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We Are Christmas-and-Easter Christians (A Christmas Day sermon)
Sunday, December 25, 2005 | The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Posted on 12/24/2005 11:08:20 PM PST by Charles Henrickson

“We Are Christmas-and-Easter Christians” (John 1:1-5, 14)

From John chapter 1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Maybe you read the news stories earlier this month. Let me read you a few excerpts:

This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance. . . .

Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. . . . The decision makes sense in today’s hectic world, she said. . . . “It’s more than being family-friendly. It’s being lifestyle-friendly for people who are just very, very busy,” she said.

Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services. . . . She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families. . . . Her church’s decision was made “based on analysis of the number of people who attended in previous years and just a desire for us to emphasize family time on Christmas Day,” she said.

Crossroads Christian Church will close for Christmas. Pastor Glenn Schneiders says December 25 is no longer considered sacred by many Americans. . . . “It’s viewed more as a holiday than a holy day,” he said.

Well, so here we are in church on this Christmas Day. On a Sunday, to boot. I guess we’re not being very “lifestyle-friendly.” But you know what? There’s nowhere on earth I would rather be. You know why? Because we are “Christmas-and-Easter Christians.”

That term, “Christmas-and-Easter Christians,” or “C-E Christians” for short, is often used in a derogatory way to refer to people who only show up for church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. I guess now they can’t even be bothered with showing up on Christmas. Today, though, I want to use “C-E Christians” in a positive sense: We are “Christmas-and-Easter Christians,” because for us, Christmas and Easter make all the difference in the world--and in the world to come. That is why we are here this morning. To celebrate Christmas. To celebrate Easter.

“What?!” you say. “Christmas I can understand--this is December 25, after all. But how are we celebrating Easter? I thought that doesn’t come until March or April.” Well, hold on with that question. We’ll come back to it a little later. First let’s talk about why we’re here celebrating Christmas.

Why are we here, when we could be home with our family, sitting by the Christmas tree, drinking hot cocoa and enjoying the presents we opened this morning? That does sound pretty appealing, doesn’t it? And there’s nothing wrong with doing those things, in their proper perspective. And that’s the key, isn’t it? Keeping things in their proper perspective. Cocoa is good, but there’s something better: the feast of the Lord’s Supper, here on this high festival. Presents are good, but there’s something better: the presence of Christ in the midst of his people, and receiving his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christmas trees are good, but there is a tree that is more important: the life-giving tree of the cross.

Family is good, very good indeed, and God wants us to love and spend quality time with our family. But sometimes what is good can become the enemy of what is best. “Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me,” Jesus says, “is not worthy of me.” Idolatry can be especially tempting when what is idolized is something good, like family. The problem comes when we place that good thing ahead of the one thing needful.

So here we are, celebrating Christmas in church, assembled together with the big family God has placed us in, namely, the church. “Whoever hears God’s word and keeps it is my mother and brother and sister,” Jesus says. The Christian church is our family, and Christmas is one of our family celebrations.

On Christmas we celebrate the coming of our brother, Jesus, in the flesh. Yes, that’s the miracle of Christmas, isn’t it? God became one of us. The eternal Son of God took on human flesh and bone. The big fancy word for this is the “Incarnation,” which means, “in the flesh.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John writes. Now why is this such a big deal? Well, think about it for a moment, if your brain circuits don’t start to burn out on you as you contemplate this mystery: The eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the one who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made--at a certain point in time, in history, this only-begotten Son of the Father came in the flesh as a little baby, born of a woman.

This is amazing! This is astonishing! This is a mystery almost too great for words--except that God has revealed it to us in the words of Holy Scripture. God wants us to know the importance of the Incarnation! Our salvation depends on this very thing: that the Son of God came in the flesh, at Christmas, as our brother! If that didn’t happen, we would be lost, forever! But it did happen, and now we are saved, forever!

Only God could save us from the predicament we had gotten ourselves into. We had fallen into sin and could not get up. Sin works its corruption in our lives and kills us. And there is not one darn thing we could do about it to stop it. We are all, every one of us, too weak to overcome sin and death and judgment under God’s wrath. That’s our big problem, and we couldn’t solve it.

Only God could, and he did. Only God is wise enough and strong enough to save us. But in order to do that, he had to become one of us. For the judgment we all deserve is death. And so Jesus took our place and died in our place, under that judgment, on the cross. That’s why he had to be our brother. He had to take on our flesh. He had to breathe our sin-poisoned air. He had to live the perfect life we all failed to live, to make his life the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And thus, Christmas. That’s why Christmas is such a big deal. That’s why we are here celebrating.

But that then leads us to the second reason we’re here celebrating today. It’s Sunday! Sunday marks the victory of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Sunday is the day we celebrate the new life Christ won for us by his death. His death overcomes the grave, and Sunday is the day that became clear. Remember, it was very early on the first day of the week--that’s Sunday--that the women went out to the tomb. But him they did not find. The stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. The angel told them, “He is not here. He is risen, just as he said.” Yes, Easter, the Resurrection--the Resurrection of Christ, and thus our resurrection signaled and guaranteed--this is what we celebrate every Sunday! Every Sunday is a little Easter!

For almost 2,000 years now, the Christian church around the world has been meeting on the first day of the week, every week. We even call it, “the Lord’s Day,” because it was on this day that our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, rose bodily, ushering in the new creation and giving us a sneak preview of what’s in store for us in the age to come. On the first day of the week, every week, the Christian church around the world gathers together in the presence of her Lord, to hear his Word and to receive his precious Body and Blood. That is why we are here today, my friends. It is the Lord’s Day, and we are the Lord’s people. And this is the Lord’s house, the place where we gather.

