Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

Christmas Eve 2023


Sermon Text, St. Luke 2:8-20; 1 Peter 1:8-12. 10 And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” 8 Whom, having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls. 10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you … 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves but to us, they were ministering the things which have now been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into.

Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Lord, may Your Christmas good news give us joy that lasts! Amen.

Dear people loved by God in Christ:
Joy is what the Christmas angel brings. He says: “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” And then the angel brings a promise, something we can hardly believe, that this joy – despite all appearances – “shall be to all people.” It isn’t uncertain. This is a sure promise. This is a joy that shall be – to you!
We tend to think that we lack joy or can’t have it, it’s elusive. We conclude that our joy is gone, because we connect joy to things we have or things happening to us. Satan makes sure of that. He’ll load you down, wear you out, with things that take your joy from you: worries, cares, fears, and sadness. Worry is a joy-killer. The devil gives us so many worries and fears, to keep us from being thankful and to kill our joy.
The issue is that we look at ourselves – inside ourselves – for joy. But joy doesn’t come from inside you, only outside of you. It doesn’t come from you, what you put into your life, or bring to the table.
The apostle Peter says that the Old Testament prophets knew this first: “They prophesied of the grace that would come to you.” This Grace is Jesus! He Himself is God’s undeserved love, the Grace Who came down for our salvation. All the time it was going to come to you, the prophets knew this.
Grace reminds you that you have sins needing to be forgiven. Grace reminds you that you’re a sinner who needs a Savior. That’s what the angel said He is: “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
By nature, we don’t want our joy that way. We don’t want a joy that reminds us of our sins – our shame. How can it be a “joy full of glory,” and still be connected to that? But God, the Author and Creator of joy, is speaking through Peter in prison. In the verses right before this he says, also speaking from experience, that it’s only in being “tested by fire” – going through suffering, struggling with sin, being persecuted or mistreated, facing death or sadnesses – that’s what will bring about “genuineness of your faith.”
Here we are, trying to avoid all the things that hurt, all the trying times, thinking we’ll have no joy if such things happen to us, when God sees that unless these things are part of our life, we’ll miss out on the true joy.
It’s only in being tempted and tested – facing your sins and bringing your sins and griefs to Jesus for Him to bear – Peter says that’s when “you will rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
It’s because the shepherds were so sore afraid that their joy was so great.
This is the surprise. Tonight God is revealing to us a joy we know nothing about by nature. This is a new thought. Christmas Eve isn’t for those who find happiness by their own resources. What did we just sing to Christ? “Thou com’st to share our misery!” This is where our joy comes from.
This is how God undoes the devil’s damage. Satan thinks he’s won, when he weighs you down, makes you dissatisfied with life and thus unthankful to God, turns your glory into shame by leading you into sins, makes you seem to lose all the joy. This is when we’re ready to give up on joy.
But God says: far from losing the joy, He makes your sins and failures open you up into a new, greater joy. Peter says angels wish “to look into” it. Isn’t that something? We think angels are the experts, that they know all about it. They don’t! They know: we who suffer, unlike them, have this greater joy.
So Jesus comes down from the angels’ realm, first as a Baby, He takes from you all of your sins and all that the devil can do, and He bears it all and gives you only joy, a joy so great since you don’t deserve it but He gives it to you.
In the preaching of the Gospel, you’re being “angel’d” and “glad-tidings’d.” He, your Jesus, comes to you. And furthermore, you don’t have to respond with joy, it’s not your burden, He puts it into you and produces it.
This joy is “inexpressible” because it is “full of glory.” It’s the glory the Christ Child gives you, it’s His glory. If you could see those who are now on that brighter shore, if you could see the beauty and glory they have, it’s the same beauty and glory you already have by faith even now.
If you could see yourself as He sees you in Christ and for His sake, you’d be speechless. You’d look back on all the joys you have now, the things you fear losing, and you’d say that in comparison, it’s such a little joy. He is our true Joy. This doesn’t mean these other things are not joys. But they become true joys only in Him. If He is your Joy – if you follow the shepherds and see this wondrous gift of God –you’re freed to truly enjoy all that He gives you. You have grace and every blessing, you have all joys in Him! So we can say:
My heart for very joy doth leap;
My lips no more can silence keep.
I too must sing with joyful song
That sweetest ancient cradle song:
“Glory to God in highest heav’n,
Who unto us His Son hath giv’n!” Amen!