December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 7:14

Epistle Lesson; Galatians 4:4-5

Sermon Text; 1 John 4:9

“This is how God showed His love among us. He sent His one and only Son into the world.”

Merry Christmas to you, and your families! As we gathered together for worship, we have looked at the familiar Christmas account from Luke, chapter two. We began by looking at verse eight, going forward to the end. We will look at that a little more. But, what we didn't do was look at the very first seven verses, which help fill in what I just shared with you from God's Word, (talking about God's love).

“This is how God showed His love among us.

He sent His one and only Son into the world.”

I would like to go back, and look at that familiar Christmas account from Luke chapter two, beginning at verse one, where we hear the words we know, oh so well.

“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This census was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And the whole world went to his own town to register.”

Who was this Caesar Augustus? His birth given name was Octavian. Octavian was the great nephew of Julius Cesar. Julius Caesar was the ruler of the Roman world. When Julius Cesar's rule came to an end, in time, Octavian became the ruler of the Roman Empire. He became, what historians say, not only the first emperor, but also the greatest. He served from 31 BC to 14 AD. It was during that time something that has now become known as The Pax Romana (The Peace of Rome) was established.

Octavian received a new name by the Roman Senate, after he became emperor. They changed his name from Octavian to Augustus. The name 'Augustus' simply means 'exalted one', 'majestic', or 'the venerable one'. So, here is this man, Octavian, the greatest ruler of the Roman Empire who is now Caesar (that is his title), and he is the exalted one.

Well, it was during his tenure as emperor that he expanded Roman rule. I have a map I want to show you.


The green areas on the map are the areas where Julius Caesar, when he was ruler, ruled over in the Roman Empire. When Caesar Augustus took power, the darker, orange colored areas became his land, as well. I want you to see that everything around The Mediterranean Sea is now ruled by Rome. It is now ruled by Caesar Augustus. The green colored area was his predecessor. And Caesar Augustus is adding to it. The only area he doesn't have is Egypt. The critical part we are talking about is Israel, which now came under Roman Rule. Low and behold, there is Syria, and that is where Quirinius was governor.

So, during his reign, what happened? He issues a decree that everyone needs to go to their own town to register. Now, to register for this decree, two things needed to be fulfilled.

-One, you would be signing yourself up for military service,

-and the other is you would be paying your taxes to Rome.

Well, the Jews didn't have to sign up for military service, but they did have to pay the tax.

That caused to go into motion what now would happen to Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph would be leaving their home in Nazareth, in Galilee, and they would be going to Bethlehem, in Judea.

Why? If you happened to be here for worship this morning, you would have seen Pastor Bartels, as he was talking about the line of the Savior, through David. He talked about the line of the Savior coming through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, (skipping a few generations), to David, (and skipping a few generations), to Jesus.

In The New Testament, there are two genealogies of Jesus that are given. One is in Matthew, chapter one. One is in Luke, chapter three.

-In Matthew, chapter one, Matthew is writing this genealogy talking about Jesus' line from Joseph's perspective. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. Joseph is the legal father of Jesus. Matthew wanted to show that from a legal perspective, Jesus came from the line of Joseph.

-As Luke writes his account, he is talking about it from Mary's perspective, from the bloodline perspective. Through Mary, Jesus also belongs to the house of David.

Where did David live? He lived in Bethlehem. So, it set into motion this decree from Caesar Augustus that Mary and Joseph would leave Nazareth, in Galilee, and they would go up to Bethlehem, in Judea.

Now, they are traveling south, aren't they? And yet, scripture says they are going up. That is because anytime you are going to Jerusalem, or Bethlehem, you are traveling in an upward elevation. So, even though they are going south, they are going up. They end up in Bethlehem, Judea. Imagine taking that trip when you are nine months pregnant. It is a ninety mile journey, and there is speculation as to how many days it may have taken. Three to ten days is the speculation commentators have. So Mary and Joseph end up in Bethlehem. This is what scripture says from Luke's familiar account.

“While they were there

the time came for the baby to be born.”

We just read in our Epistle Lesson,

“When the fullness of time had come,

God sent His Son, born of a woman.”

And now, almost as if it is passed over in its very simplest sense, the Gospel writer Luke simply says,

“She gave birth to her first born,

a son.”

Very simply, that is how Luke says it.

“She gave birth to her first born,

a son.”

Now, the humble circumstances under which He was born.

“He was wrapped in swaddling clothes.

He was place in a manger

(which is a feed trough for animals),

because there was no room for them in the inn.”

'The Hampton Inn' was filled up. 'The Holiday Inn' was full. The place where Jesus was born was a barn, or a stable, or a cave.

That is God's story. It is a story of God's love for you.

“This is how God showed His love among us.

He sent His one and only Son into the world.”

Here is what God wants for you. God wants His story, which is the story of His love, to become yours. And, He wants it to become mine.

This is how God's story, which is a story of His love, becomes ours. It becomes ours, as we recognize these things.

-First of all, there were some consequences that came about as a result of the fall into sin. If we were to go back into The Garden of Eden, and go back to Genesis, chapter three, we would see one of the results of the fall into sin is what God shared with Eve, when He said,

“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing.

With pain you will give birth to children.”

That is a consequence of sin.

-Another consequence of sin is this, and this is what God shares with us in The New Testament.

“Sin entered the world through one man.

Death through sin,

and this way death came to all,

because all sin.”

And so, I am going to die, because of my sin. You are going to die, because of your sin. A consequence of sin is death.

-But also, God's story, which is a story of His love, we see the result of what was told to Joseph, before Jesus was born. Joseph was told to make sure the baby that was born was given a specific name. This is what Joseph was told.

“You are to give Him the name Jesus,

because He will save His people from their sin.”

'Jesus' is 'the One who saves'. 'The Lord saves.' He is our Savior from sin.

And so, all glory be to God on high. The God story, which is a story of His love, has become your story, and my story, because the Word of flesh, that was born for us, and our salvation, became a human being so He could die on a cross. He took on flesh and blood so that His blood could be poured out as a sin offering to pay for our sins. God's story, a story of His love for us, has become yours, and it has become mine.

“This is how God showed His love among us.

He sent His one and only Son into the world.”

But, God doesn't just want His story to become your story, and my story, and to just stop there. He wants His story, which is a story of His love, to become yours and mine, and now He wants us to share that story with other people.

Last week, Sunday, here at Holy Cross was the Sunday School Christmas Service. The service they had was based on the hymn from Martin Luther, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come. There were many times during the service in which the Sunday School would start by saying, “From Heaven above”, and the congregation would respond, “To earth in love”.

From Heaven above

to earth in love.

It was a reminder that God's story is a story of love that He wants to become yours, and mine.

But, before we concluded the service, we talked about the angels. This is what the Sunday School youth began by saying, “The angels gave”, and the congregation shouted out, “Good news to tell!”

We talked about the shepherds. The Sunday School youth said, “The shepherds gave”, and the congregation said, “Good news to tell”.

Then, the Sunday school youth said, “And now we go out”, and everybody shouted, “Good news to tell!”

Tonight we have once again heard the very familiar Christmas account from Luke, chapter two.

“This is how God showed His love among us.

He sent His one and only Son into the world.”

It is a story of God's love that has become yours, and mine. And now, we have the opportunity, and privilege to go out with good news to tell!