Pastor Chris Matthis
Epiphany Lutheran Church, Castle Rock, Colorado
Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
Sermon: Child of Promise: Salvation
Text: Isaiah 12:1-6; Matthew 1:18-25
Focus: Jesus saves us from our sins.
Function: That they would put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord.
Locus: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary… has redeemed me…” (SC, 1st Article of Apostles’ Creed).
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word of the Lord: “‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ … And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:21, 25, ESV). Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Tonight we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man! Jesus is the most wonderful name in the whole world, the name above all names (Heb. 1:4), and the only “name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).
Yet what is so special about his name? Why should we care what we call him? Would it make any difference if his name were Bob or Steve or Frank? As Juliet asks in Shakespeare’s play, “What’s in a name?” What’s so special about the name Jesus?
Quite a lot, actually! In the ancient world, a name was more than just something you called somebody. Names meant something. Names captured the essence of a person: their character, their reputation, the circumstances of their birth, and their parents’ hopes and dreams for their future. Names mattered because a man and his name were one and the same. So it is with Jesus.
Jesus’ name means “the Lord saves.” Jesus’ name tells us who he is and what he does. Simply put, Jesus saves! As the angels announced to the Bethlehem shepherds: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Jesus is our Lord and Savior, the one who saves. Yet a Savior must save you from something or someone. From what does Jesus save us? According to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Jesus saves us from “sin, death, and the power of the devil” (SC, 2nd Article of Apostles’ Creed). That’s why the angel in Joseph’s dream told him to name Mary’s son Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Christmas is all about salvation! On this night we remember the unfolding of God’s plan to save us from our sins. Although, in actuality, it’s not an un-folding at all! It is the en-folding of God’s gift of salvation, the way in which God wrapped himself in human flesh and came down to earth to become our Immanuel, or “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Jesus is God with us in human flesh—God with skin on—to save us from our sins. God loves you so much, that he put “skin in the game” to save you from your sins and save us from ourselves.
But maybe you find this message of salvation a little off-putting on Christmas Eve. You came to enjoy family-friendly atmosphere, to sing a few Christmas carols, and to get sentimental about a cute, little baby in a manger before going home, sharing some toasts around the Christmas tree, and opening gifts from Santa Claus. But Christmas is not about Santa; it’s about a Savior. And Christmas is not about gifts under the tree; it’s about the greatest gift of all. Christmas isn’t even about family gatherings, but rather God’s own Son gathering all people into his family by faith. Christmas is about salvation!
This message that we are in need of being saved may be uncomfortable—or even insulting—to many of us! That doesn’t surprise me in the least! The Gospel message is offensive! God comes in human flesh to offend our reason, sensibilities, and sensitivities. That’s why the preaching of John the Baptist insisted that we repent of our sins and prepare the Lord’s way. We would like to think of ourselves as nice, kind-hearted, generally good people. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!” Now that’s what Christmas is all about! What’s with all this talk about death and sin?! Isn’t that a bit out of place for a night like this?
Absolutely not! Because whether we realize it or not, whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are all sinners, spiritually lost and dead, until Christ comes. Apart from Christ, we are doomed and damned with no hope in the world! Who cares about coal in your stocking?! We will be raked over the coals in hell for eternity if we do not repent and receive God’s grace in Jesus! But with Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, “God with us,” we have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. With Jesus, we have hope for healing and life beyond the brokenness of this cold, dark world.
At Christmas, God literally gets in your face and makes you skin crawl! He wakes you up, shakes you up—and maybe even breaks you up—to the reality of the Incarnation and all the blessed implications of the birth of the baby boy of Bethlehem. Baby Jesus cries out to you from the manger, and he cries out to you from the cross. “Come to me!” Jesus says. “Come and worship! Lay down your burdens of bitterness, guilt, and fear! Surrender your pride and shame! Lay them down beside the manger. Lay them down at the foot of the cross. Here I AM! I am your salvation!”
Will you believe and receive the babe of Bethlehem this Christmas? Will you make room for him in your heart? And will you ready yourself by faith and repentance for his final coming on the Last Day?
On a Christmas night more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to save you from your sins. Someday he will come again to judge the living and the dead. But right now the Christ Child comes with salvation (forgiveness). “The Lord God is [our] strength and [our] song, and he has become [our] salvation” (Isa. 12:2b). By God’s grace, may you be numbered among those who rejoice at his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). Merry Christmas! In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.