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Luke 2:8-20

 

In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

 

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone's Joy

Christmas Eve

24 December 2013

It is a time to be glad. God has come in the flesh born of virgin mother. He leaves the throne room of His Father and determines to come so completely into the world that He becomes one of us and one with us. He is the Immanuel. From eternity He is who He is (Ex 3:14). The incarnation does not make Him more or less divine. He becomes fully human. The incarnation does not drag Him down, but elevates us. He lifts us from the fear of death and slavery to sin to a joy that is above all sadness. This is not something He demands from us: "Don't worry. Be happy!" but He gives this joy as a gift to those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death. His light has dawned upon us (Mt 4:16). He doesn't say to those who are troubled in their hearts and minds: "Come on, buck up. Everything will be all right. Be happy." He has gained our full joy by becoming incarnate of Mary. All this He worked long ago in Nazareth and Bethlehem. He joined our worthless carcass to His indestructible divinity, assuming our nature into Himself, conveying life itself to our flesh. He is anointed with the oil of gladness for us, not for Himself. He takes our place so that He would experience all that is ours for our sake.

 

Christ substitutes for us in all that He does and experiences. Theologians have created the artificial (even if useful) distinction between Christ's active obedience and passive obedience. The point is not so much its activity or passivity, but its nature as a complete substitution. What He does and experiences is ours because He is taking our place in it. When He receives the anointment with oil of gladness it is our gladness that He is receiving. What if you had to buy a Christmas gift for the richest person you can imagine, such a Bill Gates? What could you give him that he needs? A gift given to such a person needs to be received only for the benefit of the giver. So it is for small child who gives a necktie to his father. The joy for both father and child is that the gift is received. It benefits the giver far more than the one who receives it. It bestows such joy on the child. The father doesn't need the necktie to be bestowed on Him. So Christ received gifts in time only for the purpose of conferring such things on us. How gracious He is coming to give gifts to men.

 

Here is the real gifting of Christmas. On 19 October 1781, the British bottled up at Yorktown by Franco-American forces surrendered to General George Washington. Brigadier General John O'Hara offered his sword in capitulation first to the French commander, Lieutenant General Rochambeau, then to Washington himself, who indicated it was to be offered to Major General Benjamin Lincoln who then received the final capitulation of the Revolutionary War. No American alive at the time thought the victory was Lincoln's or that the capitulation of the most powerful fighting force in the world did not affect them at all. When Lincoln received Lord Cornwallis's sword that day, all the people of United States received the sign of victory and rejoiced for several days after the news spread around the country. The joy was everyone's. So it is that the incarnation of our Lord is a victory and a cause of joy for all persons.

 

Athanasius

 

"For our sake Christ sanctifies Himself, and does this when He is become man. It is very plain that the Spirit's descent on Him in Jordan was a descent upon us, because of His bearing our body. And it did not take place for promotion to the Word, but again for our sanctification, that we might share His anointing, and of us it might be said, 'Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you' (1Co 3:16)? For when the Lord, as man, was washed in Jordan, it was we who were washed in Him and by Him. When He received the Spirit, we were made recipients of the Spirit by Him. For this reason, He was not anointed with oil as Aaron or David or the rest, but in another way above all His fellows, 'with the oil of gladness,' which He Himself interprets to be the Spirit, saying by the prophet, 'The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me' (Is 61:1); as also the Apostle has said, 'God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.' (Acts 10:38).

 

"These things spoken of Him when He came in the flesh and was baptized in Jordan, and the Spirit descended on Him. And indeed the Lord Himself said the Spirit will take what is mine' (Jn 16:14), and 'I will send him to you' (Jn 16:7); and to His disciples, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (Jn 20:22). Notwithstanding, He who, as the Word and Radiance of the Father gives to others, now is said to be sanctified, because now He has become man, and the body that is sanctified is His. From Him then we have begun to receive the anointment and the seal, John saying, 'You have been anointed by the Holy One' (1Jn 2:20); and the Apostle said, you 'were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit' (Eph 1:13)."
 

Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.47

 

Collect for Christmas Eve

O God, You make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  Grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For all those who know not the true joy of life in Christ, that they might hear the gospel in this season and be converted

 

For all confessors of the truth in Christ, that they might share their faith with family and friends in the season of the incarnation

 

For all who serve the public over the time of Christmas, that they would be diligent in their labors and that they would experience the gratitude of those whom they serve 

Art: CORREGGIO Nativity Holy Night (1528-30)

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