The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Day Service: Part 1
Christmas Day Service: Part 2
Sermon Title: God’s Christmas Gift to You! (Isaiah 9:6)
At long last it is Christmas Day! All the excitement, wonder, joy and festivities that are Christmas have now risen to their apex. And without a doubt, nowhere is that joy and excitement more firmly manifested than in the giving and getting of gifts. In fact, an outside observer of all the merriment, excitement and activities of our annual Christmas celebration could easily assume that Christmas is all about the gifts! They might be right. It is good and proper for us to ask ourselves: “If you take away the gift giving and receiving would Christmas be that big of a deal to us?”
Many of us do still refer to Christmas as a “holiday.” If I’m not mistaken, I believe Christmas was one of the first official holidays to be designated as such by our national government. The true meaning of the word, however, is “holy day,” a day set aside (holy) to worship God or in this case to worship Christ; Christ mas.
For the real delight that is Christmas we need to look to the real giving and the real gift given that started it all. There we will find the true wonder, love, joy and peace that is Christmas. There we see the true gift given and received: The Son of God Himself!
We heard from the prophet’s lips these marvelous words: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
A Child is born to us! Christmas is all about God giving and us receiving. This small prepositional phrase is the heart of Christmas: “to us”. The holy angel emphasized this to the shepherds on the night of His birth. He said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
It is true enough that Mary gave birth to this Child and Joseph helped raise Him. But the Child born in the cattle stall in Bethlehem was born for you and for me. The prophet himself emphasizes, this Child is a “Son given to us.” Jesus, Son of Mary, then, is a gift from God to you, to me and to our world!
Could one reason our society seems to have lost sight of this true gift in the infant Jesus be due in part because so many in our world have lost all sight of the fact that every child is a gift from God? With our scanners and ultrasounds we have been able to observe the stages of fetal development. We have developed a myriad of artificial fertilization techniques. We are even in the process of mapping the whole human gnome; that is, all the chromosomes and genes that make us who we are. All this technological and scientific achievement has reduced the wonder, the mystery, and the totally miraculous nature of the birth of a child. It has served to make it for many into nothing more than a biological process.
Yet, in our collective genius, we still have never managed to explain or figure out where life comes from... what animates the cells... what makes some fertilized eggs live and others not.
The answer, of course, is to be found only in God. He is the Creator and Giver of all life. Children are not simply products of some chemical reactions. As the Psalmist writes: “Children are a gift from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). The wonderful mystery of the Creator’s miraculous work and His blessing to us is seen in every child.
But in Mary’s Child we see the full depth and wonder of God’s creative genius and ability as well as His tremendous love for us all. In this Child the Son of God Himself is given to us. Jesus did not say that “God so loved the world that He sent His Son,” but rather that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16).
Dear fellow Christmas worshipers, do not let this day pass you by again without pondering anew what you truly have been given in the Babe of Bethlehem! Don’t let the wonder of this gift be cast aside along with all the wrapping paper of your celebration. Look deeply with eyes of faith into the face of this Child Jesus God has lovingly given to you. He is no ordinary child. He is no everyday blessing. All the money in the world could never buy you a gift of this magnitude or value. No baby ever given to parents could equal the level of blessing you have received in this One Child.
His name is as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Let’s examine the significance of that name by first taking the name “Everlasting Father”. You’ve heard the expression that speaks of a mother’s far-reaching influence on her child: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Well, grasp this: the hand that rocked the cradle of this Child was created and sustained by this Child, who from His cradle ruled and governed the universe. He is the begetter of all things and in this way the Father of all. This Child is the Everlasting Father.
To be sure, it is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son, who united Himself with the flesh of Mary, or as we say became incarnate in the womb of Mary. It is not the person of the Father. The angel had told Mary before she conceived: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Lk 1:31-32).
So, how is this Holy Child the Everlasting Father? Jesus Himself stated, “I and the Father are one.” By referring to this Child born to you as “the Everlasting Father,” the prophet is simply emphasizing that this Child born of the virgin is the eternal God Himself.
The Son does not exist apart from the Eternal Father. He is the Word that emanates from the Father (John 1:1), Who, Himself, is, as St. Augustine has stated, the “fountain head of the Trinity.” Each of the three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is distinct from the others, yet are inseparable from the others. They do not exist apart from the others. They are one unity of persons. Therefore, one can say, this Child, Who is the Incarnate Son, is the Everlasting Father.
When the prophet calls Jesus the Everlasting Father he is stressing that in Jesus the infinite meets the finite... the Creator becomes the created. Such is the marvelous wonder of the Incarnation. The eternal God, who has no limits, who is beyond all time, becomes subject to time to make you, a mere mortal, truly immortal! What a wonderful gift has been given to you in this holy Child!
Likewise, when you think about it, God could not have come for your welfare in a more perfect manner than as a child. Suppose he were to come to you as He appeared to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai, with the deafening peals of thunder and the frightening cracks of lightning as the all-consuming fire. As sinners you, as well as me, would stand no chance. However, you have received a real gift. God has come to you in a most wonderful; that is, extraordinary, manner. He has come needing to be held and nurtured by human parents. He has come in all the meekness and helplessness of a child, posing absolutely no threat to you.
How extraordinary indeed! This Child given to you is Mighty God. Who among you can rightly comprehend this wonder? Nestled at Mary’s breast is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity. The fullness of divine power is masked in the weakness and unassuming helplessness of a created child. However, in such weakness no one should be fooled. In this weakness the power of the Almighty is unleashed to save you from all things. Exchanging His cradle for a cross, this Child defeated the powerful forces of sin, death, the world, and the devil all for you. What a gift was given to you in this Child!
On top of this, instead of coming to you as Your Judge, He came as your Counselor. A counselor is someone who comes along side you to be your advocate and helper.
A small child can be one of the greatest counselors any one of us can ever have. A child doesn’t pretend to know all the answers and preach to us. He simply listens. A child is not critical, nor judgmental. A child simply loves unconditionally.
Take great comfort, then, that the Son of God, Mighty God Himself, came to you as your Counselor, dressed in the garb of a baby. He came not to condemn you, but to love you. He came not to psychoanalyze you, but as someone who can truly empathize with your condition. He came with full understanding of your needs as a fallen creature in a fallen world that He might take your troubles, your burdens upon Himself and be your advocate before the Father. You could have no greater friend, therapist, or confidant. He is one extraordinary gift to you!
We must also understand that God did not become incarnate so that he can impress us with His power and wisdom. But He became man for us to bring heaven and earth together in peace. He came not simply to lie in a cradle but to be the Prince of Peace. He came that He might be given a body of flesh like yours so that He could then give up that body into death on a cross in atonement for your sins, removing all hostility between a holy and righteous God and sinners, who deserve nothing but His wrath. He has come so that in His flesh all enmity could be abolished and peace restored to you through the forgiveness of your sins (Eph. 2:14,15). What an extraordinary Gift you have been given in this Child. You have been given peace with God in Him!
Christmas, therefore, is a big deal to you and me! The Christmas Carol asks, “What Child is This That On Mary’s Lap Lay Sleeping?” Our answer: He is our eternal Christmas gift! The Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, has given Himself to us to love us into heaven with Him.
The wonder, joy, and peace of this Child be with you all! And may every other gift you give or receive serve to make you even more mindful and appreciative of Jesus, your true Christmas Gift! Merry Christmas! Amen.