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Christmas 2021 RCL B

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Christmas 2021 RCL B
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church Cornwall
Isaiah 62:6-12, Titus 3:4-7
He saves you when you’re sleeping
Merry Christmas.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ – from Chris Kringle, from Christkindl (as He was once called by little German children), Christ Child, everlasting FATHER Christmas. It was believed long ago by these little German children that baby Jesus brought them presents on Christmas. Not Santa Claus (St. Nicholas of Myra, early church Father, known for slapping heretics and delivering gifts to needy children), but Jesus Himself. Not the Bishop called by Christ to preach His good news, but Christ Himself who is the good news.
That’s a cute little story isn’t it?
But is it not true? Do not all gifts that we receive from one another, from mother, from father, find their root and their being in the source of all gifts, the giver of all that is good, the greatest gift ever given? Do we not, in our giving of ourselves to others, in others giving of themselves to us, find the Spirit of Christ working in and through them?
Why do we give gifts anyway? Is it because the people to whom we give them have earned them? Have they finally outweighed the balance of the scales between good and bad behaviour? Is it motivated by the societal Laws of gift giving? In the hopes that we might get one back, and even out our self-sacrifice? Is it because it’s expected of us? One of the worst manifestations of thisis the Christmas gift game (have you heard of this?), where the family requires that you bring a gift in a certain cost bracket, and then you all compete to get the gift you want, even stealing the gift from another (and we call this fun). Not longer is the “gift” something that you give for the sake of the other, to another, but now a gift is merely a commodity, and you must step over others to get the commodity that you want the most.To distort the notion of gift, it can be our greatest joy, but it can also be our most terrifying fear around these holiday times. I tell you this; I tell you that just in the same way that Jesus said you must become like these little children if you will enter the kingdom of God, so in the same way you must become like these little German children if you will receive the gift of the Christmas Spirit.
The only true gift ever given is the gift given for the sake of grace, something undeserved, something given out of the substance of the giver, something given specifically to the “other”for their sake. These gifts illustrate the grace of Christ towards us. But if we put them out as a reward for good behaviour, or a punishment for the bad, if we put them forward as something done merely out of obedience to the common societal opinion, then they serve only to wage war against the Spirit of Christmas, and the Gift of grace.
God, in that same way, does not save us according to our righteousness, but, as wee see in Titus 3 – according to his MERCY. And this gift is surely better than anything we can give to our brother or sister. This is the gift we read about in the gospel of Luke. That baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. His son Jesus Christ who He sent to die on that cross for your sins. So that every little girl or boy who deserves coal in their stocking instead wakes up on Christmas morning with the gift of eternal life.
I want to draw your attention to something easily missed in the Old Testament reading. Isa 62:8-9
I will not again give your grain
to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink the wine
for which you have labored;
but those who garner it shall eat it
and praise the Lord,
and those who gather it shall drink it
I want to draw your attention to this seemingly insignificant, seemingly irrelevant text in today’s O.T. reading because it paints for us the background of the Christmas painting for us this morning. What you see here is a direct reference to the punishments that God placed upon Israel for breaking His Laws and commandments. What you see here is a direct reference to the threat that God handed to Israel in the giving of the Mosaic Covenant, Leviticus 28, Deut 28; you will plant grain, but another will eat it. You will plant vineyards but another shall drink the wine. You shall marry, but others will take your wives, you will have children, but they will be made into slaves. Your land shall be taken from you, and you will be sent away. In other words; you will work, and your work will be useless and in vain. And that is exactly what happened to Israel, as Isaiah was prophesying. They were besieged, and taken captive. Their food eaten by another, their wine drunk by another, their wives taken, their children enslaved, many of the men slaughtered, their land taken from them. Captive. Exiled. But here is the good news; That time is over.
I will not again give your grain
to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink the wine
for which you have labored
translation; I will not give you the coal for Christmas that you deserve.
Though the thoughts and inclinations of your heart remain only ever evil (Cov w/ Noah, Gen 8:22), I will never again destroy the whole earth because of the sins of men, but will bring them again into a new promised land, a new garden, and once again give them dominion and stewardship over the land. Though Israel turned away from me, forsook me and worshiped other gods, breaking my laws, I will not forsake them, but I will seek them out, in spite of what they are I will call them holy. I will redeem them, I will buy themback from the slavery that they sold themselves into, not with money but with my own blood, with my innocent suffering and death.
For your salvation comes, His Reward is with Him. It is Christ! By grace undeserved!
Some say that the Father of Christmas is some works righteous legalist who dishes out rewards and punishments depending on whether you met the “goodness quota” or not this year. But the German children knew better. The German children knew that the everlasting Father of Christmas does not keep score, watching you as you sleep, scrutinizing your actions when you’re awake, and rewarding you with payment or punishments accordingly. For He is the one who saves us while we’re sleeping, who calls us who were dead in trespasses and sins to awake.
Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of any works that we had done, but according to His mercy,” that is, while we slept, not while we were working toward self-betterment, not while we were cooperating with His plan for us, not while we were choosing Him or making a decision for Jesus, while we were deadin our trespasses and sins, He called us by His Gospel, and enlightened us with His gifts, resurrected us by Baptism, nourished us by His body and Blood, and brought us to full and complete salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For He is the Father of Christmas, the God of gifts, the King of Kindness, the Master of Mercy, the Lord of Love, and He came for you, He sought you ought. Through the water. In Baptism, The water of rebirth, the washing of regeneration! Indeed, through this new birth in Baptism made possible by the birth of Christ our Lord, we have been justified (declared righteous, called holy), not because we were, not by works that we have done, but because of His mercy.
This is God’s gift to you. He, Jesus Christ God made flesh, crucified for the forgiveness of your sins, is God’s FREEgift to you.
Merry Christmas.
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