You are here in the Lord’s House in the middle of this dark night, while most folks are hunkered down at hearth and home with their families and their gifts, because the sweet Word of the Gospel has proclaimed to you a Savior, Christ the Lord, who is born for you this day in the city of David.
There is no doubt that you are in need of such a Savior, for you know at least some of the trouble that lies heavy on your heart and mind, upon your mortal flesh, and on your soul. The daily news of late has surely added to your worries and concerns, to say nothing of the stress and anxiety that attend the weeks leading up to this sacred season. Above all, you need the Lord your God to come and save you from your sins, and from the death and damnation that you deserve by your sins.
Because you could do nothing to save yourself — nor did you even know how or desire to look to the Lord and ask for His help — He has taken every initiative, entirely His own, out of His great Love for you and for all people, and has come in the Flesh to save you from sin, death, and hell.
The Creator of the heavens and the earth has entered His own creation, in order to save His people from their sins and to redeem them for Himself. He is from heaven to earth come down; which is how and why there is divine Peace on earth even in the midst of wars and rumors of war, and why the good and gracious will of God now rests upon the men and women of every time and place.
What is more, since you could not receive Him nor believe in Him by any work or wisdom of your own — neither by your intellect, knowledge, experience, or sensibilities — He has not only come down from heaven for you, but to this very day, and to this holy night, He causes His Word of the Gospel to be preached to you. He comes to you, and He calls you to Himself by that preaching.
He pours out His Spirit upon you by the Gospel. He enlightens you with His gifts. He sanctifies and keeps you in the true Christian faith. And He brings you here tonight, to this House of the Living Bread from heaven, that you should find Him and receive Him to yourself in body and soul.
As a Pillar of Fire by night, the Glory of the Lord goes before you in this place. His Word sounds forth in the midst of deep darkness, and the true Light of the Lord shines upon you here and now. As a Lamp unto your feet and a Light upon your path, the preaching of His Word directs and leads you to His Word-made-Flesh. For He is here for you in this House, nestled in the manger of this Altar, covered with cloths and contained in metal vessels, but evermore your Savior and Lord.
Though you are not a shepherd on the outskirts of Bethlehem, and you are not a citizen or subject of Caesar Augustus (who is long since dead and gone), yet this Holy Gospel of the ChristMass is proclaimed to you, because it is for you that a Savior is born on this day, who is Christ the Lord.
The message that is here and now proclaimed to you is not simply a nostalgic recollection of the dark and distant past. It is most especially the Word of the Gospel of God, which is addressed to you and given to you in the present tense, that you should now receive and rejoice in your Savior.
So it is that, by this Word of the Lord, you are given the Signs that lead you to Christ in the flesh.
He is in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” which is the City of David, because He is the promised Son of David, and His own Body, born of Mary, is the Living and Life-giving Bread with which His God and Father feeds you from heaven. And that House of Bread is found, not in Palestine, but wherever in the world He gives His Body and His Blood for His Christians to eat and to drink in remembrance of Him. The City of the Son of David is wherever His Word is preached in truth.
He is likewise to be found with His Mother Mary, as St. Luke and St. Matthew both demonstrate in their Nativity Gospels. Which is to say that Christ the Lord is to be found within His Church on earth, wherein the children of God are conceived and born by the grace and power of His Word and Holy Spirit. There, too, He is found in the care of His adopted father and guardian, Joseph, as He provides spiritual fathers on earth to guard and keep, to serve and care for you by His Word.
You have heard that His infant body is swaddled in cloths. So shall linen cloths enwrap the same holy body in His death and burial (once more in a borrowed space); and on Easter morning those linens will serve as a sign of His Resurrection. No less do you find the crucified and risen Body of your dear Lord Jesus Christ swaddled in linen cloths upon this Altar, tonight and all year long; not only at Christmas and Easter, but as often as you eat and drink at His Word. And baptized into Him, you also recline here, wrapped up in the swaddling cloths of Christ and His righteousness.
In particular, as the Angels of God and the holy Evangelist have told you three times over in this Holy Gospel, you find your dear Savior in the manger, that is, in the feeding trough, from which the food is distributed. For He is given to you as your Meat and Drink indeed. He is your Savior because He feeds you with Himself, with His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you here and now, from this manger, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation.
It is quite appropriate, therefore, that the Divine Service (the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper) begins with the Song of the Angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!”
We hear and confess with all the hosts of heaven that God the Lord is in this place in His own flesh and blood, conceived and born of St. Mary for the salvation of sinners.
As we now approach the stable of this Sanctuary, as we draw near the manger of this Altar, and as we enter the Holy of Holies at the heart of this Bethlehem, we sing again with the Angels and Archangels and all saints, praising the Holy, Holy, Holy One, the Lord God, Yahweh Sabaoth, and worshiping the Lamb of God upon His Throne, our Savior Jesus Christ, in His Body and Blood.
Here you receive Him in the flesh; His crucified and risen, immortal and imperishable flesh into your mortal body, as the gift, guarantee, and down payment of your bodily resurrection, and as the true glory of your body and soul. For by His Word, and with these Gifts Christ freely gives, your sin is truly forgiven, your death is conquered, and you are saved for the Life everlasting with Him.
It is with such sure and certain promises that you return from this place to your own office and stations in life — whether to the shepherding of your own flocks, as it were, to the carpentry and craftsmanship of your own trade, or to whatever it is that you are called and given to do. In all such tasks and occupations, you praise the Lord your God, your Savior Jesus Christ, not only with your lips but with your very life in deed and in truth. You confess what you have seen and heard at His Altar, and you serve your neighbor in love with words and deeds that echo those of Christ.
Beloved of the Lord, He honors you with His own glory by preaching to you His forgiveness and by feeding you with His flesh and blood. As you go about your days and nights, ponder this Word of His Gospel in faith, and treasure it dearly and deeply in your heart and mind. It is, indeed, your hope and your salvation, and by His grace and tender mercies it will return you, again and again, to this House of Bread and to this Manger, until you shall feast with Him in His Kingdom forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.