Not Once Upon A Time
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Once Upon A Time
“Once upon a time,” that’s how many stories and fairy tales begin. When you hear those words, you know that the story is not real, that the places are not real, and that the people are not real. The story may be cute or interesting but it came from the imagination of someone’s mind.
Luke chapter two begins with these words, “In those days.” There is a world of difference between these words from Luke and the words “Once upon a time.” When Luke wrote his gospel he began by stating that he was going to write an accurate account of what had actually happened.
Luke wrote how he investigated everything, how his account would be based on the testimony of eyewitnesses. He stated that he would write an orderly account so that those who read his words would be certain of what had happened.
In Those Days
The gospel according to Saint Luke did not come from the imagination of Luke’s mind. The places, people, and events were real. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the Roman Empire after defeating Marc Anthony.
Caesar consolidated his power by taking a census so that he could eventually tax his people. This census took place “when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Joseph and Mary had to go from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea for this census taking.
This was a real time in history, these were real places, and these were real people. This is exactly when and where the Son of God came to earth. “When the time had fully come God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law.” Gal. 4:4 The account of this birth in Luke chapter two is not from the imagination of Luke’s mind. It is the reality of God’s love coming to earth in the flesh.
A Real Person
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.” The baby born in Bethlehem was born flesh and blood. His name was Jesus. He was the son of Mary and the Son of God. God came into history; he came to where people live.
This is not a “Once upon a time” story; it took place at a specific place and at a specific time. The child that was born was real not a storybook character. The Lord who came to earth was the one through whom all things were created.
The shepherds did not go to see a myth, they went to see a real live person lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling cloths. This birth happened because God is a gracious God. It happened because God cares for people, people like you and me. It happened because we needed the Son of God to come for us if we are to have any peace.
Why He Came
The Son of God did not come so that we could have a holiday, a season of gift-giving and family get-togethers. Jesus was born, as the angel proclaimed to be a Savior. He did not come to divide us into those who are naughty and those who are nice. Jesus did not come to bribe us or threaten us into being good for goodness sake.
The Son of God came into the world without sin, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He came because when you and I came into the world we were born with a sinful nature, a nature that wanted nothing to do with God. We looked so cute, but each of us from our birth was not cute at all.
Even before we could utter our first word, our hearts were selfishly focused on ourselves. As we grow older we are not more sinful than when we began it is only that our sins are now more noticeable, more easily called sin by those around us.
Christmas time is a time for making lists, lists of presents to be bought, preparations to be made, and cards to be sent. The one list that none of us want to make is a list of our sins, the sins that brought Jesus to earth.
“In those days.” when Caesar Augustus ruled and when Quirinius was governor of Syria, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was born, but that was not the end of the story, not the end of the account that Luke researched so carefully.
Jesus was born because God loves people. He was born because God’s justice had to be fulfilled, someone had to be punished for sin. The Son of God became a man, one of us, to pay the debt caused by our sin.
Jesus came to fulfill both the letter and the spirit of the Law. He came to live for us. Jesus was born to give his body and shed his blood as a sacrifice for our sin, a ransom from sin and death. He allowed himself to be betrayed, to be handed over, to be tortured, and to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross.
Jesus was born to end Hell’s claim on you and to restore you as a child of the heavenly Father. Jesus came to bring God’s mercy and grace into the world. He came then for you and he continues to bring you his mercy and grace. His mercy and grace last forever.
The gift of a savior happened “In those days,” those days of real history, in real places, with real people. The gift of a savior happens “In these days,” in 2017, in Toledo, Ohio, on Elmer drive, at Gloria Dei. The gift of a savior is given to you.
The Lord who was present then in Bethlehem is present here and now for you. He is present in his Word. In his Word he calls you to repent, he tells you of his love, he tells you that by God’s grace through faith in him your sins are forgiven.
So that you would know that this gift is real, he baptized you with water. As that water flowed over your head he promises that your sins are washed away and that you will share a new life with him.
So that you know that this gift of forgiveness and new life is real, he feeds you with his very body and blood. This gift is not imaginary, not abstract, not generic. This gift is true, it is real, it is for you.
Jesus was born and lived, was crucified and rose from the dead for you. Therein lies our Christmas joy and peace. It is the one thing in this fallen world that we can trust. It is the one gift that will not fade or wear out, it will not rust or be taken away.
What child is this the world asks? The Word of God tells us that this child is the Son of God. This Child is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. In Him, you have redemption, the forgiveness of all your sins. This Child was the atoning sacrifice, whose body and blood, given and shed, cleanses you from all your sins.
The account of Jesus birth in Luke chapter two is not the imagination of someone’s mind, but rather the reality of God’s love for you.
In the name of Jesus, the sign of God’s salvation for us. AMEN
Soli Deo Gloria