Christmas Day December 25, 2022
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
90, 136, Worship Supplement 2000 #709, 94
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://anchor.fm/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Merciful God, please grant to Your people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins and serve You without fear; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.
Dear friends in Christ who have come to see those things which the Lord has made known to us,
“There was no room for them in the inn…” We know those words well, but have you ever stopped to consider how cruel and cold those words are? They are cold and cruel not just in terms of the birth of Jesus, but in general. “There was no room for them in the inn.” Nobody in Bethlehem had the time or the space or KINDNESS to take in this woman who was great with child. No one offered to make room for them. This couple had to stay in a stable, with the animals. Then, Mary went into labor and gave birth…in the filth and stench of a barn, because…there was no room for them in the inn.
This is the cruel and inhumane world that Jesus was born into. He came to a world of sinners that cared more about themselves and their own comfort, than for a young mother who was 9 months pregnant. Right before our text from Titus 3, Paul lists some of the characteristics of sinful man:
One commentator refers to this as “man’s inhumanity to man.” From the moment sin entered the world, we see this inhumanity, this lack of kindness. Rather than acknowledging his guilt, Adam blames God and his wife. Eve blames the serpent. Cain kills Abel in jealousy. King David kills Uriah to cover up the sin he committed with Uriah’s wife. And the list goes on and on.
This is the unkind world Jesus was born into. An inhumane world where no one could be bothered to make room for a pregnant mother.
Knowing that, listen with amazement and ponder the kindness of God that appeared at Christmas, as described in Titus, chapter three, verses 4 through 7:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (ESV)
God was not blind to the cold cruelty of sinful man. In Genesis 8:21, right after the flood, God acknowledges, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” God knew the evil world He was sending His Son into, and He knew the unkind things that would be done to His beloved Son. Throughout the Old Testament, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, God foretold of nails piercing the hands of His Son. In Jeremiah 31, the LORD prophecies how “Herod the king in his raging” would try to kill Jesus in Bethlehem even before He was two years old.
And yet, what happened on Christmas? Paul says that the kindness of God appeared to save us. God sent His Son into this inhumane world to rescue us from our own inhumanity: our evil speaking and quarrelling, our foolishness and disobedience, our evil passions and pleasures, our malice and envy, and our hate. What an astounding statement to then read: “He saved us.” He saved us from the just punishment we deserved, an eternal punishment in hell.
Obviously, this work of saving us wasn’t our doing—it couldn’t have been, especially considering that list of sins we just mentioned. Instead, God saved us “according to His own mercy.” “Mercy” is the kindness and pity someone has on someone or something in need or distress. The Good Samaritan had kindness and pity on the man who had been beaten up and robbed. In mercy, the Good Samaritan took this man to an inn, washed his wounds, and paid for his stay.
God has had mercy on us in our pitiful condition. His kindness appeared in the flesh on Christmas. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who saw our pitiful condition, took us up, carried us, and paid our bill by dying on the cross. According to His own mercy, God saved us. Martin Luther writes of this in his hymn, “Dear Christians One and All, Rejoice:”
God said to His belovéd Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.” (LSB 556:5)
Perhaps you are amazed at the rich gifts that people buy for each other at Christmas. Each year, Lexus and Chevrolet have car commercials where a husband and wife buy each other a new car or truck for Christmas. I can’t even imagine giving or receiving such a rich gift.
Even if we were to receive a shiny, new luxury car or brand new, $50,000 pick-up truck, we know what would eventually happen to that rich gift which we received. In 40,000 miles the tires are going to need to be replaced. Salt from our Minnesota roads would begin to rust the underbody. Eventually, it will either be in an accident or break down and need to be replaced.
So it is with all the rich gifts of this world, no sooner do we get them than they begin to rust and break. But not so with God’s kindness that appeared at Christmas. The richness of this gift grows and multiplies from the moment He gives it to you personally. Verse 5, “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” God’s kindness was showered on you in your baptism. It was a washing of regeneration. Regeneration literally means to be given “new life.” By the power of the Holy Spirit who works through baptism, you were given a new life. You were made a believer in Jesus Christ.
With that new life, the Spirit also gives us new desires or renews us day by day. No longer do we want to continue on in those inhumane sins, but confessing our sins, we live for God who loved us and who saved us according to His mercy.
In verse 6, Paul says that God poured out the Holy Spirit “on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Your new life and new desires are also wrapped up in the manger in Bethlehem. This too was part of the kindness of God that appeared at Christmas.
Ultimately, the kindness of God that appeared at Christmas in saving us, giving us new life, and renewing us by the Holy Spirit, is leading to one goal, one destination. Verse 7, “being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” God sent Jesus that we might inherit eternal life.
Granting sinners entrance into heaven didn’t come without a cost. Jesus would have to bear the punishment for the crimes that we had committed against God. He would have to become our sin, for us to be right with God. He would have to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquity, so that by His wounds we would be healed. Again, Luther writes of this in his hymn:
“Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.” (LSB 556:8)
This is the kindness that appeared at Christmas. While the inhumanity of Bethlehem had no room in its heart for the arrival of the Christ child, God, who is rich in mercy and grace, had room in His heart for you and your inhumanity. The Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger is the Savior God sent to bear our sins in His body on the tree. By His death, God has now declared you “not guilty.” You have been saved according to God’s mercy. The Holy Spirit has given you faith in Jesus and gives you holy desires to live your life for God. And now, amid the inhumanity of this hopeless world, the kindness of God has given you hope—sure and certain hope knowing that the Child wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger came to give you the inheritance of eternal life. Praise God for His kindness that appeared at Christmas! Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.