The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord – Midnight Service
St. Luke 2.1-20
24 December 2018
Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Terre Haute, Indiana
“Joyous News From Heaven”
+ In the Name of Jesus +
And the angel said to them, “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; ESV)
The angel of the Lord comes from heaven with good news of great joy for all the people. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and David’s Son, who is Christ the Lord, is born this night.
What announcement could be any sweeter news? Was such joyful news ever heard in the world before? When did the world ever receive such glad tidings?
This birth is unlike any other. It is a holy birth. It is unprecedented in the world, nor has anything happened like it since. A birth without sorrow, without shame, free from corruption, a birth above and beyond nature, yet for the sake of redeeming our nature.
How can we not be filled with astonishment like the shepherds were? The Son of the Most High is born. The Son, begotten of God before all ages, is incarnate. The eternal Word is become an infant laid in a manger. His glory fills the night of lowly Bethlehem, the star proclaims the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is here. The angel armies of heaven sing His praises on earth’s fields.
This is not a needless birth, either. God did not do this great act just to show forth His power, or to merely inspire in us happy thoughts or good feelings about Him or about ourselves. This birth is full of purpose.
This birth is of the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This birth is to redeem and save all of us men who have been born children of dust, doomed to die in the sin of our first parents in the ancient garden, and in the sin which we commit even from our own conception and birth. This birth is to change men’s hearts and turn them and their children in repentance back to fellowship with Him.
Because of this birth, the angels call us to awake from the slumber of this world and its sinful condition, and give praise to God this night. The Lord comes with salvation. The Lord comes with healing in His wing. The Lord comes with glory from on high. The child whose birth we celebrate and marvel at this night is Himself salvation, healing, and glory.
On account of these three precious gifts of salvation, healing, and glory, it is consoling to hear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born. For why is He called Jesus, but because He shall save His people from their sins? Why has He willed to be named Christ, but because He will soften the yoke of His law by the healing balm, the anointing of His grace and His Spirit? Why was the Son of God made man, but to make men the sons of God and share with them His glory? Who shall resist His will? If Jesus justifies, who can condemn? If Christ heals, who can wound? If the Son of God exalts, who shall cast us down?
Since Jesus is born, let everyone rejoice whom the consciousness of sin has condemned as deserving of eternal punishment. For the compassion of Jesus exceeds all crimes, however great their number and enormity. Since Christ is born, let him rejoice who wages war with the vices inherent in our nature. No disorder of the soul, how inveterate it may be, can withstand the healing which Christ brings. Since the Son of God is born, let him rejoice who desires great things, for a great rewarder comes. “This is the heir”; let us receive Him devoutly, “and the inheritance shall be ours.” For He Who has given us His own Son, who suffered and died to bring us salvation, healing, and heaven’s glory, how has He not with Him given us all things? Let no one disbelieve, let no one doubt; we have a most trustworthy testimony. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
The only-begotten Son of God desired to have brethren, that He might be the first among many brethren. Even human frailty has no cause to hesitate. He has become the brother of men; He has become the Son of man; He has become man. “Et Homo factus est.” We bow our knee at the mystery in adoration, this night above and more profoundly than any other.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The voice of gladness from the angels resounds in our land, even now. It is not just a great story from ancient history. It is the joyful voice of exultation and salvation in the tents of sinners, like you and me, who need to hear that voice. A good word has been and still is heard, a consoling word, a speech full of joyfulness, a rumor worthy of all acceptance.
So, to paraphrase the psalms and prophets who foretold this joyful news, “Sing praise, O ye mountains, and all ye trees of the woods. Clap your hands before the face of the Lord, because He cometh. Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! Be amazed, and let every creature give praise; but thou beyond others, O children of men!” For to you is born this day in the city of David your Savior, your healing, your glory, who is Christ the Lord.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +
[Written with humble borrowing and help from the sermon, “On The Vigil Of Our Lord’s Nativity: On The Joy His Birth Should Inspire”, posted by Rev. Jason Braaten, accessed at https://www.gottesdienst.org/gottesblog/2018/12/18/bernard-of-clairvaux-on-the-vigil-of-our-lords-nativity]