Christmas Eve 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 24, 2018
Luke 2:1-20

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            You would like to think of yourself as a can-do individual who is able to roll with the punches of daily existence, and deal with all that life can throw at you.  You like to think you are bold and tough and resilient, but then… someone moves your antiperspirant away from its normal spot in the medicine chest.  But then you are driving to work and there is construction and you have to sit in traffic.  But then the teacher announces a surprise quiz or assignment.  But then you go to get coffee and someone has taken the last cup and didn’t make a fresh pot.  But then as you settle into your daily routine someone interrupts with a new project that needs to be done yesterday.  You like to think of yourself as being rough and tough when it comes to the changes of life, but the truth is most folks don’t really like the unexpected.  There is great comfort in the routines of life.  Great comfort in knowing what is going to happen next.  Great comfort in feeling like you have a handle on life.  You like to know what is going to happen next and be able to anticipate it.

You like the security and control of planning out your day, your week, your year, your life, but this is not the way that God operates.  You see, with God, you are not in control.  God is God and you are not.  God does not do things the way that you would do them.  And He tells you this through the Prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.[1]  This can be frustrating because God works in unexpected ways.

We learn the most about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through God the Son, Jesus Christ.  At Christmas we see so plainly how God works in unexpected ways.  It is so unexpected that, for me, it is one of the proofs of the genuineness of Christianity.  No one would have made up a God like this. 

            When people make up religions they often make up gods that are a lot like us; gods that have human desires and human faults.  They make up gods that act how we would expect gods to act throwing around their power and authority.  Bolts of lightning and such.

            But our God, the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, often does not act like we would expect.  God acts in surprising ways.  The Christmas story shows us this so clearly. 

            God comes to earth.  But does He do it as you would expect the almighty God to do it?  Does He come in power and might and glory?  Does He come down as a shining ball of light ready to do battle with the Roman Empire?

            No.  God comes to earth veiled in the flesh of a tiny baby boy growing in the womb of a young virgin girl from a nothing little hill town called Nazareth.  That is unexpected. 

            Tonight we celebrate Jesus’ birth in the small town of Bethlehem six miles outside of Jerusalem.  Jesus is born in the city of David and Jesus is born as King of the Jews, but is there a royal fanfare and a gathering of all King Herod’s men to welcome Jesus?  No.  They will come later with swords to try to kill Him.  Jesus is born in obscurity amongst the crowds of people in Bethlehem for a census.  He is wrapped up in cloths and laid in an animal feed trough; a manger, where earlier a donkey or maybe a cow was sticking her snout to get some feed.  God is laying in a manger with tiny eyes and ears, petite mouth and nose, delicate little fingers and toes.  God in flesh has that wonderful wrinkly, fuzzy soft skin of a newborn baby.  What an unexpected way for God to arrive.  No one would have made this up.  Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, is born in simple humility.

            But then there are glimpses of glory.  Great shows of glory.  An angel of the Lord appears and announces the birth Luke 2:10-14 (ESV) 10 … “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a 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!”[2] 

            This is more like it; God’s arrival being announced by a choir of angels.  But who is the angels’ audience?  A field full of sheep and a few shepherds.  This is strange.  Shepherds are not important people.  Shepherds are not intellectuals.  Shepherds are not known for being super holy people.  And yet God Himself has taken on human flesh and has been born, and the angels announce it to rough and tumble shepherds out in the field at night.  This God of ours doesn’t do things the way that we would think that he should. 

            And we see this in His ministry 30 years later.  Jesus, God in flesh, God with us, is not about showing off His power and glory.  Jesus isn’t about being served, but rather about serving others.  He teaches, He heals, He feeds, He drives out demons, He raises the dead, and He takes this service all the way to the cross in Jerusalem, just a few miles from where He was born. 

            It is Christmas Eve and we will soon sing Joy to the world and yet many are not feeling the joy.  Many of you are sad this time of year.  Because life in this world is hard and there is real pain and real suffering, and God does not eliminate it all.  Not yet.

            The one whose birth was announced to shepherds is the Good Shepherd and also the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  God comes to earth in this most unexpected way and then displays his glory not in aggression, but in humble submission and anguish.  Jesus suffers horribly and dies in order to save people who don’t deserve it.  That is startling.  Jesus comes to save unworthy sinners, including you and me.  What kind of God is this?

            It is a God who does things the way He is going to do them.  Sometimes we like that, sometimes we do not.  There are so many things in this life that we just want God to stop…now.  So much sickness.  So much evil.  So much abuse.  So much conflict.  We cry out to God to stop it.  Sometimes things change.  Sometimes they don’t.  Why doesn’t God do what I want Him to do?

            It is Christmas Eve and we will soon sing Joy to the world and yet many are not feeling the joy.  Many of you are sad this time of year.  Because life in this world is hard and there is real pain and real suffering, and God does not eliminate it all.  Not yet.

            Your desire for things to be better is not wrong and yet God often does not act the way you want.  God acts in unexpected ways.  God allows you to get sick.  God allows your loved ones to die.  God allows evil to exist.  For now.

            God does unexpected things.  God saves you in surprising ways.  God saves you through water and the Word in Holy Baptism.  God absolves you and restores with His words, “I forgive you all your sins.”  God strengthens and preserves you with His body and blood that come to you in simple bread and wine.  God acts in unexpected ways on that first Christmas and He acts in unexpected ways still today.

            The day is coming when God will destroy all evil, all conflict, all sickness, and even death.  The day is coming when Jesus will return in glory and take you to be with Him forever.  The day is coming--but we don’t know when.  It will be quite unexpected.  Unexpected.  Like God, in flesh, wrapped up and lying in a manger, come to save you.  Merry Christmas.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001