Sermon audio here.
I don’t have to tell you that Christmas isn’t about parties or Santa. Getting together with family and having fun traditions is nice, but that’s not really what Christmas is all about.
But you already knew that. What you may not know is that Christmas isn’t about the birth of Jesus, either. Even Satan believes in the Incarnation. If all you do on Christmas is open gifts, have parties, and celebrate the fact that Christ was born, you’ve missed out on the main thing.
In order to know what this main thing is, we need ask the question, why was Jesus born in the first place? Why do we have Christmas at all?
It’s an odd thing, really. We don’t often stop to consider why babies are born. When it comes to the birth of our own children, we usually get hung up on things like the name or the gender or what the baby will look like. The child’s purpose in life tends not to get a lot of attention—and that’s a problem that usually continues well into college.
And the truth is, that sense of purpose often evades us even after the declaring of majors and awarding of diplomas. Even the pagan philosopher Socrates knew the unexamined life is not worth living, yet most people go through life in a daze.
Lacking purpose, we keep defaulting back to the same old idols, but they never satisfy. Ecclesiastes describes our discontentment by saying, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.”
Luther tells the story of Alexander the Great, who, by the age of 30, had created one of the largest empires in the ancient world. Yet when he heard that there were other worlds, he complained, “And I have not yet conquered even one.” It’s no different with us. We aren’t pleased with what we have, and what we don’t have, we want.[i]
Now if that doesn’t sound very Christmasy, that’s only because we’ve fallen for the old enemy’s lie that Christmas should be filled with nothing but happiness. To think this is to forget the reason Christ was born. God took on flesh so that He might suffer and die.
That God would need to take on human flesh, suffer, and die was so shocking that even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t believe it initially. But once it sinks in, this only confirms what we’d suspected all along: there’s something terribly wrong with this world. We were so badly in need of redemption that God needed to suffer and die.
In order to receive the Gospel as glad tidings of great joy, the first thing we need to do is to come to terms with the brokenness of our lives and repent of the deep discontentment that flows from our idolatry. Then you will not only understand the Gospel, its proclamation will bring you the peace and joy that passes all understanding.
St. Luke summed up the meaning of Christmas in one little Greek word, ὑμῖν. This translates into two English words. ὑμῖν in Greek, “unto you” in English.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Heaven and earth hinge on those two little words, “unto you.” They’re easy to overlook, but Christmas is meaningless apart from them. Christmas isn’t about the fact that Christ was born, it’s that He was born unto you.
Jesus wasn’t born so that you might celebrate His birthday. He was born so that He might die for your sins. Christmas is about celebrating the fact that Christ was born unto you, the fact that you have a Savior.
Nothing pleases the devil more than when people celebrate the historical fact of Christmas while overlooking this most important aspect of Christ’s birth. It’s not that Jesus was born, it’s that He was born unto you.
Celebrating that Jesus was born versus celebrating that He was born to die for your sins is the difference between faith and unbelief. Believing that Jesus was born keeps Christmas at arm’s length. Believing that He was born unto you is to receive Christmas Sacramentally. Believing that God was Incarnate in human flesh leaves you dead in sin. Believing He was Incarnate for you gives you life and peace.
The reason for all the discontentment today is because so few have any idea what they’re looking for, and even fewer know where to find it. The only thing that can satisfy humanity’s deepest longing—restored communion between God and man—is to hear and believe the angel’s proclamation: unto you is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Christ still preaches this angelic, life-giving proclamation in His Church today, a proclamation which bestows faith, a clear conscience, and peace. The blood of Christ covers even your most heinous offenses.
As St. Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Unto you a Savior is born. These words are the heart’s greatest delight. The only thing that can rob you of peace and joy is unbelief. So that you might believe, the Incarnate Lord continues to come to you—not in a manger, but in Word and Sacrament.
The peace and joy of Christmas is found in those two little words: unto you. Under the crushing weight of those words, Satan’s kingdom crumbles. Rejoice beloved, and Merry Christmas. For unto you a child is born, which is Christ the Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria
[i] AE 15:19