Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM
               Divine Service 10:30 AM

Wednesday: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM
                   Divine Service 7:00 PM 

Private Confession: By Appointment

The Best Gift

December 29, 2017

Verse: Isaiah 9:6

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
December 31, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Christmas 1
The Best Gift

To us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder.
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

At the risk of offending some, Christmas is not about your family, your children or your pets. Nor is it about tinsel, tin soldiers or teddy bears. So if you are going to take pains to send Christmas cards, or bedeck your house for this Holy Remembrance, be sure to say something worth saying. Let the world know that there is reason for the season! Because God gave the best gift ever – “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” – so that sinners might escape the wrath to be revealed when he comes again in glory, and celebrate Nativity joy forever!

If unbelievers, semi-believers, or out and out enemies of the cross of Christ wish to divert people’s attention from the Prince of Peace that is their sad business. But if you O Priest of the Most High, O Bride bedecked with the beauty of Christ’s Righteousness in baptism … if you wish to celebrate the Lord’s birth in a public way, then let your decorations “proclaim the holy birth” of the Prince of Peace.

The world never could afford to mute the message of salvation because there is no other antidote for the Serpent’s toxic bite. No other comfort to be found in the face of the cruelty and hardship that our sins bring upon us. No other promise of such surpassing worth to keep Hope alive in the darkest night. But today, even less so. Why today? Because the world has never been more arrogant than it is at this moment in time!

Contempt for God is nothing new. It has marked the world since Woman usurped, and Man abdicated his Office. You can read about it in Genesis chapter three. The next recorded sin in Scripture is fratricide, when Cain murdered his brother Abel out of sheer jealousy.

And so it goes. What started then intensified over the centuries so that by Noah’s day God could think of no other solution to cleanse the earth of its wickedness than to baptize it to death. God sent a flood and by it wiped all life from the face of the earth. All except for Noah and his family that is. Eight souls in all, and as many animal pairs as they could fit on the ark.

But even that drastic solution was short-lived because soon after the waters receded earth re-populated, and United Nations 1.0 was born. Men and women the world over cooperated like never before – to defend themselves against the Almighty. They built a Tower so high that they would be safe from God if he ever decided to flood the earth again. That was the second most arrogant generation in history.

Ours is the first.

Ours is the worst.

Technology is our Tower of Babel, and if the chatter is to be believed it will keep us alive, happy, healthy and safe from divine judgment in a world without end. No repentance required. No savior needed. Just drink the Kool-Aid, and click “OK” to complete your transaction.

Got a problem? Google has the answer. Feeling sick? Web MD has the cure. Need a shoulder to cry on? FB is open 24/7. Having pangs of conscience? Internet religion will soothe your soul, and the good times will never end!

Until they do!

And they have!

We, like Esau, have sold our humanity for a pot of electrons. (Genesis 25:34). We have traded in life with God for virtual life that goes from bad to worse. That’s why we need Christmas. Because we need a Savior. Christ the Lord! Not a “virtual” Savior, or “net neutral” Savior but Jesus the incarnate Savior. “God with us.” He who assumed human nature, became flesh and dwells among us, in the flesh still today, on his altar. It is his living Body you will eat, and his soul-purifying blood you will drink here today - "the medicine of immortality" that makes you immortal. (Ignatius of Antioch, 115 AD)

One of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible is the famous John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” True enough.

But that is not exactly what it says. When it says “God so loved the world,” the evangelist is not speaking of intensity, but of method. It is better translated: “God thus loved the world.” Or, “God loved the world in this manner, and in this way.” That he gave! That God gave the world the costliest gift of all. His One and Only Son to be its Savior; so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus is that Son. We are those people. St. Paul says it like this in today’s Epistle lesson: “But when the fullness of time had come God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Try to understand today if you never have before – that all this was done for you. To redeem you. So that you might become God’s true child in Christ. No longer a slave to sin, slave to your passions, slave to the soiled religion of the culture, but a Son. And if a Son, then an heir of God!

Yes heirs! And what an inheritance we have! Not from a fictional uncle. But from God who is Life and gives Life to you in Christ today. He is the reason for the season. He is the focus of it all. He is the Son who is given. He is the King of kings, and Lord of Lords, who exerts his irresistible kingly power for us. So that we, in his strength, can “fight the good fight” each day, overcome death, and share in the life that God himself lives; that God himself gives. Ponder that if you can; because there’s nothing better than that.

For He is Wonderful! He is Counselor! He is Mighty God! He is Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace for all of earth. And so be at Peace, whatever wars might be raging about you today. “Peace, be still” says the Lord to the storm on the water, and the storm in your soul. Peace! Be still and know that I am God. Amen.