Christmas Eve

Preached: December 24, 2008

The Star of Christmas
Numbers 24:17

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus is Numbers 24:17

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise of Israel” (Numbers 24:17 NIV)

This is the Word of our Lord.

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

Christmas in other countries can be quite different from what we are used to. Our mission families in India tell how there is no snow or ice. It's a tropical climate. No white Christmas. You won't find a Christmas ham either. And although many homes have strings of lights or lanterns, that is not special for Christmas. In fact, that's a tradition of the Hindu religion, which most people in India follow. Only 3% are Christian.

But there is a Christmas symbol that marks the homes of Christians at Christmas time in India. You would recognize it too. It's the star. Some stars are made of brightly colored paper. The larger ones are plastic strung over a wooden frame. Most have some sort of lighting to shine out brightly into the dark.

Often when we think of a Christmas star, we think of what the wise men, or magi, saw. But that's not the star of Christmas. They were not there at the manger. They came later. We're not told of any special star in the sky that the shepherds or Mary or Joseph saw on the night Jesus was born.

So what is the Christmas star? That's really not the right question. It's not a what, but a who. Who is the Christmas Star? The prophecy in the text points us to a person: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17 NIV). Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. The Lord changed his name to Israel. From the Israelite nation the Star would come.

Other prophecies make it clear that the star would come from Jacob's son Judah and from the family line of King David, who reigned over Israel about four hundred years after this prophecy. Who is the Christmas star? You know. Jesus, born from the house and line of David, born in Bethlehem of Judea, born from the virgin Mary of the people of Israel, Jacob's descendants.

But why call him a star? Stars shine in the darkness. Jesus came into the darkness of our world. He came as the one, true Light, and the darkness did not overcome him. Rather ,he shattered the darkness. For he is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. He is the Only-Begotten, the eternal Son of the Father.

He shatters the darkness to bring you light and life. He came to shine into our dark hearts. For we began life in the night of sin and unbelief, shrouded in death, headed for hell. We had no spark of goodness, no flicker of love for God, no glimmer of faith. Only darkness, deep darkness.

But like a star in the night, Jesus pierced our darkness. Through Baptism and his Word, his light fills you. For from Jesus shines the light of God's full and free forgiveness, the Good News that shatters the gloom of guilt, the only message that destroys the darkness and brings you peace with God. For you see, Jesus carried all the sins of the world in their God-forsakeness darkness and nailed them to the cross for you. He died your death. Then he shattered the darkness of death by rising from the dead. There would be no Christmas if Jesus had not died and risen.

But now as our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus shines as the bright Morning Star, ushering in the promise of the new day for all who believe on him. Without faith in Jesus, the darkness enshrouds forever. But through faith in Jesus we eagerly anticipate the glory of heaven. What a new day awaits us Just as a star in the night brings hope, so also Jesus brings you this hope the sure, certain hope, focused on Jesus, the Christmas Star.

So when you see a star whether a natural star in the night sky or decorative star shining brightly remember who the Christmas star is. Jesus Christ, your Savior from sin and death. In him you have hope and life and light. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

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