the cross, it is the guilty one cleansed, the church brought to unity around his word, the sinner reconciled.

 

His glory brought to Earth in that little baby, in the smallness of the cross—in that glory we find our salvation.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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