A Decree Went Out From the Father, His Son our Lord Jesus Luke 2 First St Johns December 24, 2014


We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who “have seen a great light”, our Savior Jesus, said … AMEN

Almost 700 years before He was born, some of the greatest words of Jesus were said by the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;…” Who are the people who have walked in darkness? … Yes, we are. Sure the sun in the sky may be out and shining, but so often we feel that we are in darkness. We all know what darkness is like, especially this time of year. When I worked in Boston, I would have to take the train and it would come pretty much around dawn this time of year, I would get into the city and the trip would mostly be in the dark and when I left at or later than 5pm, it would always be dark and get darker on my way home. The cold of walking to the train station through city streets, often walking through snow and wind, that would just take your breath away and cut you down. My only hope was to make it to the dim light and less cold of the train station to get on a train, that would at least, get me out of the weather and give me enough light to read a newspaper.

Even in the brightest summer day we really walk in darkness, especially if we don’t know Jesus as Lord. We all live in the same world, the world is dark and evil. I really hate winter weather, even when the weather is relatively mild, I never refer to it as “warm” just “less cold”. In the same way, yes we have light, but it’s really only “less dark”, the real light is in Jesus and that’s what He brought into the world in the dark night in Bethlehem. No one who was there would say that it was any “lighter”, whether it was at the beginning of winter or early spring, there really is never any light in a dark and evil world. A baby changes everything, in this case the Baby Jesus. The dark and the evil of the world is why Jesus came into it, He brings His eternal and more than sufficient light into the world, He brought it with Him to Bethlehem. But for all those people out there, right at this very moment, maybe even scurrying around for that one last Christmas item, present, decoration, card, food for the feast, they scurry in the dark.

No matter how hard they try to “understand” God, unless they are guided by the Holy Spirit, they cannot understand; God’s wisdom, His Will, His light, His Word and frankly they just don’t want to. It has to be about God and His way or it’s not at all. Only those who are in Jesus will understand God’s will for the world. For each one who has been baptized, hears the preached Word and takes the Body and Blood of our Lord. I hesitate to say “understand”, because I doubt that any of us would say we “understand” God even as His born again children, even though we do accept what He does and understand when He does it. Only to His children in Jesus, will God’s will, word, His Light, and Warmth be accepted. John 1:9 describes it as the “true light, which enlightens everyone”. But John 3:9 acknowledges that people really don’t love the light; “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”

Faith Hill’s song “A Baby changes everything”, she’s talking about Mary and how her life goes from being, probably, a teenage girl, getting ready to be married, a huge step for anyone, how anyone of us has a boatload of expectations for marriage and then Mary is told that she will be the mother of Messiah. Her life has now been changed extraordinarily, she knows that this is of God and that she has been honored above all women, but her life is taking a course that she could never have expected. This baby has certainly changed everything for her, a life beyond her expectations, she has only an inkling of how this Baby has changed everything for man. Before this Baby our sin separated us from a completely just, completely holy God we were in a state of hostility with God. Now this Baby has changed everything and we are at peace with God. Before we were brought to eternal death, now we are saved eternally because we are at peace with God, we are His children. When we are “born again” through our baptism in Jesus and our nature is changed from the world and flesh to a nature that is in Jesus, a divine nature. We are still sinful beings, but in Christ, in that “Baby” who has changed everything, we are saved as eternal beings, we will be resurrected in the flesh. But no longer will that flesh be corrupted, it will be perfect in a perfect, physical world, that we were always intended by God to live in.

Ceasar Augustus issued a decree and all the people of the Roman Empire picked up and moved in order to be counted by the Roman government. That was for a time, and those people who were counted soon died. God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, issued a decree, that there would be a great light that would come into a world of darkness. That decree was originally issued through Isaiah who promised that great light would shine on all men and it would result in great rejoicing.

A Baby changes everything, Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a time. God the Father, through His Son, born a Baby issued a decree for eternity and His Son was the messenger. St Augustine writes: “Christ was called the Angel [Greek for messenger] of Great Counsel because he brought the message of the kingdom of heaven and the will of the Father.”1 That because of His incarnation, His birth as a baby that everything would be changed between us and the Father, we would have peace with the Father and be saved because that Baby would grow to be a man who would be the sacrifice, the payment for our sins.

I like to use a story that Paul Harvey would tell on Christmas to illustrate how the Father came down to us so that we would understand who He is and His will for us:

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

He put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.”2

Foil Satan and hell, sin and death—foil them with the joy only Christ Jesus gives. Let Him comfort and defend you. Let Him feed and strengthen you. For He who once was born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger, is here for you in His Holy Word and soon will be wrapped in bread and wine and placed on a plate and in a cup for Your salvation!

Yes, we’re surrounded by troubles and heartbreaks, and Satan, sin and selfishness relentlessly attack, but don’t just sit there—sing for joy! Your Savior is born! There is peace on earth for you, come for all, to set us free.”3 A Baby does change everything.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Augustine quoted by Steven McKinion Ancient Christian Commentary Old Testament X p 69

2[1]Keiki Hendrix, Everyday Christian, Christmas Classics: The Man And The Birds By Paul Harvey (December23,2012, http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/christmas_classics_the_man_and_the_birds_by_paul_harvey).

3God’s Love at Christmas CPH sermon

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