Christmas Eve

Preached: December 24, 2013

Are You Ready?
Luke 1:13, 16, 17

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit prepares our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth is Luke 1

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.

“Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13, 16, 17 NIV84).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Are you ready for Christmas? Is the tree up? Are the decorations hung, the cookies backed, and the gifts all wrapped? Has family arrived or are some still on their way? Are you ready?

We're busy with many things in the hurry of the season. But the return is often well worth it. The lights and foods do brighten our faces. The excitement of family and the joy of giving and receiving make us feel glad about the work done to get ready. But even having the picture perfect Christmas as drawn by Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade doesn't mean you were ready.

Are you ready to welcome the Christ-child? He's what Christmas is all about. Everything else is just extra.

Now how do we get ready? Do we get ready by being extra nice and kind, helping others and spreading good cheer? No, being good like that is what Santa Claus demands if you don't want to get a lump of coal. That's not how we get ready for Jesus.

Do we get ready by putting on our Sunday best and coming to church even on a Tuesday night? We still know the reason for the season. We're not like those people out there who see Christmas as just another party. No, showing off our religiousness is not how we get ready for Jesus either.

True Christmas preparation is just the opposite of what we'd think. It's undecorating, undecorating our hearts.

Let me explain. As we stand before the Christ-child we imagine that there must be something I have to bring, something I have to dress up with or decorate my heart with. “I may not give big gifts to charity but at least I helped a child have a toy at Christmas. I may not be that religious of a person, but at least I know what Christmas is all about. I may not have gold, frankincense, and myrrh to give to him, but I'll do what I can. I'll make an effort. I'll do my best. He's good and gracious. He'll accept whatever I can give.”

But none of that makes you or me ready. All of that is an attempt to decorate up our hearts.

Rather kneel there before the Christ-child with a naked heart and confess, “Dear Jesus, nothing I have is worthy of you. Even my best efforts deserves only your anger and punishment. I am totally unworthy to be here at your manger. I am a helpless beggar with nothing at all to offer you. I need you, Jesus. I need you to redeem me and rescue me. I need you to wash me clean and clothe me with your righteousness. I need you to change my heart and mind to serve you gladly, willingly, cheerfully in all I do. I need you, Jesus. I need you.”

That's why Jesus came. That's why we celebrate Christmas. He is the Savior we need.

To get our hearts ready, the Lord sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus. You heard that in the text read earlier. The children will show you as well as they speak and act out the events of Luke chapters 1 and 2.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313