Christmas Day December 25, 2011
Editor’s Note: Scripture readings and hymns are incorporated in the song service that follows.
Rejoice, rejoice, this happy morn!
A Savior unto us is born—
The Christ, the Lord of Glory.
His lowly birth in Bethlehem
the angels from on high proclaim
and sing redemption's story.
My soul, extol God's great favor,
bless Him ever for salvation.
Give Him praise and adoration!
There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!
Hymn: Christmas is Dawning
Christmas is dawning, darkness is fleeing.
New light for sinners shines upon earth.
God’s Son eternal laid in a manger
Light of the world comes in humble birth.
Christmas is dawning, heaven is singing.
God’s planned salvation now is fulfilled.
Born is a Savior for every sinner
Angels rejoice in what is revealed.
Christmas is dawning, earth greets its Maker
Shepherds will hurry to Bethlehem.
Sin’s hold on sinners soon will be broken—
Satan’s dominion brought to an end.
Christmas is dawning, hearts are believing
as the Good News rings out with the WORD.
Glory to God—the Father, Son, Spirit!
Live in our hearts and bless us, dear Lord!
Tune: Gaelic Melody, 19th Century [WS 752]
Text: W. Eichstadt 2005
The Light of the World is born—the heaviness of sin’s darkness is lifted. Oh, come let us rejoice and be glad in our hearts for the child laid in a manger is the eternal Son of God, our Savior, and our brother. We worship in the name of the Father who sent His Son to be our Savior, in the name of the Son who willingly took on human flesh and sacrificed Himself for us, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who enlightens our hearts with the knowledge of salvation and preserves us in saving faith.
Lord God, cleanse our inward sight, that we may understand Your teaching, love Your truth, and be renewed in spirit. Let it be our delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass. Amen.
(as told in Scripture and hymns)
Isaiah describes the darkness of sin and unbelief
Pastor: God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
Cong: If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
P: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
C: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
P & C: Almighty God, merciful Father, we are sinful by nature, and have sinned against You in our thoughts, words, and actions. But we are sorry for our sins and pray that You will be gracious and merciful to us. Forgive us for Jesus’ sake, renew us by Your Spirit, and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen.
P: Jesus Christ was born to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. You are forgiven. With boldness and confidence you may approach the throne of grace to find help in time of need. In the peace of forgiveness let us praise and worship the Lord!
Hymn: Good Christian Men Rejoice
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice,
Give you heed to what we say:
News! News! Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow and He is in the manger now;
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice,
Now you hear of endless bliss:
Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this.
He has ope’d the heav’nly door, and man is blessed for evermore;
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice,
Now you need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save.
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall;
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!
God first promises a Savior—the descendent of Eve who would crush Satan’s head.
Hymn: See in Yonder Manger Low
See in yonder manger low,
born for us on earth below,
See the gentle Lamb appears,
promised from eternal years.
Hail the ever blessed morn;
Hail redemption’s happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Sacred Infant, all divine,
what a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this.
[WS 711 / ©Public Domain]
Micah foretells the Savior’s Birth
Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem [TLH 647]
Luke’s Account of Christ’s birth.
Hymn: Once in Royal David’s City
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 her little child.
Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
Shall we see Him but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high
Then like stars His children crowned
All in white, His praise will sound.
John unfolds the mystery of the incarnation.
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy; just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true. [Martin Luther’s Small Catechism]
Ephesians 1:4; Luke 15:7; Luke 2:13; 1 Peter 1:12
Do you have your Christmas shopping done? “That’s a silly question,” you say, “because after all, today is Christmas!”
But what I mean is, do you have your Christmas shopping done for next year? Or for 2013? Some complete their gift buying and preparation weeks or even months in advance of Christmas; and some will make purchases in the coming days for next year. But it is completely safe to say that the pre-schoolers who last night told us about Jesus’ birth will not be buying gifts for their grandchildren’s first Christmas anytime soon—not even the high school students will be doing that, not even the collegiates and other young adults. There is a limit to how far in advance one can prepare a gift, especially if the one receiving the gift isn’t even born.
There is a limit to early Christmas gift-gathering when you yourself are limited. But God is unlimited and as the limitless God He planned our Christmas gift from eternity—before He ever created a single human being. “…[God] chose us in connection with [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).
God is so great and so gracious that He planned our souls’ salvation from eternity, and when the holy all-powerful God plans something, it is done! The only thing left at that point is for time to catch up with His purpose. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son” (cf. Galatians 3:4).
When God gave you His long-planned Christmas gift, Christmas dawned in Heaven. For God, Christmas dawned by giving glory to His name. The fulfillment of His promises and the gift of a Savior to sinners who rebelled against Him all testified to His faithfulness and to His amazing love.
For the angels, it was the joy of seeing their great and glorious Creator accomplish His will. Peter tells us that the ways of God and His salvation are “things the angels desire to look into” (cf. 1 Peter 1:12). Jesus tells us that the angels of Heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents and is brought into salvation (cf. Luke 15:7). Thus, when the one angel messenger was sent to earth to declare the news of Jesus’ birth, Christmas dawned in Heaven; and then, the joy of all the angels in Heaven overflowed to the earth as the multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds and proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:13).
Hymn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing [TLH 94:1,3]
Luke 2:14; Romans 8:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:19
“Hark the Herald Angels sing…God and man are reconciled.” It’s amazing, really, because if you have ever been hurt by someone (and I’m sure you have), you know how difficult it can be to forgive. It can be difficult to let the past slip away and let go of grudges, to let go of the memories of disagreement, the sins against one another, and the pain all of this caused. This is difficult enough so that in our day we have become familiar with the term “irreconcilable differences.”
