“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10)
God’s way is a descending way. Tonight, he does not want you to look up to the heavens to find him. You don’t have to climb Jacob’s ladder or ascend to him. You don’t have to climb or claw your way up to the heavens tonight to see Him. God doesn’t want you to find him there.
Listen to the words of the angels “You will find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in the manger” In His mother’s arms. For God’s way is a descending way - a coming down sort of way. A meek and lowly way. Remember it was Jesus who said “Behold you will see the Son of man coming down on the clouds of heaven.”
Lo, he comes with clouds descending. On earth as it is in heaven. Remember that Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey a beast of burden. He claims his Kingdom on a cross made from the same wood of his manger. He wears a glorious crown of thorns and thistles – which pierce his sacred head. God’s way is a blood running down sort of way.
From heaven down to earth. God’s way is a coming down sort of way. A donkey sort of way. Wearing diapers and needing his bottom wiped, so that he won’t get a rash. Yes, God needs his bottom wiped. Jesus says blessed are those who are not offended by me. The ruler of the heavens and earth who says let there be light. The God who governs the wind and the waves, nurses not by venus, or by the mighty hand of Zeus, but through the breast of an unknown homey peasant girl, from an unknown town.
Let that be of comfort to us unknown people of an unknown town. The angels are singing for the likes of you. For God does not come for the mighty but for the lowly. I came not to call the righteous but lowly sinners to repentance. God’s way is a coming down sort of way. A manger and stable way. Just consider that there was no one there to give the Baby Jesus a bath. There was no warm water, perhaps no water at all. Perhaps God cried and shivered in the cold.
There was no fire or light, just the snorts of donkeys and pigs. This young maiden Mary was herself the midwife and the maid. A cold wooden feed trough was our God’s bed. And who showed Mary what do do? She never had a baby before. We should be amazed the little boy did not freeze to death.
Do not look up dear Christian. Behold your God down here among us in the hay. For God’s way is a coming down sort of way. Like manna that falls down from the heavens. Did Jesus not say “I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” It’s not a coincidence that Jesus is born in a feed trough where animals eat. It is not a coincidence that Jesus is born in a town called “Bethlehem,” which literally means “house of bread.”
Dearly Beloved, let us stoop down and love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In this the love of God was made known to us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins. Be glad! Dearly Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. And by this we know God and the content of love – that love incarnate lays down his life for us.
At the very heart of unbelief is the refusal to be loved by God. God can love others perhaps, but not you so you think. Repent. Let the Holy Spirit break the iron clad gate of your tired heart and let God enter into the manger of your soul.
God himself has given his life for you and for your children. He is a man acquainted with sorrow and grief, who has taken your sins upon his back – as the very Lamb of God – He suffered for your disobedience and rebellion. He was betrayed by his own people. Spat upon and mocked before the whole city, while his dear mother looked on. Her heart pierced with sorrow. He became filthy that you might come out clean.
He became guilty that you would be pronounced innocent before all the angels in heaven. He who knew no sin became sin, that you might be perfect. He became a ghastly sight on the cross that you might be absolutely beautiful before your Father in heaven. He has opened the way to paradise for you.
Tonight in Bethlehem, the gates of heaven have swung wide open for you. The angels are singing to you. Christ is born for you!
Rejoice dear Christian! What has he left undone? God has come down to you. In the muck and slop of this world. You’ve made a mess of your life, and this is why he has come. He who was denied a bath at His birth has washed you clean in the heavenly waters of baptism. He has marked your home with His blood and death has passed over. He has parted the Red Sea and flung open wide the promised Land. He has destroyed your death by his life. He has joined you to His birth and His glorious Resurrection. He has raised you up to live with Him now and in eternity.
He calls you His beloved, His Bride. Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. “I love you” He says. He delights in you. He speaks gently to you. It was His joy to do all this for you. This is all you need. Let your restless heart find your rest in Him. Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Come mothers and fathers, come children, come widows, come workers of all kinds, come teachers and come auto mechanics. Come factory workers and electricians. Come bakers and truck drivers. Come widows and those who are lonely. Come addicts and drunks - God comes down to serve us poor sinners in meekness.
Don’t blush like St. Peter, when Jesus stoops down, gets on His knees to wash your sinner feet. Jesus says I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he came down to Bethlehem to become poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. He has become what you are that you might become what he is. And God has come down that you might ascend to the heavens to be where He is.
O Men and women of Wittenberg, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. From the stable to the table tonight he comes that we too might be born again, as children of love.
Let us then, rejoice and be happy tonight. Let our mouths be full of laughter and our tongues full of praise. For the holy message of Christmas is that heaven’s gates stand open for you.
Merry Christmas. In the name of Jesus. Amen.