O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
A Gift for the Naughty
A Gift for the Naughty
Based on Matthew 1:18-25
Preached on December 24, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, and children of the heavenly Father, have you ever been given a lump of coal for Christmas? The other day, when regaling Christmas memories, my friend told me about a time he and his family gave his grandfather a lump of coal for Christmas. It's all they gave him. No shiny present. No Christmas card. Just a lump of coal in a cardboard box! Apparently, the old guy took it pretty well, and they all had a good laugh at his expense, but the idea of giving someone a lump of coal for Christmas is a clear way of saying that Christmas is not for them.
Who is Christmas for? Well some people say, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, or you'll get a lump of coal for Christmas - Christmas will not be for you. There is a black list of those who've been naughty and there will be no Christmas for them. Christmas, they say, is only for the good boys and girls.
But who are these precious children who haven't cried or pouted, not even once, in the last 365 days? I mean, do they really exist? Certainly not in my house. Is Christmas only for these imaginary children that occupy the dreams of parents?
Perhaps when they say Christmas is only for good girls and boys they mean the ones who appear good from the outside, the polite ones - to say nothing of having a pure heart and pure thoughts for 365 days. "Being good" is all about presentation. It is simply a matter of who can be convincing enough. Christmas, then, is only for the best actors.
But in direct contrast to all of this, we have the beautiful words of the first Christmas story, that we heard in our Gospel reading this evening, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." This Jesus is not born for good boys and girls. He is born to save sinners. He is not born for those who have been nice. He is born for the naughty. Christmas is for sinners.
For God has made a list, a blacklist, and though it saddens Him deeply, everybody's name is on it. None of His people deserve a gift. For God isn't interested in appearances, He is looking at hearts and minds. And He sees they are all full of unclean things - they are dark and covered in soot like coal.
No, you haven't lived as if God mattered most. You haven't honoured His Name as you should. Your prayers and worship have fallen short, and this past year there are people you have hurt, but Christmas is still for you. In fact, it is God's special gift to you. You are the very reason Christ was born.
For God is not like Santa. Though His children are all on the blacklist, He freely gives them a gift they don't deserve. A gift beyond compare, for this gift will take their names off the blacklist - forever. This gift is for everyone, especially for sinners, because this baby, this Jesus is born to carry the sin of the whole world. He is born to take all of your dark, soot upon Himself. He is born to become a lump of coal. "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
In the birth of God's Son, we see a Holy God make Himself into a lump of coal, so that He could be given to everyone. So that those who deserve a lump of coal would get Jesus instead. So that you and I might receive a gift that makes us clean. For this gentle baby whom the angels worship comes to rub up against us - to be blackened by our sin and thrown like a dirty piece of coal into the fire in our place. He is born to burn away our impurities, that we might be saved from the punishment they deserve. This baby is born to be crucified on a cross in your place, to save you from all your sins, yet He is risen from the dead that you might have life. Christmas is for you.
Hanging there on the cross, Jesus did not cry or pout, but took the blacklist into His own hands and wrote His own name over every name on the list. The dark black ink bearing your name was blotted out by His blood and that blessed name - Jesus. His name, which means, "The LORD saves" covers your name and makes you right with God. His blood has changed the blacklist into the book of life. When your heavenly Father looks at you, He no longer sees a dark, soot-covered soul. He sees the holy, innocence of His beloved Son which covers you from top to bottom. He sees His precious child. He sees the heir of His eternal kingdom.
Well, it would appear you have been given a lump of coal for Christmas, one you should want more than all the gifts in the world. He does not come in a shiny package, or with a special Christmas card. Just a lump of coal in an animal's eating box. This baby is born for you - and you shall call His name Jesus, for He has saved you from all your sins. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr