Monday, December 26, 2011

Vigil of Christmas Sermon -- Matthew 1:1-25

December 24, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

The Evangelist sets the Messiah’s birth in the long line of Israel’s history. It is the culmination of what the Lord had promised through the generations. The promise had been made and handed down from Abraham to his descendants. You heard the listing of the names incorporated and involved in the promise. Some are quite familiar to you, names of people that you have learned about: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon. Some are a little less familiar, names that sound familiar but you can’t quite place them: Boaz, Judah, Rehoboam, Hezekiah, Josiah. Then there are the unfamiliar names: Zerah, Obed, Abijah, Jechoniah, Eliakim. But each one has his place in this long line of individuals. In each generation, the promise of the Messiah was reaffirmed.

The Lord had declared from the beginning: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The promise had been set, spoken by One whose word cannot be broken. The offspring of Eve would have their fates reversed. The curse spoken against her and her husband would come to and end. And the promise was told that the One to end that affliction, the One who would wreak vengeance against the Serpent that deceived her would be her descendant.

Through the generations, the Lord reaffirmed His promise. Despite the sins committed by Eve’s offspring, another generation of them appeared. The line of humanity did not end. Fratricide, adulterous affairs, family feuds raged throughout these generations. Even worse, some did not believe in the promise that the Lord had made. Each father named in the list had his faults. Some have nothing really good to be said about them. Yet, another son would be born who would beget his own offspring. The Messianic Line had further names added to it.

Not only were names added to the Messianic Line, more details of the promise were added with them. The Lord disclosed these details through His prophets, men sent to speak to His people. You have heard these details about the Messiah and the Line from which He came:

“The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

“Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”

“There shall come forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

“O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

This is the One eternally elected to be the Serpent-Crusher, the Reverser of Curses, the Restorer of Eve’s offspring. Generation after generation waited for this to occur. Those of faith believed that the promise would be fulfilled, despite the long wait. This is what Matthew reminds us: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Forty-two generations, each one standing after the other in expectation of the Promised One. Forty-two generations, each one clinging to the promise in the peaks and valleys of their line’s history.

So now, the day of the Messiah’s arrival is remembered. Matthew tells us: 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 and 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. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’” Even at the Messiah’s arrival, the people in His Line had to be reminded of what had been promised, of what the Lord was going to do.

But Matthew tells us that it occurred, just as the Lord had determined: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a Son. And he called His name Jesus.” All took place to fulfill what the Lord had said. The long wait was over. The Messiah had arrived. Eve’s long sought for Descendant had appeared.

On this night, your place in this line of people is also reaffirmed. You are Eve’s offspring. The Lord’s promise from the beginning was made to you. And He has fulfilled it. The Serpent’s head has been crushed for you by Him who is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He has done so by death and resurrection. You are meant to receive this fullness of God’s love, as John testifies: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The long Messianic Line that passed through names familiar and unfamiliar, faithful and unfaithful shows just how wide that love of God is. His promise is fulfilled, despite all that may attempt to thwart it.

You are added to this line of people who belong to the Lord: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God abides in him, and he in God.” He does so despite your doubts and failures. He is present for you in the peaks and valleys of your lives. He is here now, bringing your generation and the one that will follow into fellowship with Him. That is what we remember in this Vigil of Christmas. It is what the readings of the promises and the record of the Messiah’s birth make known to you again. The culmination of what the Lord had promised through the generations has taken place. So give thanks for the fulfillment of the divine plan formed long ago that opened the way of salvation for you. Watch for the day when that promised salvation is fully made yours at the Messiah’s promised return. Faithfully trust the Lord’s statements of promise until you see your Redeemer with your own eyes. For all shall take place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken, the One who truly keeps His word.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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