Passage: Luke 2:1–2:7
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 2:1-7
Date: December 25th, 2016; Christmas Day
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
A pastor shared the story of when he began his Christmas Day Service and the electricity in the church failed.
He and the ushers quickly scrambled and found some candles and placed them around the sanctuary.
He then got back into the pulpit, shuffled his notes, and muttered, “Now, where was I?”
A tired voice called out from the pews, “Right near the end!”
Dear friends, my guess is that some of you can relate to this story.
It has been a long haul of busyness to get ready for the Christmas holidays and you might be anxious for me to get to the end quickly so that you can carry-on.
And I will do my best!
But I invite you to relax and take a break from the cares of the world for a while and really listen to, and absorb, the Good News of the Christmas story and join me in considering a very important question.
In fact, I think this is the most important question that anyone could ask about anything ever.
Is it true?
Is the Christmas story true?
Is it true, or is it just some nice sounding fable that we pass along from generation to generation?
Is the Christmas story true?
I think this is such an important question because it has everything do to with whether or not God and sinners are truly reconciled.
There are some who claim that this is all a big hoax.
These claims seem to get the most publicity during the seasons of Christmas and Easter.
We see shows on the Discovery Channel, History Network, and articles in popular magazines claiming that Jesus never even existed. They say he’s just a made-up figure.
They claim that the Bible is just a work of fiction and it’s been added to and changed over the centuries and can't be trusted. They say it’s filled with error.
In a nutshell, there are some who claim that the Christmas story is a bunch of made-up nonsense.
And if they are right, if the Christmas story is just a big deception, then that means that God and sinners are not reconciled.
If they are right, there is no hope.
Earthquakes will keep quaking, hurricanes will keep destroying, flood waters will keep spilling, fires will keep burning.
Natural order will never be restored, but will just continue to wreak havoc and destroy.
If they are right, there will never be true peace on earth.
Greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, discrimination, exploitation will carry on endlessly.
Turmoil will continue in our lives, in our relationships with our friends and families and others.
Turmoil will continue in the world. There will be no end to nations being at war. There will be no end to bombs going off, shootings, planes being flown into buildings, trucks being driven into crowds.
If they are right, there will be no end to our injuries, diseases, illnesses, pain and suffering.
Bones will continue to break and muscles will ache, cancer will keep growing, hearts won’t stop being attacked.
If they are right, there is no forgiveness.
The shame and guilt of those horrible things that we have thought, said, and done remains.
The heavy burden of our sin, and the punishment it deserves, continues.
If they are right, death is permanent. There is no life after death. There is no heaven. That’s it. It’s final.
Is the Christmas story true? Are God and sinners truly reconciled?
Or is it just a nice sounding story? A work of fiction? A myth?
It’s a pretty important question, isn't it?
So, what is the truth of the matter?
Well, let’s start with the Bible.
The Bible is not a work of fiction, as some claim.
It has not been changed and edited over the centuries to the point where it can't be trusted. It is not filled with error.
In fact, the Bible is the most reliable document that we have from antiquity. By far. It’s not even close.
It is nothing short of incredible how the Bible has maintained its integrity over the centuries.
The evidence leads us to conclude that it is dependable and it can be trusted.
Based on the accounts that we have in the Bible, and on other external sources, the facts overwhelmingly show that Jesus is not a fictional character - he truly lived on this earth.
He is a true historical figure just like Caesar Augustus, John A. Macdonald, and Michael Jackson.
This person, Jesus Christ, claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah of whom the prophets of old spoke.
We hear from the prophet Isaiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:2-7).
Jesus claimed that he is the One - he is the child born, the son given - when he said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
Now, Jesus’ claim to be God isn’t very remarkable. There are many who have, and continue to, claim to be God.
The difference, however, is that Jesus was the only person who was able to back-up this claim by rising from his grave after being put to death on a cross.
Only God can rise from the dead by means of his own power.
We have good evidence (eye-witness testimony and other) that Jesus’ resurrection is a historical fact.
So, what is the truth of the matter?
Jesus answered this question plainly when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Dear friends we have good reason to believe that the Christmas story is true.
The evidence, the facts, show that it happened in history.
God acted in history to save us - and he saved us through the firstborn Son of Mary who was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger.
This means that we can count on God’s promise of restored order.
The chaos we see in nature is coming to an end and only tranquil Garden of Eden-like conditions are our future.
This means that we will live in eternal peace and harmony with God and with each other. Only love, support, and joy.
This means no more tragic accidents. No more horrific phone calls and meetings with doctors who have bad news to share.
Our bodies will be filled with health and vitality.
As the prophet Isaiah describes it, “…then shall the lame man will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35:6).
This means that you are forgiven. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). You have been clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness.
In Christ, no matter who you are, where you have been, or what you have done - you are holy and righteous in God’s sight.
This means that your death is a mere sleep. It is a transition to eternal life with God and all of his people. In Christ, death has lost its sting forever (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Dear friends, now I am near the end!
But hear again the Good News that Christ Jesus was born into history to save us.
And he continues to act in history to save us.
He acts through the waters of your Baptism to remove your sin and mark you as one of his redeemed.
He acts through his living Word as it is read, preached, and mediated upon. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to stir up and strengthen your faith in the truth that not only did Christ break into history to save the world - he came to save you personally.
Jesus continues to break into our history in a tangible way as he feeds us with his true body and true blood through Holy Communion that we may receive his forgiveness, strength, and gift of eternal life.
I invite and encourage you to join us at St. Paul’s, or a local congregation, to allow God to act in your history, in your life, that you may receive his gift of salvation and his peace that surpasses all understanding.
Is it true?
Is the Christmas story true, or is it just a nice sounding sentimental story that we tell?
It’s true! It happened! God and sinners are reconciled! You and God are reconciled!
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.