Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sermon Dec. 24, 2014 Christmas Eve

Title: In Christ alone your salvation is found!
Text: Matthew 1:18-25
Readings - Isaiah 7:10-14, 1 John 4:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Although out of pure grace God does not impute our sins to us, He nonetheless did not want to do this until complete and ample satisfaction of His law and His righteousness had been made. Since this was impossible for us, God ordained for us, in our place, One who took upon Himself all the punishment we deserve. He fulfilled the law for us. He averted the judgment of God from us and appeased God's wrath. Grace, therefore, costs us nothing, but it cost another much to get it for us. Grace was purchased with an incalculable, infinite treasure, the Son of God Himself."

Martin Luther, Daily Walk, May 5, 1992.

That is our joy tonight, as we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. Not just a holiday joy of man made origin that is merely here today and gone tomorrow, but it is a joy -in the truly divine gift- of the God/man Himself, who at His incarnation, born of a virgin, became man so that through Him the forgiveness of sins and salvation might be freely given.

So the Gospel reading for tonight tells of the dilemma Joseph faced. His betrothed – or the one he was pledged to marry, had been found to be with child. Not through the course of natural events but by the Holy Spirit, Mary was pregnant.

Before a betrothed virgin was formally given in marriage, Mary had made a pledge and promise – a betrothal contract to marry Joseph to be faithful to him … and to be his wife.  There was no cohabitation during this betrothal period but the virgin would use this time to prepare and put all things in order at her father’s home for the upcoming wedding.

This contract was as binding as a marriage was and Joseph is also called “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows the seriousness of this legally binding contract. To be found guilty of adultery during the betrothal period would have caused Mary to be subject to the punishments that the moral law required – even death.

Now Joseph, even in this tenuous situation …

being a just man and unwilling to put Mary to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

True love looks to the needs of another and Joseph, though he didn’t understand the situation … was still loving … towards Mary, in how he thought he might dissolve the contract not causing her shame.

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:20)

Through this awkward betrothal, God Himself took on flesh and became man to endure the shame and guilt that you deserved, taking your sins with him and nailing your sins to His cross some 30 years after His blessed birth.

There was no other way because:

 In Christ alone your salvation is found!

Shame is a difficult feeing to deal with.


The Bible is very blunt about sin – it doesn't matter how YOU grade your sin, if you don’t accept that you’ve sinned… you can’t fix the problem.

It’s like a man having a deadly disease. He experiencing distressing physical problems but doesn't KNOW he’s going to die ... he’s just afraid that might be the outcome.

So what does he do? Does he go see a doctor. Noooo. Going to the doctor would be admitting that he might die and he refuses to accept that.

If he doesn't go see the doctor, then there’s no verdict that he will die. Therefore, he won’t die. And yes, that’s the way some people reason.

But since this ailing man refuses to see a doctor, he can’t fix what’s wrong in his life.

And so ... he dies.
And so it is with sin.
God is the doctor.
Sin is the disease.

Dr. Karl Menninger once noted: "The word SIN… has an 'I' in the middle." 

I have sinned.
It’s MY fault.
MY problem.
MY guilt.
MY shame

Psalm 85 tells us:

 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin.  

And God has done this in the sending of his son.

Jeff Strite Church of Christ at Logansport

Our loving God and savior Jesus Christ could have left you to the fires of Hell and damnation. It was not His sin for which you and I are condemned but the sins and falleness of this broken and corrupted world. The sin of rebellion is alive and well, as seen daily in print, TV and online. Life is directed to self interests rather than to serving others and Christmas has become nothing more than a two plus month push and economic indicator of the retail wellbeing of our country.

The “Christmas spirit” we are told comes to life as people focus on the joys of giving gifts, and celebrating family and friends, and the love we share for and with one another. But, true love came down from heaven, in the form of a babe in a manger, born of the Virgin Mary who was called by God to this special task.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Christ comes to you and to each and every one of us, dear friends, not by our Christmas spirit but by the working of the Holy Spirit, who calls and gathers all who would believe to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord through faith in His blessed work.

In Christ alone your salvation is found!

Martin Luther had this to say about the human heart:

“Hearts are polluted with idolatries, vain thoughts about God, lust, and other vices which arise from the fact that they do not have a sound knowledge of God. All of this our fine bath attendants neglect; they are only concerned that their bodies and clothes should be clean. But, O God, cleanse Thou my heart, that I might acknowledge Thy will as it is, good and gracious, lest I be led away to wicked opinions by wild speculations about God.”

Martin Luther – LW Vol. 12 Selected Psalms 1 pg. 378

“Take a look at your own heart, and you will soon find out what has stuck to it and where your treasure is, Luther continues; It is easy to determine whether hearing the Word of God, living according to it, and achieving such a life gives you as much enjoyment and calls forth as much diligence from you as does accumulating and saving money and property.”

Martin Luther

True joy is not found in the things you work to possess, but in that which you receive and which you are freely given that you could never work for or truly deserve.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

In Christ alone your salvation is found!

True joy, dear friends, is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord! This Christmas, may the joy of the Christ child, this beautiful babe of Bethlehem who came down from heaven to bring you, himself, the divine gift of salvation, comfort and peace wrapped in the human flesh of Jesus our baby king.

God himself has paid the price for your salvation with a gift of priceless worth … his only begotten son.

And, the Apostle John said much the same thing in our epistle reading for today:

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  (1 John 4:13-15)

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

Confess it, say it and ask for it, for salvation is found in Christ alone!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.


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