Now, put yourself in God’s place. You’ve created a magnificent universe and have given it to the crown of your creation—the part of the creation that was made in Your own image—two human beings, a perfectly matched set, man and woman. You have literally given them the world, but within a short time they think you have withheld something from them, they want more, and they rebel against you. How could they? Hadn’t You done everything for them? Hadn’t You made them?! If you or I were in a similar position we would be finished with them! We would say, “You miserable, ungrateful, rebellious creatures! Out of my sight!” (if we didn’t destroy them on the spot). If ever there was an irreconcilable situation, this would be it!
Thanks be to God that His character is so different than our own. Oh, God, was angry at the sin Adam and Eve brought into the world. He cursed the serpent and the earth because of their sin. He had every right to curse or even to destroy Adam and Eve on the spot—right then and there. But instead, God led them to a realization of their sin and promised a Savior on the spot—right then and there.
When Jesus, the promised Seed of the woman, was born, Christmas dawned on the earth. From the fall into sin until now and until the end of time “the whole creation groans and labors” (Romans 8:22) under sin’s curse. The earth laboring under sin’s curse longs for the day when it “…also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption…” (Romans 8:21).
At the moment Adam and Eve sinned they were separated from God because of their sin. From the moment of our conception we inherit the sinfulness of our parents and are separated from God because of our sin. Without God’s intervention our sins would remain irreconcilable with the holy and just God, our Creator. Without God’s intervention, Adam and Eve, and all their descendants—in other words, all people—would remain alienated from God and eternally condemned in Hell. “But God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God removed the sin that stood between us. Through Christ and the forgiveness of sins God restored peace between Himself and sinners.
When Christmas dawned on earth it was the dawning of deliverance. It was the dawning of new hope and new life. It was the dawning of peace on earth between God and sinners and of God’s goodwill toward all mankind.
Hymn: Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord [TLH 91 (1,4,8)]
2 Peter 1:19, 2 Corinthians 4:6
To speak of a Christmas dawn in heaven seems so far away. By faith we know that it is true, but it might still seem rather remote because we aren’t in Heaven and we weren’t there to see the angels appear to the shepherds.
To speak of a Christmas dawn on earth feels much closer and strikes closer to home because we are earth born. We witness every day how the earth groans under sin’s load, our consciences bear witness of our own sin, and the sin that flows out of our heart provides daily reminders as well.
But it is the Christmas dawn in your heart where God’s Christmas gift becomes personal, and very real.
Think for a moment of the earthly gifts you have or will receive this Christmas. You know that the giver has given the gift out of love. You know that the giver’s love will continue long after the clothes wear out, after the food is eaten, after the gift certificates are spent, and after the toys are outgrown.
Then there is another set of gifts—gifts that were perhaps hand-made, or very carefully and personally chosen, or personalized in some other way. The effort behind the gift and its personalization gives an added treasureable value because those gifts couldn’t have been given to anyone else…they were made and given to you.
God personalizes His gift of salvation when the Holy Spirit brings that salvation into an individual sinner’s heart. When the Holy Spirit brings the good news of the Gospel and faith takes root, it is there in the darkness of that sinner’s soul and the blindness of his heart that a miraculous dawn begins to shine. Speaking of the Gospel, Peter wrote: “…we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
When God sent the plague of darkness on Pharaoh and Egypt, it was a darkness, we are told, that could be felt. The darkness of sin is no different. Our hearts carry that darkness by nature. Out of that darkness proceed “evil thoughts… covetousness, wickedness, deceit” (Mark 7:21-22), and every other type of sin. Into that darkness Christmas dawns with an amazing and miraculous light. Into hearts darkened by sin God brings the light of salvation and creates a new heart that delights in God and follows His will. “…it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness (at creation), who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The greatest Christmas dawn is in your heart, for there is where God personalizes Christ’s salvation and gives it to you. There is where His Word assures you that the sins you know all too well are indeed washed away. In your heart where fear sometimes rises, is where God says “Peace, be still.” In your heart that is overcome with grief, Jesus lives to dry your tears. In your heart where your flesh still rears its ugly head, your Savior is there to crush the rebellion. In your heart where Satan hopes to win the battles, Jesus is at your side building the defenses and standing with you in the battle’s fray to give you His victory.
In your heart God has given His gift and Christmas has dawned. Rejoice and be merry in Him! Amen.
Hymn: To Thee My Heart I Offer [TLH 89]
Lord Jesus, we stand in reverent awe before Your manger. We bow our heads in humble sorrow as we confess our sins. May we never lose sight of the cross in as the purpose for Your coming and in that truth sorrow over our sins, but also rejoice because of its salvation. Help each of us to enter into the true joys of this day. Open our hearts to receive and to treasure the news of Your birth and the joy it brings.
Light of the World, send our your light and your truth to people everywhere. We pray that people from pole to pole and east to west may come to a genuine knowledge that You are God’s Son incarnate and their Savior from sin. Let the light of this truth reach the hardest of hearts and the most stubborn of wills; let it pierce the darkness of all who dwell in the shadow sin and death.
Look with compassion on the lonely, the sick, the troubled, the sorrowing, and the dying. Bring to their remembrance the comfort of Christmas, that You are Immanuel—God with us. Amen.
Hymn: Joy to the World! [TLH 87]
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.