Sunday, December 23, 2018

Behold, "This” Day Has Arrived

This is the Christmas story as told to us by Luke. But once you get past Luke setting the stage for the main event, the entire Christmas story really comes to us pretty succinctly in verse seven:

“She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.”

All the fanfare about CHRISTMAS! And yet, this is all we really have about the main event. One short verse. I would expect much more! After all, this is God coming into the world! I would expect at least a healthy paragraph or two what it was like for God to take in breath for the first time. Perhaps giving us some details about what the Father was doing as His son opened His eyes on this earth for the very first time.

But, we get none of that. We do notice, however, that Luke was very intentional in the way he relayed these events. Take, for example, verse seven. Three succinct statements about the birth of Jesus…Wrapped snugly... Laid in a manger...Because there was no place for the family in the guestroom.
These three statements take the astute reader to another section of Luke’s Gospel: chapter 23. There in Luke 23:53, Jesus is… Wrapped in a linen shroud… Laid in a rock-hewn tomb…A place where no one else had been laid.

I don’t think this language is pure coincidence. I think Luke wants us to know from the very beginning there is something special about this child. The one who is being laid in a manger will one day be laid in a tomb.
Luke also alerts us to the magnitude of this event in another way. From "Those Days" to "This Day.” This event, this birth that Luke describes so succinctly…it changed time. I’m not talking about chronological time. I don’t think chronological time stopped. There is no evidence that calendar makers suddenly started printing “AD” calendars! No, this event changed time because it signaled the beginning of a new age. Luke describes this shift in terms of day. Listen to Luke’s language…

“In those days, Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists….”

Luke describes “Those Days” with precise language. “Those Days” have certain qualities. “Those Days” are governed by political powers. People are not under their own control. Caesar tells them where to go and when to go. In “Those Days” a young family has to take a difficult journey on a lonely road at night. In“Those Days”  it is difficult to find a place to belong. “Those Days” are filled with anxiety and discomfort, power and control and fear. But Luke is very intentional in alerting us to the fact that with the arrival of Jesus, “Those Days” are over!

“The angel said, Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born THIS DAY in David’s city. He is the Christ the Lord.’ ”

"Those Days” are over and “This Day” has arrived! And the first thing to remember about “This Day” is that it is a day without fear! When the shepherds see the angels... When they see the ushers of “This Day” their natural response is fear, because that is the dominating force of “Those Days.” But, the first words out of the angels mouths were: “Do not be afraid!” On “This Day,” do not be afraid! 
“This Day” is not a day of fear. “This Day” the angels go on to say, is a day of great joy. And along with joy, “This Day” brings to earth peace among humanity with whom God is pleased.” On “This Day,” heaven and earth met. Farm animals and angels; shepherds and God... together just as God intended it to be from the beginning! 

I love the way Stephen Cooper, a biblical scholar, puts it: “On this day, heaven and earth pause for a moment in awe, with audible wonder, joy, and praise at what God has wrought.” — Stephen Cooper

All who were there—on heaven and on earth—knew that “This Day” was different. And after “This Day,” the world would never again be the same.
Church, I am here this morning (two days before Christmas) to declare to you that “This Day” has arrived. And because “This Day” has arrived, my message to you is the same message given to those shepherds so long ago: “Do not be afraid!” Do not fear a drop in the stock market! Do not fear death! Do not fear life itself! Because Jesus has been born. And He has declared “This Day” a day of peace and hope and joy and love.

Brothers and sisters, that is the message of Christmas. Peace! Hope! Joy! Love! The very reason God became man was to bring these beautiful things into this world. Before God took on flesh, fear ruled this world. Creation had been estranged from God since that day in the Garden of Eden.  And God’s mission in coming to this world was to set things right. He came to bring peace where there had been hate. He came to tear down the wall between Himself and His estranged creation.

Brothers and sisters, hear this good news: “Those Days” of fear and separation are over!” “This Day” of peace and communion with God has arrived. If you are living in fear, my admonition to you this morning is this: Let go.
Let go of the fear. Let go of the guilt. You are not perfect. You will never be perfect. Your family is not perfect and your family will never be perfect. Your job...your spiritual life…God came to this place on this day to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. So, quit being afraid and let God be God!

I shared this with you only three weeks ago at the beginning of Advent Season. I think it is worth repeating again. In a letter he wrote to his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, from prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer made a profound statement about “This Day.” Imprisoned by Hitler during WWII, he writes about a lesson he learned behind bars:

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various essential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent.”
No, that is not a bad picture of Advent…of Christ’s arrival into this world.

Church, the door to freedom has been opened from the outside. If you’ve not yet walked through the door, there is no better time than this morning.

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