Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord + December 24, 2017
Text: Luke 2:10-11
“He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary”
This blessed evening, we will focus on these words which are confessed by the universal Church–Christians in every place—about Jesus Christ: “He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.”
There’s something called the natural knowledge of God. By observation in nature and by our own in-born understanding, we know God to be a power greater than ourselves. Plato called God the “unmoved Mover” and Anselm of Canterbury defined God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” No matter people’s religious affiliation, we surmise that whoever God is, He must be beyond us in some way. He’s in heaven; He’s in another plane of existence. However you say it, it’s natural to think God is not only above humanity, but also separated from us.
If you perceive that, you would be correct. Heaven is God’s dwelling place, and in Isaiah 40, God speaks about Himself, “22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” (Isaiah 40:22) But the distance was not always this case. In fact, after the world was first made, the Lord made His dwelling among His creatures. Yet that closeness was shattered by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. They are no mere mythical figures in a creation fable; they are in fact our ancestors whose sin brought the separation we now know from God. We are separated from God because every since our parents brought sin into our spiritual condition, our hearts are inclined toward evil, as God tells us: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
It is actually mercy that God does not dwell in our midst with all His holiness. “4For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.” (Psalm 5:4) In fact even a glimpse of the Holy God is too much for us now: “5And [Isaiah] said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” (Isaiah 6:5) And the Lord says, “If for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you.” (Exodus 33:5, see also Hebrews 12:29)
But in spite of our wickedness, it remains God’s desire to dwell with us. The only way for that to take place is if our unholiness can be dealt with. Long ago, God made Himself known to people in dreams and visions, in smoke, cloud, and a burning bush. In all these, He veiled Himself and protect the sinful children of Adam from being consumed. Yet the fullness of God’s plan to dwell among us was when He veiled His Godhead not with foreign substances like smoke, but in human flesh and blood itself. “9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (Colossians 2:9)
“For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.”
God, though heavenly, high, and holy, came down to dwell with us most lowly. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” (Titus 2:11) The grace of God did not simply appear in a message broadcast from heaven, but by the Son of God coming down from heaven—true God, begotten of God the Father from eternity and also true man, born of the virgin Mary in time. The Lord has come down from heaven to forge the way to bring us back into His presence.
Despite this, often it’s more comfortable to think about the distance of God. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) By that we’d like to think that God is far off when it’s convenient to our lives. When we put other things above our spiritual welfare and invest everything in our children’s “future” while their faith rots. We want God not to be near, but look the other way when we delight in sexual fantasies and fornication. Who wants the humbling reality that God hears our every idle word—especially when our words tear down and hurt other people? God, you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.
But when we’re in danger, need, or experiencing a trial…that’s when we beg for God to be near! Won’t you heal my diseased body? Mend my broken marriage? Provide what my family needs to live?
God is not an on-call super hero like Superman to save the day. He’s far more than that, and He wants better for you. The truth is, He sees those sins you thought were hidden or at least not that big a deal. And yet, He still came near! He came near to stand in your place, to bear the just punishment you deserve! Jesus came near to win you peace with God again.
“10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11)
That peace He gave by His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, and by His glorious resurrection. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.” (Titus 2:14) In the manger and from the cross, Jesus, the Son of God, made Himself yours, so that you could be God’s once more.
So, if you’ve distanced yourself from God, repent. As we sang in the hymn, “to meek souls who receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” He wants to be near you as Savior, not judge, He desires that peace which the angels declared to be your peace also! Jesus wants this Christmas to be filled with true joy and everlasting peace, because He has come near for you! Amen.
 Genesis 2:8
 Genesis 12 & 15, Exodus 3 & 13:17-22
 Allusion to the hymn, “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness” (LSB 636:1)