Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Scarville Sunday School Christmas Program
December 16, 2007
Text: Matthew 1:20-23
But while he thought about these things, behold,
an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in
her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall
call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all
this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through
the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a
Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
The other day I started thinking about why we have so many
singers of all types who put out Christmas albums, year after year. Yet these
same people do not put out Good Friday or Easter albums. Mannheim Steamroller
has many CDs for Christmas; any number of singers and choirs put out dozens and
dozens of Christmas related music. There’s even an ogre with a Christmas CD.
But nothing for Good Friday or Easter. So, why is this?
The conclusion I reached is that since the main event of
Christmas is the birth of a baby boy it is something that people can easily
relate to. The birth of a baby is a great event in the life of a family,
something cherished, something remembered, something about which to rejoice.
The birth of Jesus can be celebrated and sung about without really paying too
much attention to the reason why. That is not the case with Good Friday and
Good Friday is centered on the death of Jesus on the cross.
Easter is centered on the resurrection of the dead by that same Jesus. Those
events are not easily disguised or changed into celebrations that everyone can
sing about. To sing about Good Friday is to sing about a very gory public
execution. To sing about Easter means that you have to talk about something
that is not compatible with human experience or human wisdom. Whereas Christmas
has been given a makeover that allows people of many backgrounds to sing carols
and hymns about Jesus, despite the fact of what those songs are all about.
Yet, when we look at Christmas with the words of Scripture
ringing in our ears we learn that the event of Christmas is also something that
is outside human experience and human reason. Christmas is the birth of the
baby who Holy Scripture declares was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was
told: “that which is conceived in [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit.” And even more,
we are told that this child shall be named: Immanuel. St. Matthew does us the
favor of translating that Hebrew word for us: Immanuel means, God with us.
To top it all off we’re told why this baby was born: to save
people from sin. And there’s something none of us like to hear about. Talk
about sin during Christmas is pretty depressing. Why bring up that topic when
there are enough hassles and headaches this time of year? We have to talk about
it because that’s what Jesus came to solve for us. Sin is what we have, what
we’ve been born into, what chases us and ruins lives again and again. But this
sin is what Jesus, the Savior, born of the virgin Mary, came to undo. That is
why Christians write Christmas hymns. That is why those who gather in Christian
churches sing Christmas hymns. The purpose is to proclaim who this Jesus is,
what He came to do, and why we so desperately need it.
Much of the music you’ll hear on the radio over the next few
weeks will probably not focus too much on that side of Christmas. And we
shouldn’t expect our society to get Christmas right. But let us make sure we
do. Let’s make sure we learn about Jesus born in Bethlehem, because we sinners need this
Savior. We need Him and He has come to us out of great love, taking on our
humanity, to defeat sin, to bring us forgiveness. This great work of Jesus made
a beginning in a little stable, far across the sea. But the finished work would
be done on a hill outside of Jerusalem,
where He would be pierced through by nail and spear as He hung on a cross, for
me, for you. In His death He would defeat death; with our sin on Him He would
go to the grave, yet rise on Easter Sunday with no sin – all gone, wiped clean
by His sacrifice for us.
Christmas is much more than the birth of a son. It is
the birth of a unique baby in all human history, a boy called Jesus, the
Savior, Immanuel, God-with-us. God grant that as we gather in the coming weeks
to celebrate here in church, and with our families wherever they may be, that
we center on the fact that Christmas is about the Christ who forgives us our
sins – born for us, to die for us, and to rise again for our justification, so
we receive the righteousness, the holiness and purity of being God’s sons and
daughters, through faith in Jesus Christ. God grant this for you all, in the name
of Immanuel. Amen.