A Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD


Tonight as we read from the Book of Isaiah, we realize in his words the prophetic vision of a future time when God will establish His kingdom in the land of Israel – and His people, God’s holy people, will finally find rest and live in peace for all time, never more to be to overshadowed by the evil that exists in the world. Isaiah of course was one of the greatest prophets of Israel who lived in 800 BC, around the time of the end of the Babylonian captivity. His prophetic vision of the coming of the messiah – the first time as a suffering servant and – the second time as a conquering king was often read by the Jewish scholars of the time but was never completely understood – even today. The meaning though is clear to those who understand, that there would be a first coming at the beginning of the age of grace and there would be a second coming at the end of the age when Satan and his followers would be vanquished and those who have been chosen by God will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.
And for this reason the angel was truly excited that first Christmas night and came to the shepherds saying “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
“For to you is born a Savior, who is the Messiah” . . . and that is why we call him Our Lord. And although none of us were present at the birth of Emmanuel who came to be among us, we his Church will continue forever to hold this memory, a memory made real anew for us at each passing year. And though we are unable to fully grasp the meaning of his birth, we know in our hearts that this birth holds a reality beyond anything we may presume to know. It is nothing less than the wonder of God coming among us as a tiny human child, to live and to grow and to be one of us in the world in which we live.
And although we are mostly ignorant of the true purposes of God in this event, we do know some facts, a few temporal details that we can hold: Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. At that time, Bethlehem was an obscure corner of the great Roman Empire. We also know it was nighttime. The people of that country, aside from a few shepherds, were all asleep. So it was that the Son of God was born at night in a tiny stable in a remote corner of a mighty empire.
God came to us but there was no welcome for Him, even though he was the creator of heaven and earth . . . there was no pageantry; there was no outpouring of thanks. There were only the silent stars of heaven and the love of his parents to greet . . . Him . . . who had created everything . . . and it was enough, because there really was no understanding by anyone at the time that he had even entered the world at all. But Jesus knew that world – he knew our world. He knew the world and he knows each of us far better than we will ever know ourselves. And he chose to be among us, to live with us, to share all of human life with us in that time, in this world, in Bethlehem.
Christians continue to be drawn to that place each year at Christmas time. Our minds seek to understand a mystery that seems too impossible to grasp. We look at the manger scenes we see around us, trying our best to understand what happened so long ago . . . and we look at our nativity set with awe, like little windows into the divine mystery of God’s presence with us.
And so it was that God came to us searching our world for his own . . . a people of his own choosing; a people enslaved by the dark forces that oppose God’s will . . . for in Bethlehem that night long ago heaven and all creation joined in an embrace that will never end until the lost are found and those who call upon the name of the Lord are redeemed by Jesus Christ, the messiah.
Today those same forces have gathered to eradicate every thought of God and of his Son from the public square in many places where freedom once thrived. It is entirely possible for a child today living in the United States or Europe to not know the love of Jesus Christ or the real story of Christmas. A child growing up today in our world may never in his lifetime see a manger or know of its relevance to his life; but at the same time today in the third world there live more Christians than have ever lived in the history of the mankind. Many live out their Christian belief in secret and in hiding because of rampant persecution of Christians throughout the whole world . . . and yet even so, the number of Christians continues to grow each and every day.
The enmity of which God spoke in Genesis continues to separate the seed of the woman and the seed of evil. Today we, who have chosen God as the light of our life, hold all life as sacred . . . our enemies do not . . . and so it behooves all who are believing Christians to hold no doubt about God’s purpose for your life . . . and to stand firm against evil.
For ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it . . .
. . . He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, He has made him known. Amen