So two reasons to celebrate today! It’s Christmas! And it’s Easter! The Son of God come in the flesh to be our Savior. And our Savior then risen from the dead, assuring us of our own resurrection.

There’s a Christmas song I’ve heard on the radio that captures both of these ideas in one beautiful refrain. Maybe you’ve heard it, too. It’s from the song, “Mary’s Boy Child,” and it goes like this:

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A king was born today,
And man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas Day.
Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ,
Was born on Christmas Day.

There it is: Christmas and Easter rolled into one! Two reasons to rejoice! Two reasons to be in church today! Instead of canceling church, we should be having church on steroids!

So here we are in church today, “even though” it’s Christmas--and a Sunday, to boot. We may not be very “lifestyle-friendly,” but I can guarantee you, this is the most “life-friendly” place you could be! Jesus Christ literally is our life--our eternal life, our new life forever--and this is where he gives us that life as a gift.

What a great day this is: Christmas and Easter combined! That’s why we can truly say: We are “Christmas-and-Easter Christians.”

TOPICS: Current Events; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: christmas; christmasday; easter; lutheran; sermon; sunday; thelordsday
This is the sermon I'm preaching this morning. (I'm a Lutheran pastor.)
1 posted on 12/24/2005 11:08:23 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
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To: TonyRo76; Cletus.D.Yokel; redgolum; Conservativegreatgrandma; Southflanknorthpawsis; squirt


2 posted on 12/24/2005 11:10:11 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (LCMS pastor)
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To: Charles Henrickson
Pastor, If you get the chance check out the lyrics to the song my daughter and I are singing in church tomorrow (this) morning:

"An Earthly Tree" by William Byrd, 1589

1. An earthly tree a heavenly fruit it bear,
A case of clay contained a crown immortal
A crown of crowns, a King whose cost and care
Redeemed poor man, whose race before was thrall
To death, to doom, to pains of everlasting,
By His sweet death, scorns, stripes, and often fasting.

2. A star above the stars, a sun of light,
Whose blessed beams this wretched earth bespread
With hope of heaven and of God's Son the sight,
Which in our flesh and sinful soul lay dead.
O faith, O hope, O joys renowned for ever,
O lively life that deathless shall persever.

3. Then let us sing the lullabys of sleep
To this sweet babe, born to awake us all
From drowsy sin that made old Adam weep,
And by his fault gave to mankind the fall.
For lo! this day, the birth day, day of days,
Summons our songs to give Him laud and praise.

Not only is the music beautiful, the lyrics are Christmas and Easter.

3 posted on 12/24/2005 11:28:57 PM PST by stayathomemom
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To: Charles Henrickson

A Blessed Christmas to all.

4 posted on 12/25/2005 12:01:14 AM PST by backtothestreets
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To: Charles Henrickson

The blessings of Christ to you sir on this Christmas day.


5 posted on 12/25/2005 1:31:26 AM PST by Cindy
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To: Charles Henrickson
"but I can guarantee you, this (and the other 99.9999% of churches who will be having service today) is the most “life-friendly” place you could be!"

There, fixed it for you, pastor. Merry Christmas, and stop worrying about the 3 churches who closed today.

6 posted on 12/25/2005 1:54:59 AM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: Charles Henrickson

Merry Christmas (and Easter) to you, too. We're off to services.

7 posted on 12/25/2005 5:52:58 AM PST by Conservativegreatgrandma
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To: Charles Henrickson

It really was a miracle that God chose to come and walk among us.

8 posted on 12/25/2005 7:25:03 AM PST by starfish923 ( Socrates: It's never right to do wrong.)
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To: Charles Henrickson

Pastor at services today we had approx. 2,000 people. We all feel the same as you. There was no other place we wanted to be and I have younger kids 12, 14.

BTW, the message I always like to pass along to folks this time of year is; "Merry Christmas, remember there would be no Easter without it."

God Bless all

9 posted on 12/25/2005 10:46:48 AM PST by wmfights (Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way!)
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To: Charles Henrickson

The human eye, they say,
can register
the light of a single photon
in the darkness.
How brightly your coming
must have rent the darkness.
How your sacrifice
tore the night
lighting an unquenchable beacon
stretched out
an open invitation
for all mankind.

10 posted on 12/25/2005 11:21:35 AM PST by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: Charles Henrickson
Sounds good to me. I'm an ex-old-ELC Lutheran. So far the LCMS appears to this outsider to be weathering the gale force winds of modernism & such
11 posted on 12/25/2005 11:42:53 AM PST by Dahlseide (TULIP)
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To: stayathomemom
"An Earthly Tree" by William Byrd, 1589. . . .

Lovely poetry and theology. Thank you for posting that.

12 posted on 12/25/2005 7:33:34 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (LCMS pastor)
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To: Dahlseide; redgolum; Cletus.D.Yokel
So far the LCMS appears to this outsider to be weathering the gale force winds of modernism & such. . . .

Well, the LCMS may have weathered modernism in the '60s and '70s, but we're having a lot of trouble with post-modernism in the '90s and '00s. We may have won our first "Thirty Years' War" (1945-1975), against liberalism, modernism, etc.--"the Battle for the Bible." But I'm afraid we are losing our second "Thirty Years' War" (1980-present), against post-modernism, church-growthism, etc.--"the Battle for the Gospel," "the Battle to Remain Lutheran." That one is not going so well right now.

13 posted on 12/25/2005 7:43:37 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (LCMS pastor)
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To: Charles Henrickson
LCMS greetings to you, Pastor. I truly enjoyed reading your sermon. Your message here is wonderful. The birth and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is everything. I appreciate the post.

God bless you !!!

14 posted on 12/26/2005 7:28:13 AM PST by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Charles Henrickson

Hope you had a great Christmas!

15 posted on 12/26/2005 7:52:13 PM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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