Preached: December 24, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which Jesus speaks to us tonight is John 3:16
For God so loved that world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
At about the age of two or so, children start asking why. It's not just one “Why?” but an endless chain, with another why coming after each answer Mom or Dad gives. Let's ask that question about Christmas tonight.
Why Christmas? Because Jesus was born? Why? Because he came to save us? Why? Because God the Father sent him. Why? Because God so loved the world. Why?
And here we begin to run out of because's, don't we? Why did God love me? My natural mind quickly latches on to something about me that makes me special or distinguish me in some way -- some choice, some decision, some action. Isn't that why we love others because there is something special about them for us, something that attracts us to them?
But God's love for us is entirely different. He doesn't love me for who I am. Notice what that well-known passage says, “God so loved the world.” And when the Bible talks about this world, it's talking about this sinful, fallen world. There's nothing in it to attract God's love -- in fact, just the opposite. This world and all who are in it, including you and me, have earned God's anger and hatred. We have broken his commandments. We have not given him the honor and glory that is rightly his. We have abused his name and neglected his word. We've worried and run after other things as our hope for happiness. We have trusted in money or in what we can accomplish, more than we've trusted in him. We've doubted his promises. We've failed to love others as ourselves.
Why does God love me? An honest look into my inborn heart or into yours only shows every reason why God could never love us.
But here is Jesus' promise, no matter how impossible it sounds: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son.” No conditions, no prerequisites, no requirements. His love is totally unearned, unmerited, undeserved, unasked for. What a promise! What a gracious, unconditional promise! Why does God love me? Not because of anything special about me, but because of who he is.
And when he says “the world,” that includes you too, dear friend, no matter what you have done. God loves you not because of who you are, but because of who he is. He is the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God, the God of love and mercy. He freely makes his promise, according to his own good will and pleasure not because of anything in you or me. In fact, imagining that you've attracted his love in someway is actually rejecting his love and brings you death and hell. God loves you despite who you are. Does such unearned, undeserved love sound impossible? Look into the manger and see the proof of his love. He gave his only-begotten Son to come into our darkness and die for you.
And that too is part of the why of Christmas, isn't it, dear friends? Why was Jesus born? He was born to save us from death by dying in our place for our sins. He was born to bring us eternal life by rising from the dead on the third day, Easter Sunday. Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
What a tragedy that many do not believe! Tell them the Good News of Jesus. And what a tragedy that many who learned about Jesus when they were a child (maybe even participating in a program like this), as they grew older, they let their faith die. They still know about Jesus. They may even claim to have faith. But faith isn't only knowledge. Faith clings to Jesus, trusting him, following him, treasuring him and his word, cherishing his promises, devoted to him. Don't let your faith die. Don't starve it to death by neglecting his word and sacrament. For without faith in Jesus, faith that relies on him alone as your only Savior from sin and death, your only hope -- without such faith there is only the endless torment of hell.
Rather dear friend, cradle the Christ-child in your heart. Marvel at God's wondrous love that reached out to lowly, unlovable sinners like you and like me. Marvel at his wondrous love that gave his Son to die for you. Marvel that your God, the Son of the Father, became flesh and blood to bring you eternal life through his obedience, death, and resurrection. God so loved the world, including you, dear sinner, that he gave his only-begotten Son sending him into this world as a tiny baby laid in a manger, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, for he died on the cross for you and rose from the dead. That's the why of Christmas. Believe in Jesus, your Savior, as you listen to his word. Cradle the Christ-child in your heart. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.