3rd Advent Service (preached at St. John Luth.)
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 2:8-14 Sermon
December 16, 2015
"WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS, RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE"
TEXT: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Back in 1966, the Broadway musical "Mame" appeared on the scene that was a performance based upon a novel written in 1955 by Patrick Dennis. The novel, entitled "Auntie Mame" told the story about an eccentric and wealthy woman, who finds herself as the guardian of her 10 year-old nephew. Mame introduces her nephew to her lavish and socialite lifestyle, and things go fairly well, at least for a while.
But that comes to an end when Mame loses her entire fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. The fun and frivolity is now gone. Things look very bleak as Mame tries her hand at a variety of different jobs, none of which work out very well for her.
As bad as the situation is, Mame (portrayed by Angela Lansbury) decided they needed to interject some joy into their lives. So Mame begins to sing a song: "Haul out the holly; put up the tree before my spirit falls again. Fill up the stocking, I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now. For we need a little Christmas right this very minute, candles in the window, carols at the spinet. Yes, we need a little Christmas right this very minute....[We] need a little Christmas now."
This is a song that has now become a tradition at Christmas; we hear it on the radio and on TV all the time during the season. But I don't think a lot of people realize that this song was intended to bring the joyous spirit of Christmas to people when it wasn't actually Christmas.
What about you? Do you have those times in your life where happiness and joy are absent, and you could "use a little Christmas, right this very minute?" Keep that thought in mind as we look at our text for this evening.
This Advent, we have been focusing upon three different songs of the season, songs that God the Holy Spirit caused to be recorded for us by the Evangelist Luke. The first week, Pastor Ratcliffe told us about Zechariah's song, and that songs are a key part of our life. Then last week, Pastor Bruick told us about Mary's song, and that songs are a key part of our holiday celebration. Now this evening, we're going to talk about the Angels' song, and how songs are a key part of our worship.
Let's first think about the two previous songs. What was it that caused both Zechariah and Mary to break forth in song? These songs have different approaches, but the cause behind both of them is the same.
Zechariah's song begins: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his peopleand has raised up a horn of salvation for us...." (Luke 1:68-69a). I like the term "horn of salvation" because the horn is the symbol of absolute might and power, and here it is used to describe the message of salvation. The power represented by the horn is the power of the Gospel that has defeated Satan and freed us from his grasp. This horn of salvation will never fade away or be lost; it is as sure and stable as God himself, and it is something we can trust without any apprehension at all. The coming Saviour is the one Zechariah identifies as this horn of salvation. As weak and sinful as we are, we know that our strength will indeed come from God himself.
Mary's song gives us a different perspective. She begins: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." (Luke 1:46-49)
This message brings the message of the Gospel to an individual and personal level. The mighty God, the horn of power now looks with favor upon a humble virgin who is bearing the Saviour of the world. But most importantly this was HER Saviour, the one she needed as much as anybody else did. The mighty one did great things for her, as he does for you and me, regardless of who we are or what our position in life may be.
Now when we couple everything together, we look at the song of the angels as they celebrate this holy birth with the shepherds outside ofBethlehem. Everything comes together in grand style. The powerful and yet simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has now become real and personal.
Our text for tonight says, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Auntie Mame in my opening illustration needed some joy in her life. And what was her answer to it all? Christmas! And right this very minute too!
Do you need some Christmas, right this very minute in your life? Well, guess what; you can have it! I said at the beginning that songs are a key part of our worship. Each and every week as we gather for worship at church, most of the time we repeat this same song in a variety of ways that the angels sang to the shepherds!
Divine Services 1 & 2: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth;" Divine Service 3 (also TLH p. 5 & p. 15): "Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men;" Divine Service 4: "To God on high be glory, and peace to all the earth."
We sing about our Saviour, who brought us joy, peace and forgiveness through faith alone. "God and sinners reconciled" is cause for great joy in our lives. This was Zechariah's joy, it was Mary's joy, and it is ours as well.
So if you need a little Christmas, right this very minute (as we all do) we indeed have it. All you have to do is walk through these doors on a Sunday morning. It can be the hottest August day, or the snowiest day in February; it can be Easter or the 16th Sunday after Pentecost; it doesn't matter. When you come to worship, we celebrate Christmas every Sunday, regardless of what time of the year it happens to be.
We have the opportunity to join with Zechariah, and Mary, and the angles along with the entirety of the heavenly host as we sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."