Hopes and fears – December 23, 2018
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The speck of a planet called earth experienced a series of breakthroughs on the night we call Christmas Eve.
A squad of angels broke through the atmosphere to reveal their presence with blinding light and an earth-shaking message: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The eternal God broke through the barrier of the wall between the human and the divine—to become the God-man.
The salvation of mankind broke through the curse of the law.
But not everyone celebrated. The great King Herod shuddered at the news that a king had been born. He responded with a death sentence for babies.
Demons were terrified. At the sight of him, one cried out: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24).
And the people he came to rescue? After Jesus drove the money-makers out of the Temple, we are told: “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching” (Mark 11:18).
Those refusing to celebrate the coming of the Savior held one emotion in common: fear!
The writer of the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem, pictured the situation with his words, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Hopes and fears…
A strange combination, but an accurate report. The decree delivered to Satan told of one who would free the human race from his death grip: “He will crush your head…” The added thought: “and you will strike his heel” told of that special one only being wounded, not defeated.
From the time of the rebellion in heaven, a state of war existed between the holy Creator God and those who fought against him. From the time humans first joined that rebellion, the descendants of Adam and Eve came into this world to champion sin and revile all that is holy.
The battle lines had been drawn. Yet the outcome never was in doubt. The pits of hell awaited those who defied God.
The breakthrough came with Christmas. Demons had been rejected without mercy. But humans—for some reason—the humans were pardoned. God became man in order to win their freedom. Humans received mercy—at the cost of the life of the Holy One.
It should not surprise us to learn that demons fear Jesus of Nazareth. They know what’s coming to them.
But humans? How do we explain humans rejecting the mercy of God and joining with demons in spitting out defiance and choosing to stay condemned?
We come to better understand the power of sin and the blindness of unbelief. We come to better heed the warning against all that is evil.
This Christmas we will see once again the evidence of the breakthrough of God’s love for us.
We can live in a sure and certain hope. We have no reason to fear.
Prayer: To earth you came, Jesus, to be our brother. We do not know how that was possible, so we call it a miracle. Now, allow the miracle of Christmas to fill our hearts and minds with hope—and banish fear from our lives. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida.
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