“Christmas and Easter Rolled into One!” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2022

“Christmas and Easter Rolled into One!” (John 1:1-18)

This year we have the unusual circumstance of Christmas falling on a Sunday. This last happened in 2016, and before that, in 2005 and 2011. Christmas won’t fall on a Sunday again until 2033. Not only is it Sunday, the Lord’s Day, when Christians have been going to church for 2,000 years, but it is also Christmas Day, one of the major festivals of the church year. So you would think, with this double reason for going to church, that churches across the land would be packed this morning.

Nah, nah! Think again. Now of course, with the bitter cold across much of the country, that is cutting down somewhat on church attendance today. But even apart from that, apart from the weather, attendance is down for another reason. And ironically, it’s because Christmas is falling on a Sunday. Yeah, it’s crazy! Instead of giving people even more reason to go to church, it’s just the opposite. People are choosing not to go to church today, precisely because it’s Christmas.

And what’s really weird is that many churches are going along with this! They’re even encouraging people to stay home. They’re actually going so far as to cancel their regular Sunday services. On one church website I saw this message: “No service this Sunday: Enjoy Christmas with your family.” Another church says: “We’re all about Jesus. . . we just want to introduce you to Jesus.” But then it says, “No Sunday Service 12.25.22.” Again, ironically, it tends to be the bigger churches with the most people that are choosing to not have service today.

There was an article about this in the New York Times this past week. The article is titled, “O Come All Ye Faithful, Except When Christmas Falls on a Sunday.” I’ll read a couple of excerpts: “Worried about coaxing people into pews when they’d rather be in their pajamas, some Protestant pastors are canceling Sunday services on Dec. 25. . . . This year, church leaders are grappling with what may seem like an odd dilemma: Christmas Day falls on a Sunday for the first time since 2016, and that’s a problem. . . . Among nondenominational evangelical pastors . . . the numbers hosting Christmas Day services. . . . Only 61 percent say they will do so, according to [a] survey.”

One more quote: “Most people . . . think of Christmas morning not as a religious time but as a family time: stockings and brunches and staying in your pajamas until midday or later.” Well, if most people think that, then most people are wrong. Because Christmas–literally, the Christ Mass–is a church service. It is the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, always held on December 25, regardless of the day of the week. If you haven’t been to the Christ Mass, you haven’t had Christmas.

Well, so here we are in church on this Christmas Day. And on a Sunday, to boot. I guess we’re out of step with the times. But you know what? There’s nowhere else on earth I would rather be. You know why? Because it’s “Christmas and Easter Rolled into One!”

Christmas and Easter rolled into one? “OK, Pastor, Christmas I can understand–this is December 25, after all. But how are we celebrating Easter? I thought that doesn’t come until March or April.” Well, hold that thought. We’ll come back to it a little later. First, though, let’s talk about why we’re here celebrating Christmas.

Why are we here, when we could be at home with our family, in our pajamas, sitting by the Christmas tree, drinking hot cocoa, and enjoying the presents that we opened? That does sound pretty appealing, doesn’t it? And there’s nothing wrong with those things, if they’re kept in their proper perspective. That’s the key: keeping things in their proper perspective. Cocoa is good, but there’s something better: the Feast of the Lord’s Supper, here at this altar. Christmas presents are good, but the presence of Christ is better. Christmas trees are good, but there is a tree that’s more important: the life-giving tree of the cross.

Family is good, and God wants us to love and spend time with our family. But what is good can sometimes become the enemy of the best. “Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me,” Jesus says, “is not worthy of me.” Idolatry is especially tempting when what is idolized is something good, like family. When we place that good thing ahead of the one thing needful, then there’s a problem. And the one thing needful is to receive from Christ what he wants to give us.

So here we are, celebrating Christmas, assembled together as the most important family that God has placed us in, namely, the church. “Whoever hears God’s word and keeps it is my mother and brother and sister,” Jesus says. The Christian church is our family, and Christmas is one of our main family traditions.

On Christmas we celebrate the coming of our brother, Jesus, in the flesh. That’s the miracle of Christmas. God became one of us. The eternal Son of God took on human flesh and bone. This is the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John writes. Why is this such a big deal? Because the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who was with God in the beginning, the one through whom all things were made–at a certain point in time, in history, the one-and-only Son of the Father came in the flesh as a little baby, born of a woman.

This is amazing! This is a mystery too great for words–except that God has revealed it to us in the words of Holy Scripture. God wants us to know the importance of the Incarnation! Our salvation depends on the Son of God coming in the flesh, at Christmas, as our brother! If that didn’t happen, we would be lost, forever!

Only God could save us from the hole we had dug ourselves into. We had fallen into sin and could not get up. Sin works its damage in our lives and kills us. There’s not one thing we can do to stop it. We are too weak to overcome sin, death, and judgment under God’s wrath. That’s our big problem, and we can’t solve it.

Only God could, and he did. Only God is wise enough and strong enough to save us. But in order to do that, he had to become one of us. For the judgment we deserve is death. And so Jesus, God’s Son, had to come in the flesh and take our place and die for us, under that judgment, on the cross. That’s why he had to be our brother. He lived the perfect life we failed to live, to make his life the perfect sacrifice for sin. That’s why Christmas is such a big deal. That’s why we are here celebrating.

But there’s a second reason we’re here today. Because it’s Sunday! Sunday marks the victory of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Sunday is the day we celebrate the new life Christ won for us by his death and resurrection. His death covers all our sins and overcomes the grave. Sunday is the day all that became clear. Remember, it was very early on the first day of the week–that’s Sunday–that the women came to the tomb. But the tomb was empty, and the angel told them: “He is not here. He is risen, just as he said.” Yes, Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord–this is what we celebrate every week, on the first day of the week! Every Sunday is a little Easter!

And so, for almost 2,000 years now, the Christian church around the world has been meeting on the first day of the week, every week. We call it “the Lord’s Day,” because it was on this day that our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He rose bodily, ushering in the new creation and giving us a sneak preview of what’s in store for us in the age to come. On the first day of the week, every week, the Christian church around the world meets together in the presence of our Lord, to hear his Word and to receive his Sacrament. That’s why we are here today. It’s the Lord’s Day, and we are the Lord’s people. And this is the Lord’s house, the place where we gather in his presence.

So we have two big reasons to celebrate today! 1) It’s Christmas! And 2) it’s Easter! Christmas, when the Son of God came in the flesh to be our Savior. And Easter, when our Savior rose from the dead, assuring us of our own resurrection. Christmas and Easter rolled into one! Two reasons to rejoice! Two reasons to be in church today! Instead of canceling church, there’s twice the reason for having it!

Dear friends, what a great day this is! It’s Sunday, the Lord’s Day, when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Plus, it’s Christmas, the Nativity of Our Lord, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. So today I wish you all a happy Easter and a merry Christmas, both at the same time! Christmas and Easter rolled into one!

Published in: on December 24, 2022 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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