Christmas Eve – 2018 LSB #’s 379:1-3, 367:1-2, 5
Text – Matthew 1:18-20
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man & unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
WHOEVER TAKES THE SON GETS IT ALL
A story is told about a wealthy man who, years ago, shared a passion for collecting art with his son. They had priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh & others, adorning the walls of their family estate. One year, war engulfed the nation & the son left to serve his country. Soon his father received a telegram. His son had been killed.
Distraught & lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas with anguish & sadness. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he opened the door he was greeted by a soldier who was holding a package. The soldier said, “I was friends with your son. I have something to give you.”
The soldier mentioned that he was an artist & then gave the package to him. It was a portrait of the old man’s son. Overcome with emotion, he hung the portrait over his fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars’ worth of art.
The following spring, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the day when his paintings would be auctioned off. According to the will of the old man, the art would be auctioned off on Christmas Day. The day finally arrived & art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings.
The auction began with the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $10?” No one spoke. Eventually someone called out, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s move on to the good stuff!” The auctioneer responded, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally a neighbor of the old man offered $10. He explained, “I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”
The auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice . . .” The gavel fell. “Sold!” Then the auctioneer looked at the room filled with people & announced, “The auction was over.” Everyone was stunned. Someone spoke up & said, “What do you mean, it’s over? We didn’t come here for a painting of someone’s son. The art here is worth millions of dollars!”
The auctioneer replied, “According to the father’s will, whoever takes the son gets it all.”
Whoever takes the Son gets it all is the story of Joseph as well. You remember. Mary conceives Jesus through the Holy Spirit. At 1st Joseph is hesitant to believe, & we can’t blame him. So God sends an angel who speaks to Joseph in a dream. Joseph is convinced. His anxiety is gone. He believes the unbelievable. Joseph takes the Son.
Joseph chooses to trust God, & to love Mary. The two will now live together & share a home. This most certainly raised some eyebrows in their hometown of Nazareth. Busybodies standing on the street corner will assume that Joseph & Mary conceived the child during their engagement instead of waiting to be married: “What nerve, those two!”
Nazareth was a very small town – only 2,000 people lived there – so gossip of this sort would travel quickly. The impeccable character of Joseph would be undermined, but in spite of it, Joseph takes the Son. “She will give birth to a son, & you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).
“Jesus” is the English form of the Hebrew name “Yeshua.” It means “Yahweh saves.” The child’s name is Yeshua – or Jesus – because this Son will save His people from their sins. Whoever takes the Son gets it all. All sin forgiven—lock, stock, & barrel! And we need it. Oh God, do we need it! Far too often, instead of taking the Son – like our 1st parents in paradise we stubbornly take the forbidden fruit.
Then we take advantage of others. We take the blessings of God for granted. We take vengeance upon those who harm us. We take hold of our possessions, “Mine,” we shout to the world. We take part in sin, oblivious to how it breaks the heart of God. And we repeatedly take life into our own hands, singing like Sinatra, “I did it my way!”
One day an elderly couple was at home & the husband said to his wife, “I’d like a dish of vanilla ice cream.” The wife said, “I’d be happy to get that for you.” Her husband asked, “Wait, shouldn’t you write that down?” She said, “Don’t be silly. I can remember a dish of vanilla ice cream.” “Yes, but I want chocolate fudge on it, & a cherry on top.” “Got it.” “Don’t worry.”
With that, she went into the kitchen. After a while the husband thought he should check on her. He walked into the kitchen & there on the table was bacon & eggs. He sat down & asked, “Where’s the toast?” PAUSE
God forgets as well! God forgets & God forgives all of your sin – lock, stock, & barrel! And why? Whoever takes the Son gets it all! In Jesus’ name we get all of our sin forgiven & forgotten. A totally clean slate! But there’s more!
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child & will give birth to a son, & they will call Him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us’” (Mt 1:22–23).
“God with us” is what Matthew’s Gospel is all about. It appears here, in the beginning. Then in the middle, at Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am in their midst.” And again in Matthew’s last verse, where Jesus says in 28:20, “I am with you
always, to the very end of the age.”
Bette Midler sings in her song From a Distance, “God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching us from a distance.” That is off the mark. God is not watching from a distance. Our God, the only God is Immanuel, & Immanuel is God with us – up close & personal. Immanuel is God in us & God behind us, & Immanuel is God going before us.
Jesus is God – up close & personal – entering our muck & our mire, our chaos & our confusion. We see it most profoundly on the day of deepest darkness. On that day we all grabbed hold of Immanuel, nailed Him to a cross & said, “Leave us alone! Leave us alone!” To this day, our every sinful choice demands just that – for us to be left alone by God, forever.
On the other side of Good Friday, though, Immanuel lives! There was the cradle & there was the cross, but conquering death, Immanuel now wears the crown. That’s why we have this sure & certain promise: Whoever takes the Son gets it all! In Immanuel’s name we get all of His powerful & loving presence: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Joseph takes the Son. And so, of course, does Mary. Peter does & Matthew too. James & John, Paul & Luke, as well as millions of people since. I invite you tonight, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to take the Son – for either the 1st, 50th, or 500th time. And why?
Whoever takes the Son really does get it all – we get every last bit of God’s mercy, grace & love, packaged & delivered in two marvelous Hebrew names – Jesus & Immanuel. They are God’s Christmas gifts for you this night & forevermore! Amen.
Shepherds in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night, God with us is now residing, yonder shines the Infant Light. All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son, evermore your voices raising to the eternal Three in One. Come & worship, come & worship; worship Christ, the newborn King. Amen. LSB 367:2, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet