Second Christmas Day
Dear friends in Christ. The Christmas songs we have been hearing for the past months have been telling us that this is the most wonderful time of the year. In spite of all the busyness, people still love all the sentimentality that comes with Christmas—the special foods, gatherings, cards, etc. Although we Christians are only on the Second Day of Christmas, and most of the world has moved on to the after Christmas sales, that Christmas cheer continues on for many until New Years. How many people soften their attitude because “it’s Christmas after all.”
Just think: if the secular world around us is a bit more joyful this time of year, a bit more forgiving, being merely made joyful and softened by sentimentality, gifts and other kindnesses, how much more joy should fill our Christian hearts—we who know what Christmas is all about? We heard the angels announce to the shepherd and to us [Lk. 2.11, 20]: there is born for you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord; and then we read that the shepherds went to see the Baby, the Savior of the world and then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen. We hear the same message in Christmas 2010 as well, and the same joy is also ours. But we also know that life continues on and as the days carry on, and become weeks and months, the Christmas message, the Christmas cheer will also begin to fade in our lives. As much as people try to be like Scrooge and vow to keep the spirit of Christmas in their hearts all year round, the reality is that reality and everything returns to how it was before. That’s why it does us good to hear the words of our text, to hear the Lord’s command: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst. When it’s back to the same old, same old, we need to be reminded of Christmas; we need to be commanded to rejoice and pointed back to the reason and foundation of our rejoicing—God, our Savior, has come and is with us and in us. In the weeks and months ahead, it will serve us well to remember our text. It is true—Christmas truly has significance, meaning and comfort for us beyond the 25th, beyond the 12 Days; and that is reason for us to rejoice every day.
1. Now, we don’t need the command to sing and rejoice in the Lord—we are in the midst of our Christmas joy and celebration—but we will later; that’s the reality. When the Lord first spoke these words, He spoke them to the small group of Israelites that returned from exile in Babylon. It was a difficult situation for them as they were rebuilding their country. The Lord is here encouraging the people to complete with joy the construction of the Second Temple, the one that ultimately Jesus Himself, the true God would enter. He not only commanded His faithful to sing and rejoice but He promised them that He was coming. How this opened the people’s eyes and hearts to look past the momentary difficulties and to be alert and act in light of the great hopes of future blessings. The Lord opened the peoples’ hearts and eyes by reminding them once again that He was coming.
How that promise of the first Christmas strengthened and encouraged the people for many a day and year—the Lord Himself would come and would come to that very temple! Not only would He come to that temple but He would dwell in their midst. God fulfilled that promise when He took on human flesh and blood and was born that first Christmas. Through St. John the Holy Spirit says of Jesus [Jn 1.14]: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; and through St. Paul [ Ga. 4.4]: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman… That’s Christmas! That’s the Christmas miracle—the true God became also true man to be our Savior, just as the Holy Spirit said through the prophet [Is 7.14]: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel, [that is, God with us].
In those difficult days, the people were to look forward to the coming of the Savior, to the coming of the true God who would also become true Man. Not only would He come to the temple, but He would dwell with them; they would have direct, immediate, fellowship with the Lord—He the true God would be with them.
It was in those difficult days that they needed the Lord’s command to sing and rejoice—it wouldn’t come naturally—but the Lord also gave them the reason, the cause for their rejoicing—He was coming to them.
We, too, have the same command; we, too, are part of the Daughter of Zion, the Church. Precisely when the last Christmas candle is extinguished, the last gift opened, the tree put away, when regular life continues, when the Christmas cheer is gone, when it is no longer “the most wonderful time of the year,” then we will need to hear the Lord’s command: sing and rejoice. But just like with the OT people in our text, it is not a groundless command: God gave them the promise of His coming; and, what’s better for us, we have just celebrated that fact—Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, became also true man and was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior. No matter what our situation, and especially when we least feel it, we have the Lord’s command: sing and rejoice. That’s how we keep Christmas in our hearts all year round—we keep looking at the fact that God is faithful to His promises and was born that first Christmas in Bethlehem and rejoice that there is born for you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. So no matter what our situation may be in the year ahead, we can obey our Lord’s command to sing and rejoice—for He has come to be our Savior.
2. Yet, not only has Christ our Lord come, born of the virgin in Bethlehem those many years ago, but He has also come to us personally, individually, and as it were, has been born in our hearts. That is the solid foundation for us being able to sing and rejoice—the Lord has that close of a relation with us; that’s how close He is to us; He can never leave nor forsake us—no matter how it may look.
