Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sermon -- Christmas Eve (December 24, 2016)

          Our Christmas Eve Candlelight service at Good Shepherd was a Service of Lessons and Carols.  Following eight of nine lessons, there were brief devotions.  Below are two of them.

1st Lesson Genesis 3:8-15
The Seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head

          Is God good or not?  The response we all want to give is that God is good.  Still, there are parts of our life that we would like God to stay away from.  We want at least one corner of the world where God is not allowed, where we can keep our secrets, where we can hide from God.  But if God is good, why do we fear him?  Why is there some place we would like to flee from him?
Adam and Eve knew that God is good.  He created the entire universe for mankind and provided all they needed to live in comfort, in peace, and in joy.  But Satan convinced them that God is not good.  Satan convinced them that a loving God would not have laws or standards and would not forbid anything that might make people happy.  Adam and Eve bought Satan's lie, and they rebelled against God.
So, when God appeared to them in the Garden, God had not changed.  He never does.  But mankind had changed.  They were terrified of God.  They tried to hide from him.  They wanted to keep at least part of their life a secret from him.  But hiding shame does not remove shame.  Fleeing from the scene of the crime does not take away one's guilt of the crime.
You and I have inherited Adam's and Eve's guilt.  We have added our sins and shame to theirs.  Sin marks us.  Death comes for us.  Satan owns us.
But God is good.  He promised a Savior as soon as one was necessary.  He extended mercy even though it was not sought after.  He would crush Satan's head to set us free from him, and to reverse the curse of sin and death.  He would take the venom for us and endure bitter death in our place.  Satan would bite at him, but he would smash in his teeth and squash his head.  Thanks to the Savior, sin would be forgiven.  The grave would give back its dead.  And we are removed from Satan's grasp to God's kingdom.
In this we rejoice; for, the curse is removed, God is good, and he is good to us.

7th Lesson Luke 2:8-20
The shepherds visit the manger

Gloria in excelsis Deo!  That is Latin.  In English: Glory to God in the highest!
The glory of God is that he loves us.  He loves what he has created.  He loves the people to whom he gave life.  But it is more than that.
The glory of God is that he loves sinners.  Even though we have been rebellious, even though we have not wanted to listen to God or follow his word, even though we have not loved our neighbor and have not even loved our loved ones as we are supposed to, God did not write us off.  God did not decree that we are a waste of his time and effort.  The glory of God is that he loves sinners.  But it is more than that.
God not only loves sinners, he acts to save sinners.  God loves what he has created, so he longs to redeem what he has created so that we will not perish in our sins.  God takes no delight in banishing anyone to hell.  That does not mean he won't do it.  It means that God acts so that sinners can be saved, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  The glory of God is that he acts to save sinners.  But it is more than even that.
God has become one of us in order to save all of us.  God has become man, mankind to deliver.  Pleased as man with men to dwell, pleased as man to die for men, pleased as man to take up our sins, to  be buried in death, to rise from the grave, to ascend into heaven, and to dwell there forever.  And since he has united himself to us, we follow him.  Though the grave may hold us for us while, Jesus will raise us with glorified bodies, Jesus will take us to the glories of heaven, and men will dwell with God forever.  God became man to dwell with men so that men will dwell with God forever.
This is the glory of God—that he loves people, that he loves sinners, that he acts to save sinners, and that he has become one of us in order to save all of us.
What the angels sing about, we benefit from.  And therefore, we join in their song:
Glory to God in the highest!  Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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