Rev. George F. Borghardt
Merry Christmas! Say it. Sing it! Say to your friends. Say it to your family, too! Merry Christmas!
Smile at the people at school. Kiss your loved ones. Text your family and friends. Tell them that Christ has come to save you—to take away your gloom and your tears. He has come to bring you presents that won't end up on the curb the day after Christmas. He has come to bring you forgiveness of your sins!
"Once in royal David's city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for His bed; Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ was her little child" (LSB 376:1).
The Gospel is in the Word—the Word made flesh placed in your ears and mouth. Set aside the joy you get from presents and reindeer, and hear again the Gospel of Luke: Caesar Augustus wanted money, so he had a tax—that's why there was a census in the ancient world. And Quirinius? St. Luke tells us these guys' names so we'd know when Jesus was born! You can Google it: "When Quirinius was governor in Syria," and discover that's about the time Jesus came.
Then the Gospel takes our eyes off ancient Rome and the big-wigs there, and plants them on a little nowhere town called Bethlehem, on a man named Joseph taking his betrothed, Mary, to be registered for the census. She was pregnant with child by the Holy Spirit. She, a Virgin, had conceived by the Word of God spoken by an angel.
Now did Mary walk beside Joseph all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem? I hope not. What we know for sure is that there was no parade, no chariot. The Church has always hoped that she rode into town—even if only on a donkey. But, the Gospel doesn't say!
Place to place they went. Sorry, we have no room for you. Nope, all booked up. Not a single room for God. No room in Bethlehem as the silent stars go by… "Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight" (LSB 361:1).
If we had known, would we have built a temple? Maybe had cameras and held a press conference? Or had helicopters overhead and Geraldo at the manger giving a push-by-push account?
No, that's not God's way. He comes and finds no place in our world. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin found a stable or a cave and she brought forth her firstborn Son…. "How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n! So God imparts to human hearts, the blessings of His heav'n," (LSB 361:3).
The Virgin had no attendants. She had no doctor, no epidural, no anesthetic. Not even a midwife! God's Son gets no royal purple or a crown on Christmas. She wrapped Him in whatever she could find, swaddling cloths, and laid him in a food trough where animals eat. I hope she put some straw in there! The Gospels don't say. There's no doubt that she prepared it the best she could for her Son.
"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the Little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay" (LSB 364:1). God in a manger. God in the Flesh. Not on a throne. Not attended by angels. But, cold…lying where animals eat.
On Good Friday, He'll get His purple robe and crown of thorns. On that day, the One who was placed in a wooden trough on Christmas will be nailed to a wooden cross. This is what God does to save you! He doesn't judge or condemn you. He doesn't pick you up with His fingers, pinching His nose like we would when we pick up a dirty diaper.
No, He takes on your flesh and comes right into this world where you are at with all your dirty sins to save you from your sins. He fills your songs with joy. He lifts you up out of your sins and your death. He shows you His mercy in Christ.
Leave your sins! Drop your gloom, your scheming, your lust, and leave your impatience behind. Turn from the evil and hatred you have for others. Repent of your negativity, sadness. Leave behind your pain, your grudges, your blaming others for what you have done.
In this most holy season, when we should be so patient and kind with each other, we are the most Bah-Humbuggity. We fight. We scream at each other. How dare that person do this, how dare they say that, on Christmas! We'll put them in their place! Then, they'll have a Merry Christmas!
Repent of all those sins—and receive today His gifts. Turn not because of the threat of hell. No, turn because of the goodness of God who sent His Son into your flesh to save you!
"Why lies He in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the Cross be born for me, for you. Hail, Hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary"(LSB 370:2).
Stop thinking that others need to change or repent. No, you need to repent. Be the one who sings, "Come let us adore Him," as you join the shepherds beholding the Baby Jesus..
Shepherds. Those guys. Can't forget about them. Can't get any lower than the shepherds watching their flocks by night! To them goes the proclamation from an angel standing on the earth. Standing—because God is on the earth to save you.
"Don't fear any more. I've got good news. Unto you is born in the city of David, in Bethlehem, a Savior, Christ the Lord. You'll see this strange sight of a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.""Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to newborn King; Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!' Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!' Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!'"(LSB 380:1).
Those shepherds found that Baby, just like those angels said, and then they made that Gospel known widely to the surrounding area. They left the Virgin Mary, quietly rocking her Son, treasuring all that God had done for her and for you through her Son.
"No more let sins and sorrows grow Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as, the curse is found!" (LSB 387:3).
Christ is born. Sing it with the angels. Say it! Proclaim it on the rooftops of your homes and with your lives! He has come. God and sinners are tight again. No more separating God from you and His creation.
"Gloria in excelsis Deo." Glory to God in the highest! Merry Christmas!
Rev. George F. Borghardt serves as the senior pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in McHenry, Illinois. He is the president of Higher Things. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.