“Messengers from God proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s birth!” Christmas Dawn 2023

YouTube player

24. December 2023
Christmas Dawn
Luke 2:15-20

Then the angel said to them, “…And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” … So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The angel says, “This will be a sign for you.” It’s curious to give a sign because the Angel also says, “For there is born.” Why would you need a sign if the thing is done? The key is that the Savior is born to you. And in this case, to you, poor shepherds and outcasts of the people. A sign is needed because they’re people that we wouldn’t assume the Messiah would be announced to. So, these shepherds get to hear the Gloria in Excelsis sung by a multitude of the heavenly host, and they are told where to go and what to look for to receive this promise. 

So there’s this double sign, the one with the baby wrapped and the chorus. This is our gracious God being sympathetic to our unbelief and saying, “I’m going to send you multiple reasons why you should believe that this is actually happening.” We’re just like the Shepherds. We need the promise given and confirmed. It is the Word that is the thing, but that Word is attached to glory, song, a manger, and swaddling clothes. The testimony of angels and the evidence of the Child in the manger leaves them dumbfounded and only able to respond, “Amen!”

This is how God’s promises have always gone. Go back to Abraham. How would he know that these things will come true? God says, “How about I walk through the slain pieces, divided pieces of animals, to call down damnation on myself if I do not keep this oath to you? How about that?” Or, “How about the stars of the sky? I swear by the stars of the sky.” Thus, God has always taken visual things, sensible things, and things of sense and attached His Word of promise to them. 

We have this weird mysticism in the Western world that says you get closer to God the further you move away from the body and matter. But in faithful Christianity, the closer God comes to you, the more He physically gets. Jesus comes to you even now just as He became flesh and was weak in all points as we are. Just as He came in our flesh, Jesus comes to us through preaching, the weakness and foolishness of a flesh-and-blood man preaching, through bread and wine, and water. He comes through things that don’t seem very powerful or potent, but by the Word gives what they promise. 

It’s not like this some kind of magic potion or elixir of life. It’s just common everyday stuff. He comes to us in this very common way that we don’t expect, not so he can hide and fool us, but so that He can come to all of us. Who doesn’t have bread, wine, or water? Who can’t ordain a man to be the pastor to preach to them? He even comes to the lowest and the weakest, the people who don’t come to understand things very easily, people for whom it takes a while for them to see it. 

Jesus takes these ordinary things that anyone can access in their everyday life, and He uses them to make himself near to us, Emmanuel, God with us. He becomes man with us and for us. This is especially shown in the extent to which He is willing to even humble himself, not just in a manger, but on a cross. The shepherds get that sermon, “This is for you,” they get the signs, and then they say, “Now this is to us. So let’s go see it.” Now you and I, praise be to God, don’t get angels singing per se, but we do get the Words “For you,” and where those Words are attached. It’s not as though God hasn’t spoken to us and made us the same great promises! He comes to us in the bread and the wine, He uses the water, and He uses the preaching of the word. 

And you’ll notice what the shepherds do with the Word of Promise confirmed. This is news that is to be proclaimed and shared. “When they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told to them concerning the child, and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them.” St. Luke says something like this, “The shepherds were spreading this around.” 

And if you didn’t hear it from them, you could hear it from Mary. “Chances are you haven’t talked to any of the shepherds, but let me tell you, I spoke with Mary, and she remembered this, and she pondered it, and she treasured it, and she spread it around too so that I know it now so I can pass it off to you, and to everyone else who ever reads this Gospel.” 

So maybe you do have angels, after all? You know, messengers from God proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s birth! Yes, the Spirit has made our mouths become that angelic presence proclaiming the coming of our Savior. We already sang with them the Gloria in Excelsis and will sing out Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus before the throne/altar of God.

The shepherds proclaimed what the Lord had done. Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart, later delivering them to St. Luke so that we, too, would hear and believe. So, all of it: the message of the Angel, the song of the heavenly host, the sign of the promise, and the promise Himself, Jesus, is given today for you, too. It all rings out in your ears, that you would hear, come, and see. Now, He wrapped up for you in bread and wine, but is the same Savior given to save you.

Then the angel said to them, “…And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” … So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin