Christmas Day 2014
Sermon – Luke 2:8-20
Theme: Do Not Be Afraid!
In 1963 pop singer Andy Williams released a Christmas album containing the song; It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. That song is still played often even today. In fact, it is still one of the top 15 Christmas songs played on the radio this year. The song focuses around activities that happen around Christmas showing why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. There are kids “jingle-belling,” friends coming to visit, parties for hosting, and marshmallows for toasting. All of these descriptions try to point us to the happiness and joy that surrounds Christmas.
And for many people Christmas is their favorite time of the year. They enjoy the lights, the carols, decorations, time with families, and Christmas cookies. These things stir up the emotions. We can feel excited and happy to see relatives and friends, and to enjoy the traditions we have.
The emotion we don’t usually associate with Christmas is fear. Maybe for some there is sadness around Christmas because they can’t celebrate with a loved one. Maybe there is the stress of deadlines and general busyness. But again, we don’t usually think of fear? Yet, we read on that first Christmas night, the shepherds were terrified, they were afraid.
Why were they afraid? There is the obvious reason, an angel appeared to them. Picture a dark night on the hillside. These shepherds were on the clock; they were punched in, going about a normal work-night. It started out like any other night for them. But then, a flash of bright light hits them, and staring them right in the face is an angel sent by God. If that happened to anyone of us, we probably would be a bit shocked and scared as well.
But the fear of those shepherds goes much deeper than that. The bigger fear they were facing was standing in the glory of the Lord. For the first time in their lives, they were standing in the presence of holiness. They realized very quickly that they did not belong there. They were mere mortals, filled with sin since the time of their conception. In that bright light of glory they could not hide their shame they couldn’t hide their sinfulness from God.
This reaction of fear is not out of place, it is actually quite common in Scripture. In Luke 1 we see that Mary was, “greatly troubled” when Gabriel appeared to her. John the Baptist understood there was a huge difference between the holiness of Jesus and himself. He said he didn’t deserve to bend down and touch Jesus’ shoes. This fear goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. After they disobeyed God they ran and hid from him when they heard him coming. They were afraid because of their sin.
Sin brings fear. Fear of judgment. Fear of death. Fear of a holy and perfect God. Our consciences remind us that we have not been perfect, that we have not kept God’s Law perfectly. Each one of us knows our own pasts. Have you been slow to forgive? Have you said harsh words in the middle of a heated argument? What about that sin that you have tried to avoid over and over again but it seems you are always on the losing end of that battle. And you feel the guilt and burden of those shameful sins.
Then, as we read God’s Word we hear the message that God has forgiven all sins to all people. It is easy for us to be quick to share that with others who are in distress over their sins. Yet, it is a challenge for us to apply that to ourselves. We may feel we have sinned too much, too often, too great for us to have peace with God. “There is just no way I can have a healthy relationship with him, because of my sins.” This is where the true fear sets in.
When we see our sinfulness, we understand why the shepherds were terrified. If we had to stand before the glory of God in our sins and shame we would tremble, shake, and be in complete fear.
Yet, when the angel speaks to those shepherds and to us as well, he does not bring a message of condemnation but a message of hope. The angel doesn’t point out their sins, but instead says he has good news! Right away, he wants to calm our fears our fears when he says:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ, the Lord.” Then the whole chorus of angles joined in with “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
The only antidote for great fear is great joy. And the greatest joy was announced by the angels that night. They announced that God had kept the promise he had made since the very first sin thousands of years earlier. It was the same promise he gave to Noah, to Abraham, and David; The promise to send a Savior. This Savior would solve our greatest problem, our greatest worry, our greatest fear – sin and its consequences.
Since God is just and holy he couldn’t over look our sins, he couldn’t ignore them. Yet, as a loving God, he did not want to punish you and condemn you for eternity. He wanted to save you. So, he sent Jesus, his own Son, to rescue you from your sins.
This gift is for you! When the angel said this great joy will be for “all people” that included you. That means, Jesus was born in Bethlehem for you. He lived a perfect life for you. He went to the cross to pay for all of your sins. Three days later he rose from the dead to give you the assurance that your too will rise and live in glory. You never have to wonder “Have I sinned too much or too often?” No, Jesus was held accountable for every single sin, including yours. God loved you so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own Son to restore the relationship that sin had broken. He sent Jesus to give us peace with him.
Along with the peace that is given to us, the angels also announced that we have God’s favor. What does that mean for God’s favor to rest on you? It means you have been released from your fears. You have been released from the fear of judgment. Since Jesus paid for your sins you are declared ‘not guilty’ of sin. You have been released from the fear of death. Jesus died and rose again so that you will never die but will live forever in the glories and eternal rest of heaven. You also have been released from the fear of God. We don’t see him as an angry judge who is waiting to bring condemnation on us. No, we see him as our loving Father. A Father who has given us the best gift we could ever ask or hope for. We are not afraid to stand in the presence of his glory, in fact we eagerly anticipate it because we know our God loves us and has made us holy through Christ.
After the angel had spoken to the shepherds, they immediately went to see the child. The angel didn’t have to push them along and urge them to go see Jesus. No, they wanted to go and see this miraculous event. Now, we have no idea how long the shepherds stayed at the stable that night, and we don’t have recorded for us what they said. What we do know is that they were filled with joy. They probably had the most memorable Christmas ever! They could look back at that night and remember seeing the Savior and the peace which God gave them through Jesus.
Christmas does the same for us as well. As we focus our thoughts on Jesus and what he had done for us, we are reminded that our relationship with God has been restored. We are filled with peace and joy. This comfort goes beyond just Christmastime. Throughout the year as you feel afraid or anxious, as you feel the guild of your sins – take a journey back to Bethlehem and see God’ love for you wrapped in cloths and lying a manger. Here we find you find your true source of joy and peace.
When we view Christmas in this light, it truly can be viewed as the most wonderful time of the year. Not because of the parties or get-togethers. But it is wonderful because of what Christmas means for you, what God has done for you. That night he removed our fears and gave us salvation through Jesus. It does give us reason to celebrate, to sing, to praise, and to worship him. May this wonderful message of Christmas fill you with joy and gladness not only today, but every day of your life.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2023 All rights reserved.