Christmas Eve December 24, 2021
Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
In the Name of Jesus.
The shepherds are out in the hills watching the sheep—they listen for wolves, they guard from any danger. But then, suddenly,
“an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”
So the shepherds fear—greatly afraid, Luke tells us.
But not just because of the spectacle in the sky. Also because of what the angels said, their message. The angels said:
“There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you, you will find a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
This little child, by coming into this world, causes grown men to shake in fear. Because, this Baby in a manger heralded by the holy angels, is Holy God—Christ the Lord.
The shepherds are men of this world. They’re not naïve. They know how unholy it is. They know if you don’t guard your sheep, they’ll be stolen. They know how even children and babies have to be protected from those who do violence. They know of families not kept in the Lord’s Word, and that even includes them. They know also of God’s holiness. But now they get to see how Holy God will come into this unholy world.
God appoints a specific place—Bethlehem.
He appoints a specific time—the days of Caesar Augustus.
And he sets a specific person—Mary.
And at His own, specific, designated time, place, and person, God places a holy Baby.
When all these eyes of the world, unholy eyes, look on the holy Baby, there is fear.
Because, no sinner can stand in the holiness of God—and now this holiness is coming right up to their faces.
Silent Night, Holy Night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
We fall silent.
What else can unholy ones do when standing at God’s face?
Along with the shepherds, we know the unholiness. It’s our own sin. It’s our world’s sin, which covers us in shame. It’s all the sickness and death brought by sin.
All this sin in us, around us, inherited by all from Adam and Eve, we’re born into it—unholy from our conception.
The sinful heart is deceitful. Any holiness it constructs is a false. What’s to be done?
We’re tempted to try to construct our own holiness in our own hearts—the baby rescues us from that temptation.
After all, the Baby Jesus did not come in our hearts; he came in a certain location—Bethlehem of Judea.
So holiness does not come from our desires or our spirits or our hearts; it comes from outside of us. It comes from the Holy one, Jesus. So that when God placed this Baby in that manger in Bethlehem, shepherds quaked in fear, and Herod the powerful king trembled so that he even came up with a plan to kill the holy Baby.
When God sets holiness in front of sinners, we fear. All mouths are stopped.
Silent night, Holy Night,
Shepherds quake, at the sight.
But then the angels say,
“Fear not. For I bring you the Gospel of joy, which is to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Fear not!—the great word from the angels. It is true that this Baby is the Holy One. And it is true that all men are unholy. But, here is the good news, here is the Gospel, we can learn it from the angels. It is this: The Holy One comes into the flesh to forgive your sin. He brings you into His holiness.
The Holy Son of the Father is born not to condemn the sinner, but to die for the sinner; not to convict, but to absolve.
say the angels,
“for this Baby is the message of joy!”
The Silent Night is silent no more. The shepherds who quaked in fear may now embrace the Baby. This baby is the Lord’s holiness to them—God’s free gift of grace.
And all in the Church at the time of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, and our time, too—are gathered to the Holy One. He gathers us to his Name, to hearken to his word of forgiveness, to receive the gifts of His Service, to be given His blood of life, and the words we hear from him are the Gospel:
“Fear not. I forgive you all your sins.”
Jesus, the Holy One, came into the world to be with the unholy ones, to take their unholiness to himself, and to put it to death on the cross.
The unholy ones—us, you and me and our children—he cleanses us, and by his word, he takes away our fear. At his Word, you now holy.
In the Name of Jesus.