Sermon - 12/24/17 Midnight Service
2018.01.02 22:46:14

CHRISTMAS-MIDNIGHT/ABC (2017): Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20 


Renounce,             For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age… (vv. 11, 12)


At Baptism we confess God binding himself to us in water, blood, and Spirit. Perhaps a Godparent spoke our assents to the verities of the catholic faith in our place; still Satan, his works, pomps, and ways were renounced. 


Baptismal renunciation of Satan reversed our former allegiance with, “The kings of the earth [who] set themselves, and the rulers [in the heavens] tak[ing] counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’” (Ps. 2:2, 3).


Baptism restores the bond of sonship with God; breaking us free from the world’s order and rule. At birth we were aligned with the world’s rebellion against our Creator.  We were incapable of affecting, or even of desiring release; thus the natural human condition is a “thralldom”. 


Under the thralldom of corrupt natures, spiritual-powers, and worldly authorities we find ourselves no better off than were the Hebrews enslaved under Pharaoh. From outside the people, God sent Moses for their rescue, a Hebrew like themselves.  Jesus, a man like us in all points but sin, was likewise sent for us out of heaven. 



In light of man’s subjection to spiritual rulers, powers, and “kings of the earth” our Gospel account in referring to Augustus’ census is ironic. On the eve of Jesus’ Nativity either mother with child or mother and child were counted as belonging to Caesar. 


Thus at the very beginning, Jesus, fully entered into our desperate condition under the world’s enthralling axis. Later Jesus’ binding on the cross, as the Lord’s anointed, would burst the axis bonding and by the HS extend God’s cords of love and release.    


Like Israel’s release through the Red Sea, Baptism frees us from the bondage of sin, spiritual rulers, and worldly authorities. It is God’s speech applied in the water that commands our enemies in power, “Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Ex. 9:1).


Though mother and Child were enrolled in Caesar’s record book; the Child’s angelic army countered proclaiming him, “Savior”, “Christ”, and “Lord” (Luke 2:11). Centuries earlier, Isaiah declared this Child’s superiority above all authorities: 


He is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6), of whose government there shall be no end and in light of which all contrary allegiances must be renounced. 


Given the push and tug of competing allegiances, St. Paul describes our problem regarding Satan’s pomps and ways; he says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15).  Baptized into holiness, we nevertheless come under the sway of the world; our roots planted in corruption.  


With Adam’s fall we were separated from our intended food, the Bread of heaven and of angels (Ps. 78:25). In sin we were consigned to eat bread from a cursed ground through our own efforts, and at the end of days are destined to breathe our last of the dust from which we came to await judgment. 


Still St. Paul insinuates our antidote: the power of Baptism in the Spirit, justifying us in the blood of Christ, and “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.”


By the Nativity of the Christ child, a great Light entered our dark world in which we stumble. The Christmas Babe, swaddled and lying with us as among beasts, received God’s acclaim in heaven’s song, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, to be the One greater than all “rulers and authorities” in heaven and on earth. 


By the power of the angelic word, the Babe calls us to what we cannot do of ourselves, to be enrolled by the HS and receive a name above every name by faith in the Babe’s flesh for us, our begetting from above.


In his name we renounce all ungodliness and worldly passion. By his word we have a Light for our path, the revelation of God’s glory, Christ crucified who has made for us peace among men upon whom God’s favor rests.  


Just who are those upon whom God’s favor rests? Certainly the shepherds believing the angelic preaching; Mary and Joseph heard the shepherd’s proclamation and believed, as Mary clasping her Son to herself; later Gentile magi and others would receive the Child as king. 


As the Babe was received to be God with us in his improbable coming, so those today that just as improbably receive him in word and sacramental union are those upon who God’s favor rests.


In the 12th chapter of St. John’s Revelation, the Babe is the great sign in heaven, ruler of all nations come out of the woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet.   On the woman’s head is a crown of twelve stars to represent her as the OT Church. 


Then another sign appeared in heaven, a great red dragon seeking to devour the Child. In so doing by the sweep of his tail he cast down to earth a third of heaven’s angels. 


At the birth of Christ, heaven’s warfare ensued in earnest. At the moment of Jesus’ Nativity, his heavenly army appeared to shepherds proclaiming the coming victory of God in the flesh of the Babe.  The shepherds announced, “peace on earth among men with whom God is pleased”; peace established when the Child would be elevated on the cross, the place and signal of God’s glory and reign on earth and in the highest.


Think of what is given up by us in Baptism’s renunciation of the world and its passions. We renounce all strength of human will over our own righteousness, concupiscence, and sanctity.  We make no “decision for Jesus” because we cannot do so without qualification, condition, or vain motivation from debased hearts always standing against the will of God.


By the Incarnation and Nativity, God has made his decision for us; a decision in which Jesus wholly concurs by his word at Gethsemane, “nevertheless [Father], not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39c).  The full union of God and man’s wills was executed at the cross.  Thus the Babe merits the appellation, “Wonderful Counselor” toward God and man.  


The Babe is God’s gift to men, the only man after Adam in whom exists the freedom of will to choose and live to God alone. Jesus, destined sacrificial Lamb of God, affirms Wisdom’s counsel from before the foundation of the world.  No wonder the nations and Satan rage to be loosed from God who now binds himself to those who receive him in the “stronger man”, Christ!


In practical terms, Baptism makes us one with the Babe, our helpless humility before God, no longer seeking to be rid of God’s binding. By the HS’s washing in Baptism we are made like Jesus, swaddled and dependent infants, bound to God with the cords of his love in Christ. 


On the cross Jesus is the One who serves, the One bound on the altar of God’s will. And like Him whom the Father raised to life, we follow, living expressions of his wonderful word and counsel in the new creation coming into being, and cause of our rejoicing.  Amen.





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