Christmas Day – St. Matthew 1:18-25
Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?
Well, let’s see. You wanted peace of mind and security; an assurance that if things go wrong you had what you needed, a way to give those who know and care for you a sense of security knowing that you had received eternal life.
You got that in the waters of Holy Baptism.
You also were tired of meals that left you wanting more; so you wanted something that filled you up, something that you could eat more than just during the month of December; and most of all, something that did not make your doctor angry later in January.
You got that in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Lord’s Supper.
You were also feeling a little guilty about some of your actions; you knew that you had not been as good as you should have been. You knew that when you received those gifts that you were really not worthy of them at all. So you wanted something that made you clean, something that took away the guilt and the nervousness.
You got that too in the forgiveness of sins.
There is just one problem.
You have all the accessories, but you do not yet have the main item. You have Barbie’s house and clothes and car, but no Barbie. You have the Millennium Falcon, and the light saber, but no Jedi. You have the tool box, but no tools; you have the pots and pans, but no stove.
You are missing the one thing that makes it all work.
But there is yet one more gift underneath the tree this morning; hiding in the back; just behind the couch.
It is Jesus.
Jesus is the one that makes everything else work.
Baptism is able to give you the promise of eternal life, because Jesus said it would. The Lord’s Supper is able to give you a foretaste of the feast that is to come in Paradise, because Jesus promises you that it will. The absolution is able to take your sins away, because of Jesus death and resurrection.
And so today, in the Bethlehem manger, looking up at Mary and Joseph and the shepherds is the gift that makes all of the other gifts work. Today in the Bethlehem manger, where the cow and donkey and sheep once ate their meals, is the one who has come to make all things new.
But don’t go looking for mangers in Bethlehem in order to claim your gift. You will not find anything there.
The gift didn’t come to remain in a manger; like all gifts it had to come out of the box, and be put to use. Like all things, this gift has some impressive features: He is able to heal the sick, make the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk. He even casts out demons; and just to top it off the wind and the waves obey His command.
But this gift does so much more than just do signs and wonders; He also speaks words of hope and comfort to those who have none. He tells of the kingdom of God, and how it is for all believers, not just the holy and pious few. He speaks words of healing to the broken; words of joy to the downcast; words of a future to those who have none.
But this gift did not just come to speak words of light and life in our midst. The ultimate use of this particular gift was to hang on a cross on Calvary’s hill and suffer and die for you.
That is not how you treat your other gifts; each gift is given and received in anticipation that it will last a lifetime, that it will be used and treasured and never let go. No gift is given in anticipation that it will be cast aside, or that it will be hung on a tree.
But this one does; this gift is given for that exact purpose. This gift is presented to you in the full knowledge that it will be stripped down to nothing, nailed to a cross, and punctured with a spear.
That is after all, how this gift gets it full usage. That is after all what this gift is designed to be used for. That is after all what you need this gift to do.
But unlike those other gifts that you found under the tree, this gift does not get thrown away with no hopes of being replaced. This gift rises from the grave, and gives to you the gift of everlasting life.
That is the great gift of Jesus, given to you, so that you might live.
Where can you find this gift of Jesus today?
Not in the manger; not even at the cross. Instead, you find this gift here, in the Church.
The gift of Jesus now comes to you in Holy Baptism, where you are claimed as a child of God. The gift of Jesus comes to you in the Lord’s Supper, where you, child of God, feast upon His flesh and blood in the certainty that you will do so in His heavenly kingdom. The gift of Jesus comes to you in the absolution, where your Father in heaven looks at the hands, feet and side of Jesus and knows that He has died for your sins as well.
The gift of Jesus is here; He is in the water, the bread and wine, and in the word; and the gift is for you.
Just what you wanted for Christmas; just what you want every day of the year; just what you needed: forgiveness, life and salvation all wrapped up in human flesh and blood, and lying in a manger.