Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church

2021 Christmas Eve

A Real Christmas

Luke 2:10-12

You need something real. If your grand daughter looks under the tree tonight and there’s no gift for her, she’s going to be disappointed. You can’t tell her, “You know Grandpa loves you. My thoughts and prayers are always with you.” Prayers shmares, your granddaughter wants real book, real toy, real clothes, and real cash. You don’t need your granddaughter to teach you that – you too want and need real gifts. Your stomach will not be filled by thoughts of food and your body will not be rested without real sleep. Text messages and phone calls do not take care of loneliness. That requires a real, in-the-flesh visit from a real human being.

There is no other religion in the world as real as Christianity. There is no other God as real as the God of Holy Scripture. There is no other faith which delivers real gifts. The proof is in the manger. The proof is on the cross. The proof is the human flesh and blood in which the Son of God wrapped Himself.

Caesar Augustus was the real ruler of Rome and like all sinful rulers he could never get enough of your money. In his effort to make Rome great again or build it back better he taxed the empire. So even though Mary was really pregnant Joseph had to leave Nazareth to go to Bethlehem because you were taxed based on your family’s hometown. I’m glad that’s changed because I’d have to drive to Glendive, Montana every April 15 to pay my taxes in Dawson County.

Mary gave birth to a real baby. She diapered him, wrapped him up, and laid his little body in the food trough. But this birth was no ordinary birth. Angels were sent to proclaim the Word of God about this baby, not to family and friends of the couple, but to strangers, to Shepherds.

Have you ever wondered why the Shepherds were the first to hear? If you’re Biblically literate, you might think shepherds make sense because Jesus is the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. Or you might recall that Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down his life of the sheep.”  Or you might remember the parable in which the shepherd left ninety-nine sheep to search for the one sheep that was lost and that’s exactly what the shepherds did on Christmas eve – they left all their sheep to seek One Sheep.

That’s good stuff, but perhaps the reason shepherds were told first is simply because they were the common, every day, real, working man of the Bible. They were real men with real problems, and they needed real help.

Shepherds spent a lot of time away from home, a lot of time alone. The world may not want to hear this, but the number one factor for a good home and a good family and good children is the presence and involvement of a good man – a husband committed to his wife, a father committed to his children. I know we want to empower women and declare gender isn’t important. The US government has declared that two or more humans of any of the 37 genders makes for a good family. Those are lies. Or as Joe Soucheray say, “B as in B. S as in S.” You want girls to grow up and not be promiscuous or end up in horrible relationships or on drugs? Dad needs to be there. You want boys to grow up, work hard, respect and protect the opposite sex? Dad needs to be there. You want your children to go to church. Don’t get upset moms, but dad is the number one factor in children going to church. Who knows what problems these shepherds in the field had?  Probably the same, real, serious troubles you have. All their daughters wanted to do was hang out in the mall in Jerusalem where they worshipped beauty, possessions, and success. Their sons couldn’t get off their screens to deal with the real world. Their marriages were hard work plagued by sickness and accidents, a drop in the price of mutton, and caring for their in-laws.

No matter how much money they made or how much Jaegermeister they drank at night they were really messed up and on their own they had no hope in themselves. But they did have hope outside of themselves, hope for a future, hope that had been preached into the ears of every Israelite for 4000 years. God was coming Himself, for real, in the flesh of a son, a boy born of a Virgin, in the little town of Bethlehem.

The angels did not offer thoughts and prayers for a better future. They did not merely wish the Shepherds “Happy Holidays.” They preached a very brief sermon with incredible substance.  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto thee: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10–12,KJV)

Now we see what faith in something real does. These shepherds leave their sheep and run for Bethlehem. They seek out the cave or stable or where the baby is. They burst into the Mary’s birthing suite without masks, unvaccinated, sweaty, smelling like sheep, and there they found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.  And that babe, Jesus, they worship as God in the flesh.

If you’ve got real problems you need more than thoughts and prayers and a candlelight Christmas Eve service for your family tradition. You need a real God who speaks and acts in your reality – in time and space. There is no other god who wore a diaper and nursed at his mother’s breast. There is no other god who became so weak that his life was in danger from birth. There is no other god who walked the earth, who did miracles witnessed by thousands, who made blind people see and deaf people hear and dead people alive.

Jesus of Nazareth came for one purpose, to die a real death on a cross outside Jerusalem on the Friday before Passover. He died for the sins of those shepherds – for spending too much time at work and not enough with their wives or daughters or sons. He died for them trying to drink their messed-up lives away. Jesus died for you. You have real sin which causes real troubles for you, You’re going to die – really. Jesus, God in the flesh, took your sins to His cross to take them away from you. Three days later He rose from the dead – in a real and resurrected body – a body that Mary Magdalene could hug and Thomas could touch and the disciples could see.

He made promises, as certain and real as His birth, His death and resurrection. I am the only man who saves man. Believe in me and your sins are forgiven. Believe I’m God in the flesh and your flesh will rise just like mine did on the last day. Whoever believes in Me will consider the troubles of this life brief and momentary compared with the glory that awaits the children of God.

This is the Christian faith and it’s the only real faith because only the God of Scripture has come to earth and actually done something. It’s not just found in the Bible its recorded in human history. 2000 years after the birth of Jesus the whole world pauses for this day – Christmas – the Mass celebrating Christ’s birth. God became a man for man, for you. That’s what He did so you could have a real Merry Christmas – in the name of Jesus. Amen.