Christmas Eve – Series C – Luke 2:1-20
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Ceasar Augustus, Quirinius of Syria, Nazareth, Judea, Bethlehem, Joseph, and Mary.
Christmas Eve is nostalgic, there’s no denying it. The reading of our Lord’s Nativity from Luke chapter 2, is a text that most of us know like the back of our hand. The tree is lit, the Advent wreath is filled, we know this day well.
And yet, sometimes our nostalgia, our familiarity, can be distracting, no less on Christmas Eve, no less in the coming of Christ. We may know the words well, but sometimes we forget what they actually mean.
From Luke 2 we hear about a lot of names and places, and here we might be tempted to check out for a bit or gloss over this long list of details. If we really had to think about it, we might say, what’s the big deal that Ceasar was in power, or that Quirinius was governor of Syria, why do these things even matter?
And yet, tonight if we we’re able to put our nostalgia of Christmas Eve on the back burner for a bit, what we find, is that even in these seemingly pointless details, we’re actually missing something of great value.
What we’re missing is what our Lord is all about, the very nature of God, the very coming of Christ.
For, it was not just a long time ago, nor was it once upon a time as if in a fairy tale, but it was exactly then, when Ceasar was consolidating power, and when Quirinius was governor in Syria.
Then, and exactly then, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And it was not in some distant land, nor far far away, but precisely and exactly into the town of Bethlehem, the city of David, the House of Bread.
There, and exactly there, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And it was not some generic story, not to some cruel step-mother, not some fairy tale princess, not to some everyman who rose up and proved himself the hero, but rather, it was to these flawed yet faithful people:
To Mary, shamed with a pregnancy outside of marriage,
To Joseph, a man full of doubt even in the face of the God’s Holy Word,
And to the shepherds in the fields, those often dismissed as shabby and undeserving.
To them, and exactly to them, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Caesar Augustus, Quirinius of Syria, Nazareth, Judea, Bethlehem, Joseph, and Mary.
The Lord is concerned with names and places. For the Lord is concerned with his people.
He is not some generic idea, He has a Name: He is Christ, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, by Him all things were made and without Him there is nothing that has been made.
It was this Word that became flesh who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
This one who led his people out of slavery and into the promised land.
This one whose Name is Jesus, the one who saves His people from their sins.
He is not some abstraction or cosmic friendliness, he is not just a warm feeling or just a matter of tidings of good cheer, he is not some general truth that can be changed throughout time and space depending on our situation.
Neither is this Word made flesh, some kind of vague hope, or a psychological crutch for the weak, or a drug of happiness for those moments in which we despair.
Our Lord is not about generalities, He is not concerned with vague concepts, He is not about mere sentiments.
He is the Word made flesh, the very one who has come into time, into history, into flesh and blood, for you, for the precise and exact salvation of mankind.
Neither is this Word made flesh, one who keeps a list of those who are naughty and nice. He doesn’t threaten or bribe us to behave. He has not come to give our sinful lives his stamp of approval and act as if sin didn’t matter, he does not come to wink at our failure to be faithful.
For the Lord is not about injustice and infidelity.
Rather, our Lord is concerned with names and places, precisely because He is concerned with his people.
And as much as his people might hate, abuse, defy and steal from Him,
as often as we run about pretending that our sins don’t actually bother us,
as much as we try to think that we are no worse than other people,
and quite possibly better than everyone,
no matter how deluded and self-pleasing we have become,
no matter how many selfish things we have piled together as our version of comfort…
He remains steadfast and patient.
He loves us. For the Lord is about his people.
He came precisely in that time, when Quirinius was governor of Syria, precisely to that place, Bethlehem, the city of David, and precisely to those people, Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.
He came to these exactly and on purpose.
And because of that purpose, he does not remain the infant in the manger…our Christmas nostalgia should not end here in Bethlehem.
For the Word made flesh took up that life of suffering, that bitter cup of our sin, that full cost of humanity’s redemption.
For the Lord is concerned with his people.
This is why He allows Himself to be betrayed, to be handed over, to be tortured, and to be killed.
The Lord is so concerned with his people that He became as one to suffer in their place and set them free.
He became a Man, one of us, one of our people. He became flesh and blood, so to be a bloody ransom, a price worthy of the sins of all those who hated Him.
He came to meet the actual demands of actual justice.
For the Lord is about true justice.
He came to pay the debt.
For the Lord is concerned with real redemption.
He came to absorb the wrath and the fire of God against our own sin.
For the Lord is about fulfillment.
He came to end Hell’s claim on mankind, to reconcile all people back to the Father, to restore creation to its original glory.
For the Lord is concerned with true mercy.
He came precisely then, for you exactly now.
For the Lord is about his people.
He is about names and places, because he comes exactly and precisely on purpose.
He comes for you, here, now, and on purpose.
Through the precision of his Water and Word, his body and blood, and true salvation being brought forth into your very ears.
Behold in the manger of his true Word and Sacraments, not a Christ who comes abstractly, not generically, and not one who is imaginary…but precisely, exactly, and on purpose. Given for you.
Here in the waters of Holy Baptism, the Lord who is about his people, comes to give you his very name, he comes to wrap you in his own righteousness, and his very peace.
This is not an abstract baptism of forgiveness, it is the very person of Christ, given and washed over you with his promise and his Word.
Here at the altar, the Lord who is all about his people, comes to you exactly and on purpose with his own body and blood.
Binding you not to the mere idea of Jesus, but to the real body, the real blood shed, the very person of Christ himself.
Here in his Words of forgiveness and life, the Lord who is all about his people, comes to you in the person of His own Son, he delivers to you the exact nature of his forgiveness, none other than Christ himself.
The Lord is about names and places, because He comes to be given to you, by his exact name, in the presence and the place of his true body.
This Christmas Eve, our hope is not a vague hope…it is not a mere feeling…
Rather with all who are found in Christ’s body, we raise our voices and behold his true peace…that he comes with all mercy and grace, exactly here, precisely now, for you.
Therefore, take and eat, for unto you, given this day, in the true body and blood of the Word made flesh, is found a savior, he is Christ the Lord.
Be found in the real meaning of Christmas, the Word has become flesh, He comes to be given, He comes to hold you fast in the peace of his body.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.