The Nativity of our Lord, Christmas Eve
Based on Matthew 1:18-25
On this night of wonder, let us spend a few moments considering the mystery of God become human, a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, apart from natural processes, an ancient prophecy fulfilled in the birth of Immanuel — Jesus. Mystery: an interesting word and an even more interesting notion. It comes from the Greek word μυστήριον (mystērion), a derivative of the root word which means literally “to shut one’s mouth” or to render one silent. A mystery leaves us speechless! Is that not a proper response to “God With Us?” On Christmas Eve, we are speechless. We are rendered silent at the mystery that is the virgin conception and birth — God’s intention to stoop low as the Word made flesh.
In the book, Millennium Matrix, the author, M. Rex Miller, speaks of the transition to this current age, and how this has, in fact, created a yearning in the heart and soul for what is often missing these days. His research indicates one renewed spiritual hunger which has surfaced among younger generations is the yearning for mystery.
We should always be mindful of the fact that we need mystery in our lives, and in the Church. We need to experience God in ways that cause us to “be still and know that [God] is God” (Psalm 46:10).
God become human cannot be anything but a mystery. God present for us in the Word, written, read and preached is miraculous! God present for us in bread and wine which become His body and blood leaves us speechless and without rational, reasonable comment or explanation. We will always want to allow for mystery in our worship, in our meditation on the Word of God and in prayer, welcoming the super-natural divine presence of God.
This Christmas Eve, may we welcome and rejoice in the mystery of God’s presence with us, in the holy Child of Bethlehem!
Prayer: On this holy night, Lord God, fill us with the mystery that is Immanuel — Jesus. Amen.
Advent action: If you are able, join with a congregation for worship. If you are home-bound, join with the Church on earth, reading this devotion, praying for the Church, the world and your loved ones this wonderful night of our Lord’s humble birth.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about Blessed is He Who Comes, visit thenalc.org/advent.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
7:10 The Lord again spoke to Ahaz: 11“Ask for a confirming sign from the Lord your God. You can even ask for something miraculous.” 12But Ahaz responded, “I don’t want to ask; I don’t want to put the Lord to a test.” 13So Isaiah replied, “Pay attention, family of David. Do you consider it too insignificant to try the patience of men? Is that why you are also trying the patience of my God? 14For this reason the Lord himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel. (NET Bible)
110:1 A psalm of David.
Here is the Lord’s proclamation to my lord:
“Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!”
2The Lord extends your dominion from Zion.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
3Your people willingly follow you when you go into battle.
On the holy hills at sunrise the dew of your youth belongs to you.
4The Lord makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it:
“You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.”(NET Bible)
1 John 4:7–16
4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. 16And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. (NET Bible)
1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. 20When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23“Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, 25but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes]: “If I am to examine the spirit I must have the Word of God; this must be the rule, the touchstone, the lapis lydius, the light by means of which I can see what is black and what white.” … “ is is decisive; it does not matter what name he [the preacher] has, if he only teaches faithfully … has the Word of God as a plumb line.” … “What then, will you do? Will you condemn them? No, I do not want to condemn Benedictum and others, but I will take their books and go with them to Christ and his Word as the touchstone and compare the two.” … “If one says, the church or the bishops decided this, then answer: Come, let us go to the touchstone and let us measure with the right yard- stick and examine whether it agrees with the Pater Noster and with the Articles of Faith and whether he also preach forgiveness of sins. If it agrees with what Christ taught us, then let us accept it and do according to it.” (81)
[Luther writes:] “Paul takes them all together, himself, an angel from heaven, teachers upon earth, and masters of all kinds, and subjects them to the holy Scripture. Scripture must reign as queen (haec regina debet dominari), her all must obey and be subject to. Not teachers, judges, or arbiters over her, but they must be simple witnesses, pupils and confessors of it, whether they may be the Pope or Luther or Augustine or Paul or an angel from heaven” … —“I let you cry in your hostility that Scripture contradicts itself, ascribing righteousness now to faith and then to works. It is impossible that Scripture contradict itself; it only seems so to foolish, coarse, and hardened hypocrites” … — “We abandon the talk of the Jews and stick to St. Paul’s understanding which, not without cause, emphasizes the little word ‘seed’ and thereby indicates that Holy Scripture in Gen. 12:3 and 22:18 speaks of a single seed not of many, and says plainly that Christ is such seed. Paul does so out of a genuine apostolic spirit and understanding. We Christians do not care if such interpretation does not please the Jews. Paul’s interpretation weighs more with us than all glosses of the rabbis” … — “One letter, even a single tittle of Scripture means more to us than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot permit even the most minute change.” (82–83)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.