The fact that we are our Lord’s dear Christians today is because He was born that first Christmas to be our Savior. Our text: Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. That little phrase: in that day, points us to the time in which we now live, that time in which the God the Son has taken on human nature—Christmas—and then carried out the work for our salvation.
Because He is the Savior of all people, many nations are now joined to Him, that is, many people from all over the world trust in Jesus as their Savior. Through that faith in Christ, we are now joined to Him and He to us. We didn’t join Him—our text doesn’t say that many nations join themselves to the Lord, but rather it says in our text, we are joined to Him—that means that Someone else did the work, Someone else brought us to the Lord and joined us to Him with that bond of faith and that Someone is the Holy Spirit. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we are brought to faith, or, to keep the Christmas analogy—Jesus is born in our hearts and we recognize and trust in Him as our Savior from sin, death, devil and hell.
Precisely because Jesus was born in Bethlehem and carried out His work to save us all from our sins and now has been born in our hearts as the Holy Spirit brought us to faith in Him, that means that He now claims us as His very own. Our text describes it this way: …they shall become My people…And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the land of holiness, and will again choose Jerusalem. The Lord claims us as His own people as He says through the Apostle [Eph. 2.19]: …you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Not only does the Lord claim us as His people and possession, but like He promised His OT people: and I will dwell in Your midst.
Now after His resurrection and ascension, does Christ still dwell in our midst? Absolutely! Wherever His holy word and sacraments are, there is Christ. He didn’t just leave us with His ascension, but instead He ascended so that He could be wherever His Church is gathered around His Word and Sacrament [Mt. 18.20]—where 2 or 3 are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them; and with each of His dear Christians [Mt. 28.20]—I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
It gets even better than that! Not only is Christ still with us, coming to us in His Word and Sacrament, but He dwells in our midst, in a wonderful way as He, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, dwells in the heart of each of His dear Christians. Jesus tells us [Jn. 14.23]: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home with him. Through the apostle the Spirit says: Christ [dwells] in your hearts through faith. All this is only possible because Jesus was born in Bethlehem of the virgin to be our Savior; and now by the work of the Holy Spirit in the word and water of holy Baptism He has been born also in our hearts and claimed and made us His own, even dwelling in our hearts. That’s why we rejoice because it’s Christmas—because Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world, and in fact, my Savior.
3. What is the Christian’s response to this great grace of God that He sent His Son to become man and so be our Savior? The same that He told His OT faithful: Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from the habitation of His holiness. Rejoice! It’s Christmas—so in silence, ponder this mystery of God becoming man to be our Savior; of God not only dwelling among us those 30 some years in Palestine 2000 years ago, but also coming to us today in His word and sacraments and even dwelling in our hearts.
A vital part of our Christmas celebration is silence, standing in awe and reverence of this great mystery of God becoming man. When we are silent, then we are able to hear Christ speaking to us through His Word. As we do so, we recognize that we have sinned against God’s holy and just Law and by that have earned nothing but His eternal wrath and punishment; and we confess our sins. But we also hear the Christmas Gospel: there is born for you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord and in Spirit worked faith say: “Yes, Jesus was born to be my Savior from my sin.” As we in faith, created by the Holy Spirit, receive Jesus and His work, it is then Christmas for us, as He is born in our hearts and dwells there!
For a blessed Christmas celebration, don’t fill up on the externals and trappings that merely clutter the heart from truly pondering that God became man to save us from our sin, but be silent in awe and reverence at His work to save us.
Here is where Christmas serves as a foundation and strength for our lives the entire year. Just as it was a matter of faith for these OT believers in their hardship to believe that God Himself was coming to dwell in their midst, so too for us as we endure various sufferings, fight against sin, temptation and devil is it a matter of faith that Jesus is our Savior, that since He reconciled us to God, we are now His dear children and heirs of heaven, that He now dwells in our heart. But Christmas shows us precisely that!
So as we celebrate Christmas this year, let it soak in; ponder it. In so doing, the Holy Spirit will give you its blessed comfort all throughout the year. Christmas gives us the certainty that God is with us—He came as the Baby born in Bethlehem to be our Savior, He comes in His Word and Sacrament to dwell in our hearts—and since God is with us, who or what can be against us? Our worries and anxieties come because we forget that He is with us. So once we leave this most wonderful time of the year, we can still, come what may, Sing and rejoice—precisely because of Christmas. Merry Christmas. INJ Amen.