Christmas Eve

Preached: December 24, 2014

Luke 2:11

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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 draws us to Jesus is Luke 2.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NIV84)

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

“Put ‘Christ’ back into ‘Christmas.’” No doubt, you've heard that slogan. It's usually aimed at the word “Xmas.” In our modern world, many might use that word because they want to ex Christ out of Christmas.

But the problem goes much deeper than which word people use. Even if from this day forward everyone used the word “Christmas” instead of “Xmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or “Season Greetings,” Christ would not be back in Christmas. Think about it. Many events that are already labeled as “Christmas programs” or “Christmas concerts” barely mention Christ. And even many that talk about Christ's birth reduce it to a cute story about a tiny baby. They either pretty it up so much that the manger looks better than any cradle rather than a feeding trough for animals. Or else it's told in a way to make us feel sorry for Mary and Joseph and the baby because they had no room in the inn, and then hopefully we'll feel sorry for others who are down and out. But all that misses why God's Son came as a tiny baby to be the Christ.

And what about our own hearts? Does Jesus Christ have center place? Does he reign as your undisputed King to whom you give total loyalty? Is he your greatest desire and joy for whom you would gladly forsake all else? Whenever the word, “Christ,” slips from our lips, are we pondering the work he came to do? Even though we say, “Christmas” instead of “Xmas” keeping “Christ,” so often our choices make it into “Family-mas” or “Gift-mas” or “Food-mas” instead. How often do we feel disappointed that it’s not really Christmas without those things even if Christ is still here?

Let's go back to that word “Xmas” to learn a lesson or two. That abbreviation predates the world secularizing Christmas and leaving Christ out. You see, the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek word for “Christ” is Χριστός. The first letter in that Greek name is called a “chi,” and it looks just like our “X.” The people who first abbreviated “Christmas” as “Xmas” were not trying to ex out Christ. They simply used the first letter of “Christ” to abbreviate the whole name.

But there is more for us to learn here. If you turn the “X” on it's side, you have a type of cross (☩). And here, dear friends, we penetrate the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus was born to do the work of the Christ. What was that work? To save sinners, sinners like you and me. None of us could do that work, that's why the Lord himself came. God the Father sent his one and only Son to do the work of the Christ, the work of saving sinners.

How did he do that work? By taking our place. That's why the eternal Lord came as a baby, born even as we are born. He took your place so that your sins were counted against him. That's why he died on the cross, a sideways “X.” He suffered, forsaken by God, and died as your Substitute, your ransom. That's the work of the Christ. When we try to excuse away our sin, we belittle the work Jesus Christ came to do, and we empty Christmas of its true purpose. That's truly exing Christ out of Christmas, no matter what word you use.

Rather see the greatness of your sin and see how much greater God's love is. The Son came not only to the lowly manger but to the cross stained by our sin. And on that cross he paid the full price for your sins and mine, for you see he paid for all the sins of the world. His resurrection on Easter proves it so. He completed the work of the Christ. He completed it for you, dear sinner, for you. Don't reject it in unbelief or false faith. For without him you are lost to death and hell.

That first Christmas night the shepherds trembled in terror at the sight of the holy angel. For they were sinners like us. But the angel had glad tidings of great joy. The Savior, who takes away sin, the Savior, whose cross brings us life, the Savior, who came to do the work of the Christ, was born. What great good news that shatters our darkness! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10 NIV11). Forgiveness and life in Christ is our great Christmas joy.

So don't let “Xmas” trouble you. See the cross in the “X.” Share with others how this reminds us of what Christmas is all about. Keep your faith, hope, and joy centered in Christ crucified. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

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