I did put a shiny bow on top, marking this package as something different from the packages I receive in the mail, but the bow is not what makes this gift special. I did put something new inside, something they do not yet own, something that I know will put smiles on their faces and bring delight to their hearts. You could say what lies inside is important, but there is something else that makes this gift special. Do you see what it is? It’s this [the nametag] right here. On the nametag are two simple words: To you.
That’s it; that is what makes this gift so special. After all, there are other presents under the tree. They are not all for my kids. Some have my name written on them. They belong to me; I will enjoy those gifts, not my kids. Others have my wife’s name on them. Those presents belong to her; she will own and control them. Still others are for family members we will see later this week. Yet, on this particular gift, those two little words: “To you,” tell my kids: “You alone get to benefit from whatever joys this present will give you.”
This Christmas morning you gather to praise God for keeping his promise to send his one and only Son. Yet, do not overlook what makes Jesus so special. Hear God’s special words meant to fill you with true lasting joy: To You a Savior is Born! Do not be afraid because This is good news for life!
You heard some very good news just last night. After centuries of promises repeated, after years of waiting for God’s promised Son, after years of standing alert for the Savior, God sends him! He wraps up Jesus, this very important Gift, and places him under a stable roof and into a manger. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:6-7).
Jesus has entered the world. That is God’s Christmas gift. Yet, what would happen if I took this gift and removed nametag? How would you feel? If you saw it lying under the tree without a nametag, how would you react? What emotions would you experience? Would you feel uncertain? …timid? …hesitant? Not too sure if this gift is meant for you?
Our reading introduces you to some shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Remember, Jesus is born; the Prince of Peace has arrived!
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. What happens? What is the immediate reaction of shepherds on the first Christmas night? They were terrified.
The glory of the Lord shines around them. That “glory” is the brilliantly blinding white light radiating off of a perfect God! Heaven’s door cracks open just a smidgen. The shepherds can peer just into the entryway of heaven— and they know God dwells somewhere deeper in there. If those shepherds were to see God face-to-face, they could never live. Imperfect, faulty creatures cannot stand in the presence of the One who demands perfection. If God saw them, he would instantly cast them from him forever. How terrifying!
Now, an angel stands in front of them— I mean, an angel! This is God’s messenger! Meaning, God has sent this angel out with a specific message to this specific shepherd-audience. What is that message? Punishment? Anger? Judgment?
How could they not be terrified? They have no assurance that God comes to them in patient, forgiving love. At that moment, those shepherds feel the great divide between their status and the status of the all-powerful, all-perfect God.
Do you know what that feels like? I think you do. You also know Jesus is present in the world. After all, that is why you are here this morning; you have come to worship him. And you openly admit: “I believe in Jesus Christ, my Savior.” You know this— but is it always easy to remember?
A loved one lies in the hospital. Tubes run into his arms. Heart monitors beep. Oxygen hisses. You sit in a chair opposite the bed paralyzed in fear. You pray— but why isn’t he better? Why isn’t he healed? Is it because of you? Is God refusing health because of the ways you abuse your body? Has God turned away from you— because you are faulty?
Your life was going to so well, so easy, and then— horrible news rears its ugly head. Your child struggles. Your daughter drifts away. Your siblings are fighting. Is this trouble in your life because of you? Is God letting bad things happen because you chose to ignore God’s clear commands? Is God letting you, a sinner, taste his anger?
Your life goals fall off track. You wanted the vacation, but now cannot afford it. You wanted to travel, but your health will not let you. You want people to rejoice in a Savior, but they are not here today. You grow frustrated. You get sad. You feel depressed. This is not the kind of life you imagined. Are these things happening because you know too little of the Bible? …Because you are not a “good-enough” Christian for God?
If you remove the nametag from the present, then you will never know if the present belongs to you. If you are unsure if the present belongs to you, then you will not experience the joys, the bliss, the comfort that gift brings. And if you choose to ignore the nametag so clearly written on the gift, then you will forfeit the joy freely given.
You see, when troubles rise up, when fear grips your life, it is so tempting to fixate on you— how good you are, what you have done, how you think God should respond to your behavior. A little part of us wants to make God’s love conditional. If you do good, then God will act good towards you. If you do bad, then God will act bad to you. If that is the God we have, then you (and I) have every reason to be terrified— because you (and I) can never be the good God expects.
That’s why God sends his angel with a special message: “Do not be afraid.” Just think about that for a minute. God knows how often you (and I) are tempted to believe that you must earn his love in order for him to treat with you in love. And so God explicitly says: “Do not be afraid.” Stop thinking that God will help you only when you are nice first. Do not believe that your current struggles have come because you made God mad.
This is why. The angel said to them… I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. Do not be afraid because God does not deliver bad news on Christmas Day. Do not be afraid because God gives a gift to you: a “Savior.”
A Savior! Someone who rescues you! Someone who does what you cannot! Someone who chooses to come and save you! Jesus is proof that God’s love is not conditional. It is one-sided. In love, God sends a Savior—regardless of how you (or I) behave. In love, that Savior wipes away your guilt, and declares it: “Gone.” That means, God sees you as innocent and without fault.
Can you be sure of this? Yes. Because that Christmas-Day-Gift marches into the world, marches through life, and up Calvary’s mountain all in order to rescue you. God punishes Jesus for your (and my) wrongs. With your sins punished, there is no punishment remaining. If no punishment remains, it means you are without a need to be punished. Put another way, you are forgiven! This is the reason you do not need to be afraid.
Look into the manger and see God’s Son lying there. Do not be afraid! Because To You a Savior is Born! This is good news for life!
Sometimes our hearts can still doubt that God could be this loving. So, God makes sure to wipe away any doubt that his love for you is too good to be true. Did you notice how many times the angels repeat the nametag on Jesus? The angelic-messenger appears to shepherds (to them). The angel said to them, “I bring good news to you… to you a Savior is born!” To you is repeated over and over again as if to say: “Yes, this is all really for you! Believe it!” This repetition pounds away any doubt that God is distant from you.
And this news not just meant for the best shepherd or for powerful kings and queens or your pastor— but for all the people. All people, including a virgin no one knows. Including shepherds forgotten in the fields. Including you and me who sometimes make a mess of life. To You a Savior Is Born. To you, yes, you—even when you struggle to get by each day—a Savior is born. This is good news for your life.
So, when the devil shows up in your life and awakens past shame, point to the cross and say, “Go away! Jesus killed that shame for me. It defines me no more!” When your loved one lies in the hospital and you are afraid that God is choosing not to answer your prayers, point to the manger and say: “Jesus came to open communication between me and God.” When your hopes and dreams are put on hold, point to the manger and say: “Even as life changes, my Savior’s love to meet my every need will never change.” To You a Savior is Born! This is good news for life!
Even when you stand beside the casket of a loved one, remember, To You a Savior is Born! Jesus has reversed death. Those who believe he removed their sins will live with him in heaven. Not in hell. Not in the ground. But in heaven’s pure perfect bliss. The Savior comforts a weary heart with his good news of eternal life.
You can be sure of that. That’s the point of a nametag. This nametag tells my kids that this present belongs to them. They will play with it, keep, hold, and have it. There is no doubt, no uncertain about it.
So, God puts a nametag of Jesus so that there is no mistake as to who he is for: To You a Savior is Born! Not just for the best Christians. Not for the lifelong Christian. But for you. He has wiped away sin. Live confidently knowing that all is well between you and God! Live confidently even in the face of trouble, knowing that God has not come afflict. Rather, you know God stands with you. Do not be afraid because To You a Savior is Born! This is good news for life!