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“The Spirit of Christmas”
Luke 2:14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Christmas Eve—December 24, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The theme for our Christmas message is “The Spirit of Christmas,” based on the announcement of the angels to the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

What is “The Spirit of Christmas”?  Many would say it is a spirit of generosity; a spirit of love toward one another; a spirit of celebration with family and friends.  Some would say our modern-day Christmas has been overwhelmed by a spirit of greed and crass commercialism. 

What is “The Spirit of Christmas”?  What is Christmas really all about, the lights on our houses and beautifully decorated trees, the celebratory services and festive family gatherings, the Christmas gifts to and from one another that we will be opening tonight or tomorrow?

What is “The Spirit of Christmas”?  “Glory to God in the highest!”  But, we have transformed Christmas into a celebration not so much about God, but about us.  Our decorations and presents, our parties and family gatherings, all our hustle and bustle of the season.   We have made Christmas into a celebration mostly about us, but this is really a celebration about God, his grace, his goodness, his glory: “Glory to God in the highest!”

God had pity on our fallen world; God had mercy on sinful humankind.  We were all lost and condemned because of our sins, but in his grace and goodness, God sent his own Son into the world to be our Savior.  “Glory to God in the highest!”

“For God so loved the world,” Jesus says, “that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  “Glory to God in the highest!”

God’s own Son saved you from your sins, by living out on earth, in your place, a perfect life, and dying on the cross, in your place, a sacrificial death.  By the merits of his blessed birth, his holy life, his suffering, death, and resurrection, your sins are all forgiven.  As we sing in the Christmas carol, “God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”  “Glory to God in the highest!”

In Colossians the Apostle Paul beautifully expresses the significance of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection for you: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”  That’s the Good News we celebrate at Christmas, God’s grace and goodness toward you in his Son.  Trust in him as your Savior, for through his blood shed on the cross you are reconciled to God, “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

What is “The Spirit of Christmas”?  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  The peace and good will that the angels proclaim is first of all the peace between you and God that Jesus brought about for you by his coming into our world.  As Paul says in Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Christmas means that God is not angry with you.  Because of Jesus, God forgives you, he loves you, you are at peace with him.  As the carol says, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

And the peace and good will Jesus established between you and God will also lead you to be at peace with others, and to show good will toward others in your own life.  Paul puts it this way in Ephesians: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God.” 

What is “The Spirit of Christmas”?  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  That’s what Christmas is really all about, the lights on our houses and beautifully decorated trees, the celebratory services and festive family gatherings, the Christmas gifts to and from one another that we will be opening tonight or tomorrow.

“I have come into the world as a light,” Jesus says, “so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”  That’s why we put lights on our houses.  They remind us of Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Apostle Peter says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”  That’s why we have beautifully decorated trees.  They remind of why Jesus came into our world, to bear our sins upon the tree of the cross.  As we sing in the Christmas carol, “Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.”

Psalm 116 says about heaven, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  That’s the reason for the celebratory services and festive family gatherings.  They remind us of the eternal joy that we and all believers in Christ will have together at the never-ending gathering of God’s family in heaven.  As we sing in the Christmas carol, “Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice . . .  he opened the heavenly door, and we are blest forevermore.”

Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  That’s why we give and receive Christmas gifts tonight or tomorrow.  They remind us of the first and greatest Christmas gift, God’s indescribable gift of his own Son.   As Paul says in Romans, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

That’s what Christmas is really all about, the lights on our houses and beautifully decorated trees, the celebratory services and festive family gatherings, the Christmas gifts to and from one another that we will be opening tonight or tomorrow.  Soon it will be time to take down the lights and undecorate the trees; soon the celebratory services and festive family gatherings will be over; soon our Christmas gifts to and from one another will be opened.  Soon this year’s Christmas will be over, and we will pack away all the Christmas things for another year.  But, there’s one thing, the most important thing about Christmas that you shouldn’t pack away until next year.  Keep “The Spirit of Christmas” always in your heart; live “The Spirit of Christmas” faithfully in your life.

 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” 

Amen.

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