Saturday, December 22, 2012

From THOUGHTS to TEXT: What Actually Makes the Cut

After posting my thoughts on upcoming texts for about a year, I thought I'd give you an idea of what actually makes its way into the draft of the sermon. Here are the thoughts I posted for Christmas Eve and below is the text that I'll likely preach.

Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1–20
24 December 2012


Along with the proclamation of Christ’s birth as the Savior who brings peace, which was declared to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, the angels gave them a sign. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” The Savior is the one who is wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger because there was no room for them in an inn. The Savior is the one who is wrapped in the meager and the mundane.

Signs tell us things. They tell us where we are. They tell us what to do. They tell us where to go. They point to something beyond themselves. They give us significance that otherwise might be missed.

The angels give the shepherds a sign. This sign tells them who the Savior is. It tells them where He shall be and how they shall find Him. It tells them what He is and what He will to do. And this sign reveals all this also for us.

Jesus is born in the city of David, as the prophecies all attest. He will be found not in an inn. For He is not a foreigner stopping for a night only to move on the next morning. No, he is no foreigner. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. He is a citizen. He is a member of the community. He is one of them. He is one with them. So that He can be for them, to serve them and save them.

Thus he is not found in an inn, but in a manger. He is born in Bethlehem, which means House of Bread, and laid in a trough for holding food to sustain, to nourish, and give true life, eternal life to His creatures. He will be the sustenance of His people. For He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven. The bread that never perishes, but leads to eternal life. Whoever partakes of this bread has exactly what the Words and promises of God declare: the forgiveness of sin.

And He will be wrapped in swaddling cloths. He comes as any other human. The sign of Adam’s first sin, that which covered His guilt and shame, covers also this Baby’s nakedness. He is wrapped in swaddling cloths because He is the one who takes upon Himself our sin, our guilt, and our shame. And so He is wrapped in the cloths that mark Him for death. For just as He came as any other human, so likewise will He leave as any other human. For this child will die. But in His death, death itself is put to death. For He who died is no longer dead. He is risen. He lives, out of the grave alive. And the swaddling cloths that once wrapped him at His birth, the swaddling cloths that covers the shame of sin, and the swaddling cloths that covered him in His death are now and forever left in the grave, neatly folded right where they belong. There is nothing left to accuse you. For He has conquered death by death, he is victorious over sin by becoming sin for us. And He gives us peace on earth and peace with God in heaven.

Seek the Lord, therefore, where He may be found. Seek Him where He has promised to be. Seek the sign that comes with the proclamation of Christ the Lord’s coming in the flesh. Make your way to that place where our Lord lay, wrapped in the meager and the mundane. For this altar is God’s feeding trough. He makes your mouths and your hearts His manger. Here through meager bread and mundane wine, you receive the abiding presence of His Flesh and Blood, whereby we are joined to Him, and He to us. Here you eat the Bread of Life that bestows life, salvation, forgiveness, joy, and peace..

Therefore, fear not. For behold, I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is given this day in the city of Tuscola a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find wrapped in bread and wine, the very body and blood of Him who was born in Bethlehem, died on Calvary, and raised in Jerusalem. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host—of angels and archangels of the whole company of heaven—praising God saying: Holy, Holy, Holy . . . Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Let us then mingle our voices with theirs and come to receive this thing that the Lord has made known to us. For Christ was born. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Merry Christmas. For this is indeed something to be merry about. Amen.

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