In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
In the year 5,199 from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created heaven and earth;
In the year 2,957 from the Flood;
In the year 2,015 from the birth of Abraham;
In the year 1,510 from Moses and the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt;
In the year 1,032 from David’s being anointed king;
In the sixty-fifth week of years according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the 194th Olympiad;
In the year 752 from the building of the city of Rome;
In the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
The whole world being in peace;
In the sixth age of the world;
Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify this world by His most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since His conception having passed, in Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary, being made man.
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Aside from being a longstanding Christmas tradition in the Church, the “Proclamation of Christmas,” which was just read, is an essential piece of Christmas. It connects with the opening of St. John’s Gospel which we just heard. In the beginning was the Word, Jesus Christ. From the beginning, Christmas was inevitable. From the foundation of the world, God knew that He would send His Son, “born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4). God did not create us to sin, to need a Redeemer, but in His omniscience He knew that we would, so from the foundation of the world He knew what He would do to redeem us.
It also shows us that nothing can ruin Christmas. If we were to dig into the history we just heard we would find that the centuries leading to the birth of Christ were not rosy. Man fell into sin. Israel disobeyed God. Enemies tried to exterminate God’s chosen people. Even on the first Christmas Eve no room could be found for the Virgin to give birth to her firstborn Son. But nothing could ruin Christmas; nothing could stop God’s plan to save His people from their sin.
The same inability to ruin Christmas extends to today because of Christ. Nothing can ruin Christmas. Not family fights, not poverty, not bad news, not bad gifts, not unthankful recipients. Not even death. For death has lost its sting and the grave its victory. Death has been put to rest in the manger. If even the ox and donkey knows their Master, how much more does death know that He who will cause its demise lays in the manger? Christmas cannot be ruined any more than God can be ruined or the birth in Bethlehem undone. The Word became flesh. That is a fact. You have a Savior.
God as a man, God as a baby, has laid Himself in the manger, the feeding trough, to make Himself Food for you, the very Bread of Life. His light shines and drives off darkness. God loves you. He gives Himself to you that you might be like Him, that you would be whole again as you were meant to be: free from sin, full of praise, and eager to do good works that help your neighbor and glorify God. He has redeemed you. He has rescued you from death, from gloom and despair. And though you still experience mourning, weeping, anger, and frustration in this world, you do not experience them as those who have no hope. You know the truth: the Word became flesh. You have been touched by the watery Hand of God; His Name is upon you. You are His.
The Word became flesh, and because of this, your frail flesh will soon leave behind the corruption of this present age and be like all of those who have preceded you: holy, alive and good, full of joy because the Word became flesh. You will inherit this eternal joy because the Word lay in a manger and then in a borrowed tomb. But He is no longer there. He is now at the right hand of the Father. He calls you and all believers to Himself, pointing to the marks on His hands and feet and side, ushering you through death and into life. Because the Word became flesh, and the Word endures forever, the corruptible now becomes incorruptible and the mortal becomes immortal.
No one can snatch this from you. Long after earthly Christmas fades away, after the tree is ground up into mulch or folded back up and put in its box under the basement steps, the presents are forgotten about and discarded, the Word they still shall let remain. They may not care for it, have no thanks for it, they may hate it. But it does not matter. The Word endures forever; Christ endures forever. He is that blessed Word that came from God to save you. He is that Word that created all that is. He is that blessed Word from God, sent to speak you back into fellowship with Him. And until the final Word is said, the waters of Baptism still flow, the Word of forgiveness still sounds forth for all who repent and seek His grace, the Word still joins to bread and wine His Body and Blood to be the Food of Life—the flesh once laid in a manger, nailed to a cross, and made alive again is laid on your tongue to make you a temple of the Holy Spirit. His Word does what it was sent to do, forgiving all your sin and giving you faith.
Nothing can ruin Christmas. Did His own receive Him not? Was there no room for Him in the inn? It did not stop Him! He still loves you! He took on your flesh, He redeemed you from this awful, dying place. He laid Himself in a filthy animal feeding trough and onto the rough wood of the cross all that you receive the unending comfort of His mercy, the unending blessings of heaven. He gives this and more to you, not because you have deserved it, but because He loves to give His gifts. He bestows grace upon grace, gift for gift, love for love, so that your cup overflows. God is with you and has given Himself to you. Death has no claim. By grace you belong to God.
Nothing can ruin that. The devil already tried. Here you are given the joy that no one can snatch away. You are given joy in the midst of sadness, life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of despair, God in the midst of men. The Word became flesh—your flesh! Your flesh will receive its reward.
Let earthly Christmas be as dreary as it wants to be, as terrible as this sinful world can make it. You have the greatest Christmas imaginable. The Word became flesh; you have a Savior. Find solace and comfort here. The Word made flesh is the only stable thing, the only thing that does not age, wither, die, or break; the only thing that does not disappoint in all of creation. Nothing can ruin that; nothing can ruin Christmas. The Word became flesh. You have a Savior. Thanks be to God.
A blessed Christmas to you all.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).