Why Is This Day Properly Called Christ Mass?
December 25, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
Verse: John 1:12–1
John 1:12-14 ~ Why Is This Day Properly Called “Christ Mass?”
Christ Mass Day
Dear beloved of the Lord:
Why is this day properly called "Christ Mass?” Some simply refuse to acknowledge the day at all. Many others shake their heads at the frenzied excesses of the world as they wonder in the face of terrorism, political hate, economic and ideological battles how might we celebrate this day with the appropriate focus giving God the Glory due His Name?
So, what is it that makes today "Christ Mass"? The answer is nothing you have done or said or felt. It is nothing of yourself or of your own doing. To quote the hymn, it is "of the Father's Love begotten." (TLH #98) God the Father makes Christ Mass happen by giving His own dear Son — His Beloved — His Only-Begotten — in the flesh.
That is what Christmas is all about. That is what it means for the angels of heaven to appear and sing to shepherds on earth. For the nativity of our Lord is the intersection of heaven and earth — the coming of God to man. It isn't anything that you or anyone else has done, nor could you ever hope to accomplish. For you could not, by your own reason or strength, believe in God or come to Him. He was beyond your approach; frankly because of your sin, you weren't in the least bit interested in Him.
But He was, is and remains oh so very interested in you! Where and when you could not come to Him — where and when you did not even want to come to Him — He has come down from heaven to you. Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, the Word became Flesh, and was made Man. When we recite the Nicene Creed we emphasize this phrase in remembrance of His Christ Mass coming to us.
But why? Why did He do all this for you? What prompted Him to come and give Himself for you? Of ourselves, we darkened sinners are not capable of knowing the answer, nor even how we might begin to think about an answer to these questions. The answer has been given to us from the Word of God.
The answer is "Love." "Of the Father's Love Begotten." For as St John writes in his first epistle (4:6, 18), "God is Love" and it is from the fountain of that Love — which is the Holy Triune God Himself — that everything flows for you.
What then has the God-Who-is-Love done for you? And what is He doing for you now? In the first place, and most obvious today as we celebrate the nativity of Our Lord the Almighty and Eternal Son of the Living God … Begotten of His Father from all eternity … God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God … by Whom all things were made … the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End … for you and your salvation, He descended from His throne on high, He humbled Himself to be conceived and born of a Virgin. He suffered Himself to live your life, beginning at its most frail and helpless stage — as an embryo — depending on a sinful, mortal woman for everything He needed to support a truly human body and life; and taking from this Virgin Mother of God the flesh and blood in which He would live and grow and work and die.
For that, of course, is where His divine Love for you directed Him: He became flesh, that He might suffer and die in your stead. He was handed over (by His Father) to voluntary suffering and death. Upon the Cross, He offered up His Holy Body — which He received by His conception and nativity — now given as the perfect, once-for-all Sacrifice for the sins of the world including your sins and mine.
By the Father who loves Him from eternity, He is forsaken for that bitter Hour … because He is cursed by our sins with the full weight and fury of divine judgment.
The wood of His Manger has become the wood of His Holy Cross. His swaddling clothes are now replaced with burial shrouds. See what love the Father has for you, that He sacrifices His Son, that you might be His child!
In the second place, today is the "Christ-Mass," as it is rightly and most appropriately called — because on this very day (here and now, in this place) God the Father gives to you His only-begotten Son in the same flesh and blood that were born of the Virgin Mary … in the same flesh and blood that were sacrificed for you upon the Cross … now given and poured out for you here at this Altar in the Holy Eucharist.
As we confess in the beautiful words of one very ancient hymn: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, / and with fear and trembling stand; / Ponder nothing earthly minded, / for with blessing in His hand / Christ our God to earth descending, / comes our homage to demand. / King of kings yet born of Mary, / as of old on earth He stood, / Lord of lords in human vesture, / in the Body and the Blood, / He will give to all the faithful, / His own Self for heavenly Food.” (LSB 621; Liturgy of St. James, 5th century)
Today is Christ Mass Day, because the Christian Church throughout the world celebrates the Holy Eucharist as it receives the true body and blood of Christ in this Sacrament. Otherwise, December the 25th would be no different and no more special than any other day of the year. But by the same token, every day in which the Church of Christ celebrates and receives the Holy Sacrament is a Christ-Mass … and an Epiphany … and a Good Friday … and an Easter … and a Trinity … and a Pentecost day.
It is the flesh-and-blood presence of the Word made flesh that does indeed make this (and every other day) special. His presence as our Savior and our King, and the priceless, holy food He sets before us, makes this day and this Divine Service a festival and a Feast of His Salvation.
It is for this reason, that the joyous Words of the angel are spoken also to you: "For you there is born this day a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord." (Lk. 2:11) And as Dr. Luther has written (concerning a similar Word of promise), "These words, 'for you', require all hearts to believe."
For you and me, and for the Church around the world, the "Christ-Mass" truly happens this morning — as the flesh and blood of Christ are given and poured out for us. Here this morning, at Christ Lutheran Church, in the frailty of bread and wine (no more impressive than a manger), everything that really matters in this world comes before us: The Savior comes among us in our human flesh (no less miraculous than His conception and birth from dear Mary). The all-sufficient Sacrifice of His Cross — the Body and Blood of the true Lamb of God — are given to us for the forgiveness of our sins. The resurrected, ever-living Christ, our dear Lord Jesus, reigns among us with His Peace.
You have heard it many times and will hear it again: This sanctuary is your Bethlehem. This Altar is for you the stable of our Lord; the bread and wine are His manger. And just as He once came to dwell in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, so does He come here for you, to place His Body and Blood within you — to live and grow in you. That is what makes December 25th special. Not the nostalgic memories of the past; but the coming of Christ in the flesh for you and me — here and now — with the granting of His Holy Spirit to each one of us.
We may be quite certain that this true Spirit of Christmas will continue all year long, as the Savior comes to you next week — and week after week — to strengthen you and keep you steadfast in the faith, even unto life everlasting; that you may depart in His Peace with great joy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Love of God the Father; the Communion of His Holy Spirit will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
- D. G.