Christmas Day (Year C - LCMS Revised Readings)
Thursday, December 25, 2003
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me (sung)
That’s what Jesus says: I’ll be home for Christmas. John’s Gospel describes Jesus coming into the world and says, “Jesus came to that which was His own.” Another way of saying this is, “He came home.” When Jesus came into the world, born of a virgin, born as child of a woman, born as a human, taking on our nature, at Christmas, Jesus came home.
Jesus came to the world He had made. This isn’t some foreign place that Jesus had never heard of; this is the world that God the Father made through the Son. As Paul declares in His letter to the Colossians, “By Christ all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”
Jesus came to the world He had made. God the Father promised to send a Savior into the world, and Jesus promised, “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on me.” And indeed, on Christmas, Jesus came into the world, came to the world He made, came home.
And He came to His homefolk; He came to the people of Israel, the chosen people. God the Father had long ago promised that the Savior would come to the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And so indeed, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, people of Israel, born into the family of the great King David. Jesus came home to His homefolk, but when He arrived, He found that not everyone was excited about His homecoming.
What if you came back home for this Christmas, came back to the house where you used to live, came back to see your family, but they told you to turn around and go back to where you came from? What if the door was slammed in your face? What if they locked the front gate? What if they blocked the driveway? What if they called the cops? Here you come, arriving with gifts for everyone, ready to embrace everyone with your love, and your homefolk turn you away.
There was no room in the inn. King Herod sent out death squads to kill the young children, trying to kill the new baby who was born to be King of the Jews. The people weren’t looking for a Savior. Many people were confident, like they didn’t need forgiveness for their sins. Leaders denied Him. People said He was a blasphemer, saying that He told lies about God. Jesus came home, came to His hometown of Nazareth after He had started His ministry, and His homefolk tried to throw Him off a cliff.
Jesus said, “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on me,” and the world did not recognize Him. His homefolk did not receive Him. In our sinfulness, we reject Jesus. Our hearts are not turned towards Him. Our sinful hearts are like crowded inns and death squads looking to keep out the new king. Our hearts are like locked doors, locked gates, barricaded driveways. In our sinfulness, we have turned Jesus away even when He came home to be with us.
Ah, but that’s exactly why Jesus came home, because He knew there was trouble at home. He wouldn’t be turned away so easily. Crowded inns, stinky stable, Herod’s death squads, Nazareth’s mobs, these things were not going to stop Jesus from coming home, coming to His homefolk, coming to save His people. And so, even though your heart may react in sinfulness, even though you may slam the door in the face of Jesus, Jesus will not walk away. He has come with forgiveness and healing for you; He has come to remove your sins so that you can approach God the Father without fear. He has come to bring you back into the family.
Hear today’s announcement of forgiveness and hope:
“You’ll be home for Christmas,
You can count on Him” (sung)
In your sin, you are guilty of rejecting Jesus. Jesus came home, came to you and found that your heart rejected Him. But Jesus comes anyway, comes to change your heart, comes to change your future, so that you will be home for Christmas, so that you will be home with Him for eternal life.
Yes, your sins separate you from God. Yes, your sins deserve eternal judgment. Yes, because you are sinful, you do not deserve anything but damnation. But “You’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on Him.” You will be home with God for eternity; you will have life after death; you will receive a new life of peace and joy. You can count Jesus. You can count on Him, trust in Him. You can count on the cross, rely on the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won for you on the cross.
Jesus came home, came on Christmas, to bring His salvation into the world. Jesus came home on Christmas to bring us home, to bring us back into the family. As John’s Gospel declares, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Jesus has worked in your heart to create faith, worked in your heart so that you can receive God and His promise of salvation. Jesus has worked in your heart to open doors, turn on the front porch lights, open the gate, remove the barricades on the driveway. Jesus has worked in your heart, so that you will receive Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, count on Him. And then Jesus welcomes you into His home.
He has given you the right, the ability, the capability, the possibility of being children of God, of being back in God’s family, of being welcomed in the God’s eternal home. As Jesus said, “There are many rooms in my Father’s house” (John 14:2). And so I sing to you, “You’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on Him.” Christmas is about Jesus coming home, but Christmas is also about you coming home, you coming to eternal life.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Jesus took on flesh and blood, became like us, even though He didn’t have to. Jesus came and lived in this world, came home, came to His homefolk. Jesus knew the risks, knew the costs, knew the outcome, that He’d be rejected at home, His homefolk wouldn’t receive Him. He knew He was coming to His people that had fallen away, that were turned away, but Jesus came home anyway. Jesus came in love and mercy and forgiveness, came to make it possible for the barriers to fall away, make it possible for our hearts to believe, make it possible for us to truly come home to live with Him for eternity.
But even as we wait for that day, for the day when Christ takes us to be with Him for eternity, even as we wait for that new life, a life without pain or sadness or fear, even as we wait to go home to be with God, we celebrate today.
“He is here for Christmas
Full of grace and truth” (sung)
Christ is here with us. Christ has revealed His glory to us, revealed it in His Word which declares how glorious He is, what a Savior He is. Christ is here with us this day, full of grace and truth. He comes with His grace, accepting us just as we are, giving us the gift of faith as a true gift. There are no strings attached when it comes to Jesus. The gift of salvation is a gift. There are no hidden fees or costs. Christ is here with the gift, the grace, of salvation.
Christ is here with us, full of grace and truth. He comes with His truth, and while on the one hand He reveals the harsh truth about us, the truth that we are sinful and turned away from God and are God’s enemies, on the other hand, He also reveals the most amazing truth: He loves us despite our sins. He loves us and came home, came home for Christmas, came so that He could take us home, take us back into the family.
This isn’t something I’ve seen in any other teaching about spiritual things. The truth that we have in Jesus is special, different than any other teaching. Jesus is loving and gracious and merciful. Jesus came to save us and doesn’t expect that we could do this on our own. Jesus came to save us knowing that we’d reject Him. Jesus came to us and gives us faith to receive Him. Jesus comes at Christmas knowing how sinful we are, but Jesus continues to give us His truth, His Word, His hope, His promise. Every time we lock the door, slam the gate, build the barricade, every time we tell Jesus that there’s no room for Him, that we’re so angry at Him that we’d like to kill Him, every time we reject Jesus—He unlocks the door, opens the gate, climbs over the barricades, sleeps out back in the shed, and reminds us that even the devil couldn’t kill Him on the cross. Every time we reject Jesus, we hear Him singing: “I’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on me.”
Every time you feel like there is no way that Jesus would ever accept you again, I will tell you, “You’ll be home for Christmas/You can count on Him.”
And every time that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we can sing, “He is here for Christmas/Full of grace and truth.”
He is here; He is here to take you home.