Christmas Day

December 27, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Almighty God, by sending your Son into this world to be our Savior you have made this holy Christmas Day shine with the brightness of the true Light.  Grant that as we have known on earth the wonder of the true light of your Son, we may also behold Him in all His glory in the life to come; we ask this through your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 52:7-10

God will bring good news to His people.  Just as He freed His people from slavery in Egypt by drying up the Red Sea, so He saves people from sin by sending His Son into the world.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  Listen!  Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.  When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.  Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  (NIV1984)

 PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 98

 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for He has done marvelous things.

The LORD has made His salvation known

and revealed His righteousness to the nations.

He has remembered His love and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;

all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,

burst into jubilant song with music;

Make music to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the sound of singing.

Shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

He will judge the world in righteousness

and the peoples with equity.

            Glory be to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – Hebrews 1:1-9

Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father!” Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my son!”  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”  In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”  But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law.  Alleluia. (Galatians 4:4, 5a)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Luke 2:25-40 (Sermon Text)

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:  “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.  And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:25-40 NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  What Child Is This?

Dear fellow worshipers of the Child of Bethlehem,

One of the unique unparalleled blessings the good Lord gives to us is experienced every time we hold our newborn child in our arms for the very first time.  No matter whether it is our first child or our fourth child seeing that unique creation for the very first time— well, there are no words to describe the love and the joy and the wonder that overwhelms us!  And what holds true for our children also holds true for our grandchildren!  Holding your grandchild in your arms for the very first time and knowing that your child now has a child of their own is once again a blessing that goes beyond words!

The joy that we feel as we hold a baby in our arms is indeed amazing— even if we are not related to that child.  How many times have you held a friend’s baby in your arms and looking at your friend you say with awe and wonder, “She has your eyes,” or, “He has your nose”?

It’s pretty obvious where I’m going with this, isn’t it!  Today as we gather together to celebrate the birth of the Child of Bethlehem, we want to envision holding that precious Baby in our arms and asking the question:  What Child Is This?  As we ask that question  this morning, we’ll focus our attention on how two very familiar, yet relatively obscure people answer that question.  First, let’s see how Simeon answers that question.  Then let’s see how Anna answers that question.

Luke introduces us to Simeon in the opening verses of our text.  He writes, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Moved by the Holy Spirit, he went into the temple courts.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying:  ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”  While these verses overflow with many wonderful truths— truths that are worthy of both our time and our attention— I want to highlight two truths that are directly related to the question— What Child is this?

We see the first answer to that question when we hear Simeon described as someone who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.”  The Greek word that is translated here as “consolation” is the word “paraklesis.”  This word can also be translated as “comfort.”  Since Simeon is described as someone who was “righteous and devout” and since Simeon is described with the words, “and the Holy Spirit was upon him,” Simeon was undoubtedly very familiar with the words of Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”  In the Septuagint (which is the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek.  It was done in the second century B.C.) the word “comfort” in Isaiah 40:1 comes from the exact same family of words as the word that Simeon used here in our text.  For that reason we can easily say that Simeon was waiting for “the comfort of Israel.”

As Simeon waited devoutly for the “consolation of Israel,” as Simeon trusted in the “comfort” that only the Lord could and would provide for His people, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not “see death” until he had the privilege of “seeing the Lord’s Christ”— the long-awaited Promised Messiah.  And when God the Holy Spirit led Simeon into the Temple of the Lord, the Holy Spirit led him directly to “the consolation of Israel.”  He led Simeon directly to “the Lord’s Christ.”

What Child is this?  If you had the opportunity to ask Simeon that question, he would look directly into your eyes and say without any hesitation at all, “This Child is your only Source of “consolation and comfort” because this Child is ‘the Lord’s Christ’!  This Child is the One who was “anointed” by God to give you true, lasting, eternal ‘peace.’  No matter how discouraging this world can become, no matter how painful your life might be, this Child came into this world to accomplish everything that was necessary for you to be ‘at peace’ with the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth!  This Child is the One who enables you to live ‘at peace’ with God as you journey through this sin-filled world.  This Child enables you to ‘depart’ this world ‘in peace.’”  That is Simeon’s first answer to our question.

What Child is this?  Because Simeon knew that this Child is “the consolation of Israel,” because Simeon knew that this Child is “the Lord’s Christ,” he would also answer that question by assuring you that this Child is the gift of “salvation” which the Lord God “prepared in the sight of all people.”  It’s not unusual for both children and adults to make a list of the things they would like to receive as Christmas gifts.  While that list changes dramatically as we progress through the various stages of our life, there is one gift that all people always need, one gift that many people do not even realize they need!  It is the gift of “salvation”— eternal “salvation”!  Think about it, my friends.  Our own conscience is extremely good at haunting us with fear and with doubt and with uncertainty.  There is the fear that one day we will be held accountable for everything we have said and everything we have done.  There is the fear and the doubt about what will happen to us when we die.  There is the fear, the doubt, and the uncertainty that even if we try to live a “good life,” even if we try to do “good” things to make up for the “bad” things we have done— it simply won’t be enough!

That’s why we are overwhelmed with joy as we celebrate the birth of the Child who is our “salvation”!  Like Simeon we have the joy of knowing that God’s Christmas gift of salvation is, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  From Simeon’s perspective “the Gentiles” included all of the people who could not or would not say to the Lord, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).  It included all of the people who did not even realize that they were stumbling through a world that has been completely darkened by sin and heading directly towards a cliff.

At the very same time, Simeon knew that this Child is “for glory to your people Israel.”  As the fulfillment of all the wonderful undeserved promises that the Lord God gave to the descendants of Abraham, the Child of Bethlehem is without a doubt “the glory of Israel.”  Even though many people— including many Israelites— would reject Him as “the Lord’s Christ,” as the Promised Messiah, Jesus reminded the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).  That’s why Simeon’s second answer to our question for today assures us that this Child is God’s Christmas gift of “salvation”— for all people, both Jews and Gentiles alike!

Simeon then goes on to give us a third answer to our question when he says to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Just as the birth of this Child marks the division between the Old Testament era and the New Testament era, so also this Child— or perhaps I should say one’s relationship to this Child— divides the entire human race into just two groups.  One group includes everyone wo believes and trusts in the Child of Bethlehem as their Savior.  The other group consists of those who reject Jesus as “the Lord’s Christ.”  Nowhere was this division seen more clearly than on the hill called Golgotha.  As the Child of Bethlehem hung on the cross suffering and dying to pay for the sins of all mankind, there were those who ridiculed and mocked Him and there were those who — like His mother Mary— felt as though a sword had pierced their soul too.

Sadly, that division continues right down to this very day, doesn’t it.  As you and I stand up for the truth that the Child of Bethlehem is the true eternal Son of the one and only living God, as you and I stand up for the truth that Jesus is this world’s only Savior from sin, it doesn’t take long to experience firsthand why the Child of Bethlehem would later say, “He who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23).

What Child is this?  Simeon’s first answer to that question is:  He is “the consolation of Israel” because He is “the Lord’s Christ.”  Simeon’s second answer to that question is:  Because this Child is “the Lord’s Christ,” He and He alone is God’s Christmas gift of “salvation” to this world.  Simeon’s third answer to that question is:  Because this Child and this Child alone is God’s Christmas gift of “salvation” to this world, one’s relationship to this Child determines whether they adore this Child or abhor this Child.  But, Simeon was not the only one in the Lord’s Temple that day was he.  In the second part of our text Luke introduces us to a woman named Anna.  He says, “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then she was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped day and night, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna was a woman who dedicated her life to worshiping the Lord and serving Him day and night in His Temple.  Luke also describes Anna as a “prophetess.”  This meant that Anna faithfully proclaimed God’s Word to God’s people.  She would share with others what the God of Israel had revealed to His people in His holy Word.  Then one day Anna was given the privilege of celebrating Christmas!  By God’s grace and through God’s guidance Anna also received the greatest Christmas gift of all— right there in the Temple of the Lord— the gift of “redemption”!  Once she had received this glorious gift, she did what she had been doing for so many years.  She “spoke about this child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

What Child is this?  Anna’s answer to that question is both very simple and extremely profound.  This Child is our “redemption.”  The Greek word that is translated here as “redemption” very literally refers to “a ransom price.”  The Child whose birth we are here to celebrate today, my friends, came into this world with just one goal— “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Even as we gather together to rejoice in the birth of our Savior, we cannot lose sight of His death on the cross of Calvary’s hill.  (Pointing to the cross)  The Child of Bethlehem is the “ransom price” that God the Father was willing to pay to “buy you back” from the power of sin, death, and the devil. (See John 3:16) Without this Child’s willing sacrifice there would be no “consolation,” no “comfort.”  Without this Child’s willing sacrifice He would not be able to serve you as “the Lord’s Christ.”  Without this Child’s willing sacrifice there would be no way for you to live “at peace” with God as you journey through this world, no way for you to “depart” this world “in peace.”  Without this Child’s willing sacrifice there would be no Christmas gift of “salvation.”  Without this Child’s willing sacrifice there would be no “light for revelation to the Gentiles,” no “glory to your people Israel.”  In other words, without the reality of Good Friday there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas.

What Child is this?  This Child is the most glorious, the most wonderful, the most priceless and the most relevant Christmas present anyone could ever possibly receive!

For that reason I pray that you continue to have a very blessed Christmas.

For that reason we can all say:

To God be the glory!

Amen

APOSTLES’ CREED

 I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that your advent into this world as our Savior was foretold by men of old.  We believe that in your lowly birth of the virgin Mary, the Scriptures have been fulfilled; and that you, the true Son of God through whom all things were created, became the true Son of Man, our flesh and blood Brother.  We believe that you came here in lowliness as the Pascal Lamb of God to bear our sins in your own body and to suffer and die on the cross for us.

Is not this a wonder, that earth played host to her Creator, and that you, who are eternal, were born a tiny infant?  Is not this a wonder that you, who are rich with all the fullness of power and majesty as true God, became poor all so that through the poverty of your humiliation you might make us everlastingly rich?  O Jesus, Son of God and Savior of mankind, who you are and what you did in our behalf fills us with holy awe and wonder and deserves our continual praise.

When aged Simeon held you in his arms, he recognized you with great joy as the long-awaited Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel.  Filled with peace and joy he was ready to depart this life an heir of heaven, saved by grace through faith in you.  Like Simeon of old we too rejoice to know you as our Savior from sin.  Establish our hearts forever in the truth that your perfect sacrifice has purchased pardon and peace from God for us.  Keep us ready at all times to depart this life with peace and with joy, confident in the assurance that you have redeemed us with your blood.

As Anna humbly recognized you as the “ransom price” for the sins of this world, she faithfully shared the message of who you are and why you were born with as many people as she could.  We ask that you help us to follow her example as we strive to share the true message of Christmas with others.  Send the bright rays of your Gospel into hearts everywhere, and by the power of the Holy Spirit grant them the gift of a living faith in you as their personal Savior.  Direct also the governments of the world so that people everywhere may worship and serve you without fear of persecution.  Grant that those who have been brought to faith will remain constant in the faith and obtain everlasting life.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.