December 24, 2020
“Complicated and Confusing”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
There are many things that I miss due to this pandemic and the various restrictions that we have. I miss a good hand-shake and a hug. I miss seeing if someone is sticking out their tongue at me or has a gregarious smile. There are many downsides to this pandemic.
But there is one thing that I have found advantageous in this whole mess. Let me explain. Every year one of our members, I’ll name that culprit – Norm Fringer, otherwise a pretty good guy, gives me a fruitcake for a Christmas present! Fruitcake!! He might just as well give me Brussel’s Sprouts. You see, he gets it from his sister and he doesn’t like it and so he passes it off to me. And he knows that I won’t eat it either. But this year, due to the pandemic, his sister’s group isn’t making them and so I won’t be getting one. Hooray!! That’s the best present I’ll never receive. Except, now I have to get something else for my wife. Usually I’d wrap it up, take off the tag and give it to her and she loved it. Maybe I’ll get her Brussel’s Sprouts instead.
Complicated and Confusing. Christmas can be complicated and confusing. But not just ours, not just in 2020. It was complicated and confusing for Mary and Joseph and for those guys in our text – the shepherds. “And there were in the same country shepherd’s abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11 KJV)
Complicated and confusing. Sometimes preaching can be described as that. A while ago one honest listener following one of my sermons said, “I couldn’t follow you today”. So, let me give you a heads up on what I’m going to say today. I’ve selected three phrases of the word the angel said to the shepherds for my main points. They are:
- Fear Not
- Unto You
- A Savior, Who is Christ the Lord
“Fear Not.” If ever a word from God concerning how to live life in 2020 and soon 2021 should be, it is in the words ‘Fear Not”, or “Do not be afraid.” Fear has grabbed lots of us by the throat. Fears about our health, others health, education for our children, the economy and a whole bunch of other things has got us. So many of us find ourselves hanging by a thread, emotionally, during these days. I know many people who won’t be seeing loved ones during this Christmas time and it is just tearing them up.
A good night for a shepherd a couple of thousand years ago was a boring night. They didn’t like excitement. They penned the sheep in and wanted everyone to have a good night’s rest. Excitement meant trouble was around or that some predator had gotten inside. The excitement that night wasn’t a thief or a wolf, it was an angel, followed by “a multitude of the heavenly host.” Fittingly, the first words spoken were “Fear Not.”
The words spoken actually don’t make sense. They had every right to be afraid. This sight would cause you to get excited and shake a little, or a lot. Yet the angel told them that God had this situation in control. Early in March or April of this year, I remember visiting Bernice Arsenault, who recently turned 99. With aged wisdom she told me, “I learned some time ago that I am not in charge and that is ok.”
If those words of not being afraid, “Fear Not”, are good then in the upheaval of that night, I want us to apply those words to our life today. God is in control. He has us. There is strength and comfort in knowing that truth.
“Unto You.” I consider my job to make the truth of God’s redemption in Jesus personal to you. I want the message pointed. I want it personal. I want it to either upset your life or comfort your life – wherever God finds His place in your life right now – whether He has a place in your life, or not. And that isn’t just my job, that is God’s job, too. He told the shepherds what to say to the fearful – “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Unto you!!
This past Sunday, (December 20, 2020) Krista Kafer wrote an article about Christmas in The Denver Post. She says, “Whether you believe the Christmas story is true or consider it just that, a story, you have to admit it has an odd plot: the creator of the universe appeared first to the alienated, the poor, the foreign, and the hooved.” She goes on a couple of paragraphs later, “Whereas 2020 exemplifies a kind of coming apart, the creche represents a coming together. The poor and prosperous, learned and illiterate, male and female, foreign and native, young and old, angelic and beast are bound together as witnesses to an event that changes history. The outsiders have become insiders. There is no them; only us.” (2D, Perspective)
“Unto you” is not just personal it is universal. It doesn’t matter where you are in the whole scheme of humanity, Jesus came for you. I miss many things that we normally do at Ascension at Christmas. I miss the pageantry and processions, the crowds and choirs and bells. I also miss giving Holy Communion to our worshippers. I miss saying your name as I give you the host and say, “This is the Body of Christ for you.” “For you.” One by one. Personal. Individual. Sins gone. New life begun. Faith made alive. I pray that Christmas 2021 will allow me, and you, that joy at the Lord’s table.
“A Savior, Who is Christ the Lord.” Isn’t that something? This baby, Jesus, just a few minutes old, is called “Savior”, “Christ”, “The Lord.” Normally we just use the words, “Cute”, “Handsome” or “Pretty”, but this child wasn’t just another child. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7a)
Jesus is Savior. You may know why He was called “Jesus” and not Joseph or Daniel or David. Jesus means “God Saves”. In Matthew 1 God’s angel tells Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Verse 21) Have you sinned? Sure. Is that a big deal? I hope you say that it is a big deal. Our sins put us in a bad spot with God (and sometimes with others) and if sin isn’t removed – forgiven – we won’t be in heaven when we die. So when the angel said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy” he wasn’t exaggerating. Jesus, in taking our sins upon Himself on the cross was a Savior. My Savior. Your Savior. Remember? “Unto you”.
The Savior, Jesus, is also the Anointed One which means “The Christ”. God the Father promised that He would send the Christ when the time was right. Now was the right time, now was the right moment, now came the birth of Immanuel – God with us.
This Savior, this Christ, is also Lord. Lord = God. Master. Ruler. The One is charge.
If your life right now is complicated and confusing, if matters in your soul are not where they should be, if daily living is in a turmoil, then I want you to hear the message about Jesus who can give you faith, can save your soul and can make your life better. “The angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold. I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you in born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’”
Complicated and Confusing? Yes. Life is certainly that way right now. But that is the world that Jesus chose to come to back then and chooses to come to right now. He chose to come here. Now. For you. And me. What a blessed Christmas in 2020 this truly is. Amen!!