|When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:10-12|
A Message from Pastor Hale
I ran across an article that describes how the modern atheist thinks of Bible stories:
… surely some Bible stories will teach my kids moral lessons that will help them grow up into the fine, upstanding people I want them to be. Right?
So I buy a book of Bible stories — a charming little book filled with fluffy sheep and smiling cartoon people in tunics and sandals — telling myself it’ll be Aesop’s Fables plus Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, with the extra heft of blessings from the Big Guy Upstairs. I sit down to pick out our first story. And I can’t.
The stories are familiar. I learned them in Sunday School while making yarn-and-popsicle-stick crafts. But now, reading them with fresh eyes, I can’t find a single story that doesn’t make me feel unsettled, wondering what questions my children will ask that I can’t answer. [Karen Weese]
The Bible is graphic. It forces us to take sin seriously. It tells us we deserve nothing. That all we have worked for and everything we deserve (our wages) is only death. Our best intentions are worthless to God, and we are damned if we trust in them. We do not need improved morality. It is harmful to imply that our kids are good in themselves. This godless thinking leads to eternal destruction. We need another path.
This story of a child born of a virgin in Bethlehem is salvation. It is God coming to us. It is God's powerful Word to save you, even though it has been told millions of times. But we can't stop at His birth. He is God, the very Son of God, come to save you. Why was He born and who was He born for? For you. To die your death earned by your sins. He is your God and gives you everything you lack for salvation.
The Bible properly understood destroys good-natured morality, because it convicts us as dead sinners. And there is nothing we can do about it — our very hearts are dark with sin, unable to love God. So the Christmas story is much more than just inspirational or motivational. It tells of what your God did personally for you. The Creator became created to earn you life. The Author of Life was born to be killed by sinful men. This is how God comes to you: in flesh and blood like you have. The eternal Word came not only to Bethlehem, but comes to you now in this story and every doctrinally-correct sermon you hear. When we hear that Jesus was born to save us from every sin and evil desire, we are restored to God. Yes, a story makes us righteous and alive to God. It delivers Christ's victory over sin in time to you. We live by the living Lord's words, not anything that is in us. Rejoice! Salvation has come to you. Every spiritual blessing is yours in Jesus, your high priest.
In the hearing of faith we are incorporated into God and Jesus' righteousness becomes ours. His birth and our rebirth in Baptism become more significant than our first birth and family name. We have everything in Christ and live by His rising from the dead. This story lifts our hearts from the darkness of the world and gives life. Your new-birth joy in Christ, through water and the Word, will last forever. This peace with God is not just for a certain time of the year or for those who have the vague “Christmas spirit” of the world, but for all people and time. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
No matter what you have done or how much you have hated the Lord, He receives the broken and repentant. Turn from trying to do just a little more and let Christ do it all. He has done it all and it started with a weak birth. His life culminated with a glorious death which satisfies all which God the Father requires of us. Your new life is proved by Christ's rising on the third day. This story is your new life to God. The beginning is far away and long ago, but what He did is applied to you now and comes into your ears to bless you. Rejoice in the life you have from the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. Amen.