25 December 2012
The Midnight Christ Mass
We have prayed that the Lord would rend the heavens and come down. And He has come.
He is coming to you now. And He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Already here and now, the Glory of the Lord is shining upon you; the great God and Savior has appeared in your presence.
Therefore, what sort of person ought you to be? How should you be living?
Do what you are given to do, not begrudgingly, but zealous for what is good and right, for what is godly, sensible and righteous. If you are a husband, love your wife. If you are a mother, care for your child. If you are a shepherd, tend your sheep. And whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, waking or sleeping, wherever God has placed you on earth, do all to the glory of God: in peace and with love for your neighbor.
You are right to be humbled by the Glory of God, and by His Word. Your are right to fear His Law, His wrath and judgment, for He shall judge the world in righteousness and truth.
But hear His Word of the Gospel, which is for you today: He is your Savior, and He has been born for you, to redeem you from sin and death, and to purify you with forgiveness for life everlasting; that you may live with Him in His presence, and serve Him without fear.
This true and greatest Glory of God is hidden and mysterious; because it is not finally the obvious, overwhelming and irresistible glory of power, might and punishment, but the gentle and quiet Glory of a voice that speaks forgiveness. It is the paradoxical divine Glory of a powerless little Child, the Word-made-Flesh, who will submit Himself at last to voluntary suffering and death.
Punishment terrifies you, but you can understand it, and you know it when you see it and feel it. Indeed, apart from this Gospel of the Christ Child, you cannot see or feel anything other than punishment and death (which is all that you deserve on account of your sins).
But this paradoxical Glory of divine humility and weakness perplexes you. Apart from the Word and Spirit of God, you would not and could not recognize or comprehend it; on the contrary, you would be tempted to despise and reject it.
Repent of your sins and failings, but do not be afraid!
Here you are called by the Gospel, enlightened by the free gifts of God the Holy Spirit, and gathered together with the Body of Christ in His Kingdom of Peace.
He is both your Shepherd and your King. He cares for you, feeds and waters you, guards and protects you, leads and guides you, in steadfast love and mercy for you. He rules you with justice and righteousness — not that of the Law, but of the Gospel: His own perfect righteousness of grace prevails for you, because He has redeemed you from sin and death, rescued you from every evil, reconciled you to Himself in peace, and sanctified you with His own holiness.
Here is where and how you find Him, because He has come to be with you here in His Church on earth: His Bethlehem (His House of Bread). Here He feeds you from the feed trough of His Cross, from the manger of His Altar, with the Meat and Drink indeed of His own Body and His Blood.
This is the Body of the Baby born of Mary, who shed His Blood for you upon the Cross. He has been wrapped in cloths, both at His Birth and in His Burial, for you and your salvation; and here He is wrapped in vestments and paraments, in chalice and paten, veiled under the bread and wine: for you, this day, in this place — a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
What is there to be afraid of in any of this? It is all for your great joy and blessing, for your life everlasting. There is no threat of punishment in this little Babe who comes to save you; there is only forgiveness and peace.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Sabaoth, has done it. With divine grace, He has done it for you; and all the angels in heaven rejoice in this, your salvation.
The holy angels praise and glorify God for your salvation. Shall you not also praise Him, give thanks to Him, and honor Him? Not because you must appease Him with obeisance, far less as though to stroke His ego with flattery. He has no need of anything from you, but showers you with grace and every blessing, with or without your prayer. Yet, how much more shall we, His Church, His people, give all thanks and praise and honor and glory to Him, our Savior and our God.
Receive His gifts with thanksgiving, therefore. Receive them here and gladly. Feast upon the sacred food and drink, the flesh and blood of Christ, which He provides and pours out for you here in this place, in this holy house (made holy by His presence), in the midst of this very night.
And rejoicing in His mercy, return to your office and station in peace.
Know that both you and your neighbor have such a Savior as this, who comes not with terrors to destroy you, but with gentleness and immortal kindness to serve all men everywhere; to serve you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, who was and is and is to come, the one true God, both now and forever. Amen