Monday, December 22, 2008

Ponder Anew What the Almighty Can Do

It strikes me that there is always the danger that the story of Jesus’ birth can become commonplace for people, especially adults. We remember dozens of Christmases past, perhaps quite fondly for some—associating it with good memories with family or friends, beloved traditions, moments of unexpected generosity. Or perhaps some don’t have such fond memories about Christmas. Maybe family were never very close, or quarrels broke out with the holiday stress, or maybe a loved one passed away, as often seems to happen around the holidays. For some Christmas means it’s time for the obligatory worship service, perhaps so as not to lose the sense of reminiscing that surrounds this holy day.

But regardless of how intensively or extensively we celebrate Christmas, and whatever our Christmas traditions may be, it is all too easy to overlook the significance of Jesus’ birth. All too easily does it become sentimentalized as a cozy, dreamlike story that serves merely to reawaken nostalgia and holiday generosity. Or we’ve heard the story so many times, that the lines draw yawns as it seems so familiar as to have lost its surprise.

But I urge you to take this Christmas, and every Christmas forward in your future, to hear the story afresh, as with new eyes and ears. Behold it like you did when you first remember hearing it as a child, or as an adult. In the words of the hymn-writer, “Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, as with His love He befriends you” (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. LSB 790). Ponder or consider again what the wonders of God’s salvation through that holy birth mean for you.

Long had the paths of human life and holiness strayed apart from each other, as mankind has walked in sin from the time of our earthly father Adam. And sin bore evil fruit in the lives of all, as idolatry, abuse of God’s name, failure to worship God, disobedience to parents and authorities, hatred, murder, lust, adultery, theft, lies, jealousy and coveting followed. All of creation was wracked in sin when Jesus came.

But in the miracle of His birth from the Virgin Mary, God’s own Son pierced the darkness of the sinful world, invading the corrupt creation with the light of His coming. And for the first time since Adam and Eve, the paths of human life and holiness intersected again, and there was born one who would walk perfectly in the path of God’s commandments. The intersection of human life and holiness took place in the conception, pregnancy, and birth of Jesus Christ. Whenever a new child is conceived or born, or when we see a pregnant mother, let it remind us of the Christmas Joy of the most Holy God, who graciously condescended to be conceived by the promised Word of God (Luke 1:31) and born a human child. That born in humble human flesh, God would be worshipped and adored by hosts of angels, that lowly shepherds would witness the nativity of their Savior, who is Christ the Lord. That wise sages from distant lands would hail and worship His coming as the dawning of a new Kingdom for humanity (Matt. 2).

So with renewed wonder this Christmas, let us come and worship Him who is Christ the Lord. “All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him! Let the Amen, sound from His people again; gladly forever adore Him!” (LSB 790). What better response to the mystery of His birth than to forever-praise Him, who with His love has befriended us? Merry Christmas!

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