[Isaiah 62:11-12] “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
A City Not Forsaken
Despite the fact that many on both sides of the aisle, so to speak, make a lot of commotion about “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas”, no one with eyes or ears needs proof that Christmas, December 25th, is in fact the biggest day of the year.
At what other time are there more parties? What other yearly event requires so much preparation? Even back-to-school shopping doesn’t take so many months. When else is the whole nation – stores and streets - decorated to such an extent? Money talks – is there a bigger time of spending on the calendar?
As December 25th approaches, the whole nation turns its attention toward it. Stores even hire seasonal help. Schools go on break (despite how they might name the break). Christmas is the biggest event of the year – the biggest birthday party in which the One born is hardly invited - the biggest celebration in which the One celebrated is hardly mentioned. Almost all people (in our nation) will celebrate the 25th today, but who is celebrating the birth of Christ today? Who is celebrating the birth of Jesus?
And this complaint is almost old, worn out. And, in fact, what do we care what the world does today? Why would they celebrate a God in which they do not believe? This complaint about the absence of Christ in the Christmas season would be a worn out complaint if it wasn’t precisely and accurately a complaint about us, about the Church, about Christ’s own people.
The absence of Christ in our Christmas celebrations and preparations – You are not off the hook just because you are the ones here worshiping today. I am not off the hook just because I am here preaching today. Christ ought to have this complaint against all of us here – that He has painfully little to do with our celebrations of and preparations for His own holiday.
I ask myself: How much of my business leading up to this day was centered around the celebration of Jesus’ birth? Was it the preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, specifically, that made me busy? Was I busy with an increase in doing what is pleasing to Him? Was I made busy by an increase of devotion to Him? Was I made busy by an increase of worship of Him at home? Was I busy with an increase of telling my children about the birth of Jesus?
Was I busy – in light of the poverty of our Lord at His birth – in light of the poverty of our Lord’s family, Mary and Joseph – in light of their dependence upon the gifts of the magi – in light of the hospitality denied them at the inn in Bethlehem – in light of the conditions of my Lord’s birth, did I make myself busy with thoughts for the similarly poor. Was I busy with gifts and preparations for any in need? (As Christ said, what we do for those in need we do for Him. Have I been busy with a gift for Christ?)
(These are questions I am really asking myself, and I hope you will ask yourself too.) How have my feasts compared to the amount I have given to anyone in need during this season? What are my few cans or boxes of mac’n cheese compared to how much I have spent on myself and mine? What have I prepared to feed myself today after Church compared to what is given to Christ? What do my extra offering in these extra services amount to in comparison to my extra spending? How begrudging am I to give more in the offerings compared to how freely and happily I spend at the store?
When I assess my own celebration of the birth of Christ, according to His will, I would have to say of myself that I have not celebrated it very well. I invite you to access your own celebration of the Holiday season as well. None of us can be proud. But we can rejoice in a Savior. And we should, every year, access how we have done and how we can celebrate this day better in the year to come – individually and as a congregation.
Brothers and sisters, hear this – this is the point: We should not complain that the world falls short and doesn’t know how to celebrate Christmas. Instead, we should REJOICE – we should sing PRAISE – that we have a SAVIOR BORN. We should rejoice that we have a Savior born who DOES NOT FORSAKE us, even when we have fallen short. And we should strive that others would know this Savior too.
By the Savior born in the little city of Bethlehem, you and I, brothers and sisters, are now a CITY NOT FORSAKEN. Though still sinners, we are a HOLY PEOPLE, the REDEEMED OF THE LORD. Though you often forget Christ, you are, nevertheless, called “SOUGHT OUT”, as Isaiah 62 says today. By the Savior Born today, you are called Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken.
The Child, the Son of God, the very Word – the very Speaking – of God born in Flesh today, made Man, born of the substance of Mary, accepts our worship, though it falls short. He accepts our feasts and celebrations today, though they fall short. He has died to forgive the sin in worship and celebrations and accepts what in them comes from faith.
The people of God in Isaiah’s day had forsaken the Lord. They kept the sabbaths and holidays of the Old Covenant outwardly, but in heart they did not celebrate their God and Savior. They honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. And, for forsaking God, they were for a time forsaken by God. The people of God, the Israelites and Judahites, in Isaiah’s day were a people forsaken, or about to be forsaken, in foreign captivity under the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
But with their captivity came the promise that one day a Savior, a Messiah, a Christ, a King – their very Lord and God – would come and they would be forsaken no more. Though forsaken as they deserved, they would, nevertheless, one day be called “A City Not Forsaken”.
In Micah 5:2-3, God’s people were specifically told that this Savior would be born in Bethlehem. In countless passages, it was foretold that this Savior would not just be Savior of Israel and Judah but of the Gentiles – of all the nations – you and me. Though the world hardly remembered God, God remembered the world and sent this Child who was born today – “God so loved the world He gave His only-begotten Son”.
This Child born today is God’s gift of Christmas given to you. God remembers this holiday for your sake. Because of the One born today, you are Sought Out by God, you are Not Forsaken. You are Forgiven. You are Made New.
The Son of God born in Bethlehem is the Lamb of God slain at Calvary – by His blood your sins are forgiven, covered. Since God has remembered you Christmas morning, strive to remember His gift to you. Plan to celebrate the birth of His Son more and more purely each year, yet always forgiven in what falls short. And let’s celebrate Christmas today not as our nation but as Christ’s People, His City Not Forsaken. Amen.