In Nomine Iesu – Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: Matthew 1:20-23
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
The other day I started thinking about why we have so many singers of all types who put out Christmas albums, year after year. Yet these same people do not put out Good Friday or Easter albums. Mannheim Steamroller has many CDs for Christmas; any number of singers and choirs put out dozens and dozens of Christmas related music. There’s even an ogre with a Christmas CD. But nothing for Good Friday or Easter. So, why is this?
The conclusion I reached is that since the main event of Christmas is the birth of a baby boy it is something that people can easily relate to. The birth of a baby is a great event in the life of a family, something cherished, something remembered, something about which to rejoice. The birth of Jesus can be celebrated and sung about without really paying too much attention to the reason why. That is not the case with Good Friday and Easter.
Good Friday is centered on the death of Jesus on the cross. Easter is centered on the resurrection of the dead by that same Jesus. Those events are not easily disguised or changed into celebrations that everyone can sing about. To sing about Good Friday is to sing about a very gory public execution. To sing about Easter means that you have to talk about something that is not compatible with human experience or human wisdom. Whereas Christmas has been given a makeover that allows people of many backgrounds to sing carols and hymns about Jesus, despite the fact of what those songs are all about.
Yet, when we look at Christmas with the words of Scripture ringing in our ears we learn that the event of Christmas is also something that is outside human experience and human reason. Christmas is the birth of the baby who Holy Scripture declares was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was told: “that which is conceived in [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit.” And even more, we are told that this child shall be named: Immanuel. St. Matthew does us the favor of translating that Hebrew word for us: Immanuel means, God with us.
To top it all off we’re told why this baby was born: to save people from sin. And there’s something none of us like to hear about. Talk about sin during Christmas is pretty depressing. Why bring up that topic when there are enough hassles and headaches this time of year? We have to talk about it because that’s what Jesus came to solve for us. Sin is what we have, what we’ve been born into, what chases us and ruins lives again and again. But this sin is what Jesus, the Savior, born of the virgin Mary, came to undo. That is why Christians write Christmas hymns. That is why those who gather in Christian churches sing Christmas hymns. The purpose is to proclaim who this Jesus is, what He came to do, and why we so desperately need it.
Much of the music you’ll hear on the radio over the next few weeks will probably not focus too much on that side of Christmas. And we shouldn’t expect our society to get Christmas right. But let us make sure we do. Let’s make sure we learn about Jesus born in Bethlehem, because we sinners need this Savior. We need Him and He has come to us out of great love, taking on our humanity, to defeat sin, to bring us forgiveness. This great work of Jesus made a beginning in a little stable, far across the sea. But the finished work would be done on a hill outside of Jerusalem, where He would be pierced through by nail and spear as He hung on a cross, for me, for you. In His death He would defeat death; with our sin on Him He would go to the grave, yet rise on Easter Sunday with no sin – all gone, wiped clean by His sacrifice for us.
Christmas is much more than the birth of a son. It is the birth of a unique baby in all human history, a boy called Jesus, the Savior, Immanuel, God-with-us. God grant that as we gather in the coming weeks to celebrate here in church, and with our families wherever they may be, that we center on the fact that Christmas is about the Christ who forgives us our sins – born for us, to die for us, and to rise again for our justification, so we receive the righteousness, the holiness and purity of being God’s sons and daughters, through faith in Jesus Christ. God grant this for you all, in the name of Immanuel. Amen.