St. Luke 2:1-20 – Christmas Day
Look in the stable, what do you see? A white fluffy sheep stands close by to where the newborn baby Jesus now lies.
It’s hard to imagine such a thing when you are standing in the nursery looking at the row of newborns; perhaps even more so when you witness the baptism of an infant in church; but there will come a day when this newborn will become not just an infant or a toddler, or a small child, or even a teenager, but a full grown adult.
Yes, the child who now barely opens his eyes, will one day be graduating high school; the small, helpless infant who seems to cry a lot, will one day be getting married; the child who it seems was born just yesterday, will one day be a full grown adult.
They grow up so fast, as the old adage goes. One day they are in diapers, the next they are changing the diapers of children of their own.
And so on this most holy day of Christmas, when we gather to hear once more of the wondrous birth of Jesus in Bethlehem; as we join the shepherds in worshiping and praising the newborn king; as we ponder all these things in our hearts with Mary; there is the reality that this newborn baby is going to grow up real fast.
How fast? Well on Sunday, the assigned Gospel text is the Presentation of our Lord in the temple when Jesus will be a mere 40 days old; next Sunday, the Gospel is Jesus already at the age of 12 in the temple; and the Sunday after that, Jesus will be baptized in the Jordan River at the grown up age of 30. In fact, if you really want time to fly: Lent starts in less than 2 months, and Easter is in 3 months. In less than 120 days, Jesus will be born, crucified and risen from the dead.
And you thought your kids grew up fast.
Of course, that is both a quirk of our Lectionary system, combined with the reality that there just is not that much else to tell about Jesus’ childhood.
But there is something more at work here as well.
It is worth noting that in 3 weeks, when we hear of the Baptism of Jesus, it will be conducted by John the Baptist, who will of course summarize all of what Jesus has come to do in a simple phrase: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Look at your nativity scenes, see the sheep standing there? In our minds and in our Christmas pageants, this sheep is assumed to have dumbly followed the shepherds in from the fields after word is received from the angels that a Savior has been born in Bethlehem.
On a normal occasion, it might be customary for the traveling animal to eat some of the straw in the manger while its master visited with the family. However this is no ordinary manger box, and this is no ordinary night.
So instead, this sheep serves as a reminder, that this one who now lies in the manger box is the Lamb of God, who has come to take away the sins of the world.
Whose sins you might ask?
Your sins. Your sins of creating false idols for yourselves. Your sins of denying the presence of God when it is right before you. Your sins of excluding from the Church those whom you deem to be unworthy of the grace and mercy that is extended to you.
And so as we gather here on this Christmas Day, and as we look into the stable one more time; it turns out that that is not the cow’s manger box; nor is it the donkey’s. It is not the camel’s manger box either; in fact, it is not even the sheep’s.
Whose is it then?
It is yours.
You are the one who should be laying your head down on the bed of straw. You are the one who should be sentenced to suffer and die. You are the one who deserves the punishment of death for all the sins that you have committed in thought, word and deed.
And yet, who is that lying in your manger box?
Look at your Nativity scenes one more time: who lies in the manger box? It is not you, it is not me; it is not your neighbor, it is not the president, or any other king or ruler.
So if it is not you, or your spouse, or your children, or your neighbor, or even a stranger; then who is it?.
It is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus lies in the manger, so sweet and so mild. Yet He has come into the world as the perfect sacrifice, who will hang upon the cross for the sins of the world. He is the Lamb that is about to be led to the slaughter.
It is the Savior’s manger box after all. He has taken your place. He has come meek and lowly, so that you might be exalted to God’s right hand. He has come in innocence, to take your guilt away. He has come in human flesh in order to restore you to glory.
He has come to redeem those who bow down to false idols. He has come to save those who deny the very presence of God. He has come for those who we deem to be worthy and for those who we deem to be unworthy.
He has taken on our human flesh, assumed His place in our manger box, and ultimately our place on the cross, so that you might take His place at God’s right hand.
Look at the throne of God; what do you see? You see a place reserved for you, a place in glory everlasting, a place prepared for you from the foundations of the world. A place won for you today in the manger at Bethlehem.
And it all starts here, with the one who now lies in the manger, the very Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.