Christmas Day, 2016
"He dwells with us"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A tourist in New York took the trip to the top of the Empire State Building. As he was looking down from that view to the people on the sidewalks, they looked like ants running around. He said, "I imagine this is the way the people of the earth look to God."
Today we celebrate the birth of our Savior...Immanuel: God with us! Each and every year we come to this place with joy, sing our favorite Christmas hymns with gusto, listen to children repeat the beautiful story, visit with family and friends and then quickly rush back into normal life. Quickly trees will be thrown out, burned, or thrown into ditches. Presents will be used, forgotten, or returned. The happy greetings of "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," and "Season's Greetings" will fall to the wayside of polite hellos.
Maybe we are like Lucy, the Peanuts character, who throws up her hands in utter despair and shrieks, "For months we looked forward to Christmas. We couldn't wait till it came, and now it's all over!"
We live as if Christmas was a fraud. For a few brief moments there is a special glow in the air. Life is softer, peaceful, joyful, more exciting somehow. For a few breathless moments the world is a magic land where everybody loves everybody and problems melt away.
But then the magic moment is past. The tinsel wasn't silver after all, only aluminum foil. The problems all return, and the joy and laughter turn out to be only whistling in the dark. The warm glow of friendship disappears, and people become strangers again, passing each other by, unknown and unrecognized.
The celebration shouldn't be over. While people may live like Christmas is over and that Jesus is gone...the day after Christmas Jesus is still here. Our Gospel text puts it this way: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14)
Immanuel...Jesus...God with us...came to dwell among us. Jesus came to live with and die for his people. Jesus came to be with us...to guard us and keep us. At our Lord's Ascension the Apostles must have felt abandoned...Jesus left them. Maybe they thought that Jesus had ascended to some high place and would periodically look down on them and see them like ants on the sidewalk.
No. God doesn't look down from a high pinnacle and watch people struggle and suffer. He Himself came down in the person of Christ and went the way of the cross to help them! Not only that but Jesus promises His Disciples "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus is always with us. But many don't see Him. Many question where He is to be found...especially when tragedies strike, when people are hurting and suffering. We ought be reminded by the hymn Built on the Rock the Church doth Stand: "Still we our earthly temples rear That we may herald His praises; They are the homes where He draws near And little children embraces. Beautiful things in them are said; God there with us His covenant made, Making us heirs of His kingdom.
Here stand the font before our eyes Telling how God did receive us; The altar recalls Christ's sacrifice And what His table doth give us; Here sound the Word that doth proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, Yea, and for aye our Redeemer."
Christ is found here in His house. The very Word made flesh is found in the very Word proclaimed at the lectern and pulpit. Christ comes to us every Lord's day in His body and blood and is found in with and under the bread and wine. It is Jesus who forgives your sins. It is Jesus that strengthens you. It is Jesus who is found here. Always here out of love for you. This is why we need remember "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:17)
Jesus dwells with us. He is with us always. Christmas isn't over. Not by a long shot. The joy of Christmas continues for all eternity because the joy of Easter continues for all eternity. We get to celebrate the love and joy of the Babe of Bethlehem because that Babe was born to save us...and save us He did.
So go out...continue singing Christmas hymns and carols... celebrate Christmas in July...or any other month...and celebrate Easter every Sunday. For Christ was born to save. And He has risen indeed. Alleluia. Salvation is ours. Christ is with us. And even if people give us dirty looks or snicker...we get to share the great news that Christ is born all the year through! Merry Christmas. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.