All I want for Christmas is forgiveness

Midweek Advent 3 – St. John 20:19-23

He sees you when you’re sleeping; He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness sake!

Sound familiar?  How often have you been told, or told others, these past few weeks that Santa is watching; making his list and checking it twice, trying to find out who is naughty and nice?

No doubt when you wrote your letter to Santa, you told him that you had been good this past year.  But have you been?

Have you really been good?  Not just good compared to others, not even just as good as you can be; but as good as you are supposed to be?

If Santa were really to examine your words and actions, what would he find?  Have you always been kind and courteous?  Have you always shared and played well with others?  Have your words and thoughts always been pure and undefiled?

Does 4 weeks of better than normal behavior really make up for 48 weeks of not so great behavior?

According to the law, we really do not deserve any presents.  Good?  You have barely been average.  Worthy of gifts?  You are barely worthy of a lump of coal; you should receive the death and hell that your sins truly deserve.

Of course, I doubt anyone writes Santa and tells him that they have been naughty; that they do not deserve any presents; that he can just pass over their house, and not just their house, but their entire community as well.

Indeed, perhaps we are just to Lutheran for our own good, but in the back of your mind, when you receive a gift, is a guilt stricken conscience that says you are not worthy of the gift you have just received, for you are a sinner, who has been anything but good.

Perhaps that is why the best reason for giving gifts this time of year, is not that one has been good, for none of us have really met the definition of good; but rather out of love for one another.  We give gifts because the people who receive them are people we love, and we give gifts as an expression of that love.

And so today, we find one more gift underneath the tree that we really want for Christmas, but like so many other gifts are not worthy to ask for: the gift of forgiveness.

You may not tell Santa that you have been naughty, but you do gather here each Sunday and confess before God and one another that you are a poor, miserable sinner, unworthy of the gifts that God gives to you.

We confess each and every Lord’s day that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  We confess that what we truly deserve is the death and hell that our sins warrant.  We pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to forgive us our trespasses.  And while each morning we pray in Luther’s Morning Prayer that we be kept far from sin; the reality is that each evening we return and pray that God would graciously forgive us our sins.

We have most definitely not been good.

And yet, what do we receive?

We hear the words spoken that you will not receive death and hell, instead you receive the full and complete forgiveness of sins granted to you by your Father in heaven.  We hear the words spoken that by confessing our sins and our unworthiness, we are found worthy of the riches of God.  And instead of condemning us, God wipes the slate clean, forgiving and forgetting all of those past misdeeds and actions, and instead looks at you through the lens of Christ crucified.

Why does God do this?  Why does He not just sentence us to death?  Why does He send His Son into the world to suffer and die in our place?

Because that is the Father’s great love for you.  God could have made your life easy, He could have permitted you to do whatever you want, and then on the last day, He also could have told you to get out of His sight, for you are most unworthy.

But He does not.  For our Father in heaven, out of His great love for you, did not want you to suffer and perish eternally, rather He wants you to live and reign with Him in His kingdom.  And so He sends His son into the world, to live a perfect life, to die and to rise; so that by His holy and precious blood and by His innocent suffering and death, you might receive the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

By yourself, you are not worthy of any such gifts, let alone worthy of anything from God.  But when are you ever by yourself?  You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness.  Are you worthy of the gift of forgiveness?  Yes!  Because you have been baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  When your Father in heaven looks at you, He sees Christ suffering and dying for you.  And when He looks at Christ, He sees you, pure and holy.

Here is your gift: it is Christ crucified for you.  And you get it not just once a year, but you get it every time you confess your sins; every time you gather here in the house of the Lord where this gift is offered to you in the stead and by the command of Jesus.

You better watch out, you better not cry; you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Jesus is here, and He has come to take your sins away.

So are you on the naughty or the nice list?

Neither; you are on the Jesus list; forgiven and redeemed by His holy and preciou

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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