Christmas Eve Service, 4 PM Central Time.
The Lost Sheep, by Norma Boeckler
Christmas Eve Service, 4 PM Central Time.
Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Bella Vista, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Hymn 77:1-6 All My Heart This Night Rejoices 2.25
The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
#102 O Come All Ye Faithful 1:7
KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
#109 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks 1:35
KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Sermon – God in the Flesh, The Incarnation, Immanuel (God With Us)
The birth of Christ is so much a part of the Scriptures that no one can separate the Incarnation from the rest of the Gospel and have anything left, except vague philosophy and charming stories.
The Virgin Birth of Christ begins at the start of all history. When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. They had been given a perfect world, one they would have no labor and no pain. In their sinfulness they wrecked what God’s grace had given them. And yet, God’s grace was revealed again. Although Adam and Eve would both pay for their sin by being mortal, suffering our human woes, and laboring for a living. But God showed His grace again by promising them the Savior.
The Gospel in the Old Testament is comprised of all the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the promises of peace, forgiveness, and salvation. God also revealed how the Messiah would be born, how He would die for the sins of the world.
But the Son of God is not absent in the Old Testament. Already in Genesis the Angel of the Lord is portrayed as God. Lutherans theologians have emphasized the Angel of the Lord being the Son of God before the Incarnation.
Angel of the Lord
The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Son of God before He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.
How do we know that?
The Angel of the Lord is not just an angel. He is called God.
KJV Genesis 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The Angel of the Lord clearly identified Himself as God:
KJV Genesis 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
At the Jabbok River, Jacob wrestled with a man, who had the power to give him permanent limp.
KJV Genesis 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
This is God speaking:
KJV Genesis 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
The Angel of the Lord speaks from the burning bush, and the Angel is God.
KJV Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus identified Himself with the I AM of the Burning Bush:
KJV John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
This is only a slight look at the Son of God as the Angel of the Lord. When I teach this to New Testament students, they go into shock because they have never heard this. In fact, it was new to me until I read the orthodox theologians. In other words, there is so much Gospel in the Old Testament that no one can grasp the complexity.
All of this was done by God for man, not because of our merit, but because of His grace.
The ministry of the Savior began at Creation, as the Word of God, commanding the universe into being. This ministry continued with the Angel of the Lord and much more involving the Holy Trinity.
The Old Testament is centered on the Gospel of the coming Savior.
Noah was preached the Gospel:
KJV 2 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Abraham believed in God and was justified by faith.
KJV Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Moses preached the Gospel.
All the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to warn people about wandering away from the Word, rebelling against the Word. But they also promised the Messiah, and in doing so, created faith by the work of the Spirit.
The prophet told Ahaz to ask for a miracle (a sign). Ahaz was too proud to ask for one, so the prophet said the king would get one anyway. This miracle was to be the ultimate miracle granted by God to man, and it came because of an evil king:
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Skeptics have battled against this, hammer and tong. The Methodists changed their own founder’s hymn, away from the words “offspring of the Virgin’s womb.”
Imagine turning against the founder of the denomination – in their own hymnal. Next thing you know, they will take the denominational name off the hymnal, and magazine, too. (Their magazine failed, by the way.)
Apostates like to play with words and say, “That is used for young woman, so it only means – a young woman will conceive.” First of all the terms overlap, so that maiden necessarily implies innocence. Secondly, there is no miracle involved in a woman bearing children according to nature. Third, the Hebrew word means “virgin” and as Luther said, “I will give you $100 if you can prove otherwise.” The New Testament reflects this in Mary asking how she could possibly have a child.
Most instructive is the opposition, which has been shown in so many ways. The RSV (product of the National Council of Churches) removed “virgin” from its translation of Isaiah 7:14, in the 1950s. If it did not happen, why is it so important?
The Virgin Birth is important because it is the expression of the Two Natures (divine and human) and Jesus being God in the flesh.
KJV John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The apostates cannot find the Virgin Birth in John, but John 1:14 clearly teaches it in another way. The Word became flesh, another phrase for the Virgin Birth.
By removing the Incarnation, the apostates exclude the Atonement and justification by faith. Faith no longer matters – only human philosophy and good works.
The birth of Jesus is humbling, because God shows His power in the midst of rejection, poverty, and weakness. Even today we are shocked at someone having a baby at home, but Jesus was born as an outcast in a stable, not in a palace or medical facility. Mary, as the most honored woman of history, had no one to care for her except her husband.
Surely the power of the age were looking in another direction for the Messiah they desired and feared. Herod was not a Jew, so he knew the prophecy about the Messiah coming when the throne passed to a non-Jew. He was afraid. The religious leaders looked for a great and mighty Messiah, but one more like a prince, ruler, king, military leader. So instead, the God revealed His Son through the angels to ordinary working men, to shepherds.
One child explained best of all why God revealed the Messiah as a baby in a manger (feeding trough), in a stable. “No one is afraid of a baby.” There are so many stories of people trembling in terror before a tyrant. Surely God in the flesh would be even more awe-inspiring. Yet God chose a time and place and form that drew people to His Gospel of forgiveness.
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
#646 Silent Night 4:38
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
The Prayers and Benediction
#87 Joy to the World 1:20