A candlelight service of Lessons and Carols
Lessons: Luke 2:1-20, Genesis 3:14-15, Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 7:10-14, Micah 5:2-5, Isaiah 9:2-7, 2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 11:1-5, Isaiah 53:4-10, Psalm 16:8-10, Psalm 68:17-20
Hymns: LSB 367, 381, 364, 379, 361, 368, 384, 358, 370, 380, 387, 363, 386
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Immediate news is a luxury we tend to love or loathe. It may be great hearing about events happening across the globe in real time. We don’t have to go a game to know who’s winning and we don’t have to wait a week for the paper to publish the results. We can watch it real-time or look at the results immediately afterward. If a historic event is taking place, such as the launching of a space shuttle, we can watch it live or see recordings at our own convenience. But then we also receive constant news reports of burglary, murder, and other crimes. Hearing events on the news can make us terrified, questioning what is going on in this world, and why things can seem so bad. Studies have shown that too much news, especially bad news, can adversely affect our health causing anxiety and stress, leading to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
As much as we may love or loathe instant news reports, nothing compares to the news report on that first Christmas Day. At the time, it was the greatest piece of news ever reported. The only one that matches it ever since is the Resurrection of Jesus. And you heard that great news report, in all its simplicity, yet in splendor and glory, right there in Luke 2.
First, the news was surprising. I suppose all news is surprising, for if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be newsworthy. But this report is especially startling. After all, for thousands of years the prophets of the Old Testament were announcing that the Messiah is coming. Generation after generation came and went. No birth of their Lord—yet. We heard prophecies tonight—ones that were revealed over the course of nearly 4000 years.
Now consider the shepherds who first heard the news. They were doing their daily routines. Not much changed in their lives. There was no indication that this night would be different. They were carrying on, as their fathers and grandfathers did before them. When suddenly they were visited by an angel.
Many falsely think that the Old Testament times were filled with miracles and visits by angels. We certainly hear of great miracles such as the Flood, the parting of the Red Sea, Balaam’s talking donkey, Daniel and the lions’ den, and Jonah being swallowed by the fish and spit up on dry ground the third day. These miracles are certainly amazing works of God that some were privileged to witness. Yet, many spent their lives in very ordinary ways, like we do. Most did not see miracles done by the prophets or receive visits by the angels. Instead, they lived their lives in faith, hearing the Word of God. They worshipped God. They fulfilled their various vocations, doing the work required to raise believing families.
Suddenly the angel greeted these ordinary shepherds. For this was no ordinary day, and they had no ordinary visitor. They didn’t like the surprises they received when a wolf would visit their flock. But this time an angel came! And they were filled with fear.
Yet, their heightened anxiety and stress quickly relaxed, for the angel declared, “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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
So, the news report was not only surprising, but it is also good. Their fears turned to joy. For the Savior of the Nations had come! The Lord Himself has come down from Heaven to dwell with us and take our sins away!
Lately, the news has reported on presidential pardons. The President of the United States is given the authority to pardon people who have been fined or sentenced. As a president leaves office, it is not uncommon for the President to pardon more people.
We ourselves need to be pardoned, for we all deserve a death sentence, as it is written “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We are continual sinners. We sin when we think we aren’t all that bad of sinners. We sin when our mind wanders in church or when visiting with another person. We sin when we fail to help the poor and needy. We sin when we overeat. We sin when we despair over how this pandemic has destroyed our family gatherings at Christmas. We sin when we covet the government’s money. We sin when we let other things get in the way of our church attendance at Christmas, or any Sunday for that matter. We sin when we speak poorly of others or look down on them. We even sin when we repeat true things about our neighbors and it hurts their reputation.
So, again, we deserve death for our sins. But then the surprising news report arrived. Our Savior is born. He has come to rescue us from death. He has come to take our sin away. He has come to dwell with us as our Immanuel. He has come to defeat Satan and grant us the victory. For “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “God so the love the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Christ pardons us of our sin. Our sentence to death is not simply reduced; it is replaced with the declaration that we shall not die, but live. Eternal life belongs to us. For Christ has come as our Advocate, Savior, and Good Shepherd.
So, what troubles you? Are you concerned about getting the virus? Are you disappointed by the small family gatherings, if any? Are you struggling to find employment? Are you nervous about the future? Are your sins weighing your down?
Well, here is good news, delivered first to the shepherds and now to you. Jesus is born. He has come for you. If God can become Man, take on your sin, shed His innocent Blood on your behalf on the cross, and rise from the dead, He will certainly take care of all your anxieties. After all, He invites you to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Are you sick? Jesus is your physician. Are you lonely? He is your friend. Are you scared? He’s your confidence. Are you lost? He is your way. Are you hungry? He is the bread of life. Are you unsure? He is your light. Are you burdened with sin? He is your righteousness.
Such good news! Not just for you, but for the whole world. This is world news. In fact, it is such world news that the world still celebrates His birth over 2000 years later. No other world news has risen to this status, save the Resurrection of Jesus. But this world news is even better than simply a celebration of lights, Christmas trees, gifts, and family gatherings. This world news is that Jesus has come to take away the sins of the world. Jesus died for all. Jesus did not just come for the Jews, Americans, or for certain nations. No, Jesus has come to save the entire world.
So if you are anxious about the future, or wonder what has become of this world, know that Christ Jesus is our Savior, He will take care of us, and He blesses us with His presence. He has overcome the world, and grants us His peace—peace which the world cannot give.
And the news of His birth is true. Many question what is really true on national news. Some take this news station as gospel truth while others take that news station.
We do not need to wade through the various reports, the twists and spins, the half-truths or downright lies that may be found in news reports. For the news report of the angels is true. God fulfilled His promise in sending Jesus. The shepherds believed the report. They went to Bethlehem and found Jesus, just as the angels had said. When they saw their Savior, they then spread the report of Jesus’ birth. What they had seen is true: Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Prophet, the Son of God was born. Born to give us everlasting life.
We have had the privilege this night of hearing the greatest news report given that first Christmas. And so we, like the shepherds, glorify and praise God for all that we have heard and seen.
Have a very Merry Christmas! God bless you as you to celebrate our Lord’s birth! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen