12/19/04, A4A

“For He Will Save His People”
Matthew 1: 18-25

ary Wicker had lost her beloved four year old son Billy to Leukemia in July, and as the Christmas season approached the pain of her loss became even worse. As she stood in her kitchen staring out the window she saw little Chris Wilson, Billy's best friend, playing in the backyard alone. Poor Chris always played alone now that he had lost her Billy.

Mary had not been any comfort to Chris. Once when Chris asked where Billy was, she sharply told him to ask his mother. A few days before Christmas, Chris' mother invited her over for coffee and she reluctantly accepted. After the two women had visited somewhat uncomfortably for a short while, Chris came into the room and took her hand. "Come on. I want to show you something I made," he said as he tugged at her, pulling her into the family room.

Next to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree was a shoe box with Popsicle sticks glued all around. As Mary looked inside she saw two little dolls wrapped in towels lying in straw. "This is the manger and the dolls are Jesus and Billy. When he could not come out to play anymore my mother told me he had gone to live with Jesus. See, they are together now in heaven."

What a moment of healing. Mary was flooded with a deep sense of inner peace. She now knew that Billy was safe in heaven. He was at peace with Jesus.

The main mission of the Prince of Peace was to bring peace and salvation to our troubled souls. This is the Good News of great joy that the angels sang to the shepherds. God has stepped down the stairway of heaven with a baby in His arms, who will change our lives!

The very name “Jesus” means “The Lord Saves.” Or, as the angel explained the situation to Joseph, “…and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (v. 21)

Our Father's stepping down the stairway of heaven with His Son in His arms means that we never need to ask again how much he loves us. God has landed on our shores! Or, as C.S. Lewis said, “ The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God .” (Mere Christianity, Chap. 5, par.1) The grand miracle of Christmas is God's great evangelical effort to win fallen humanity into friendship. The God who flung the stars into space came into human flesh as the Baby Jesus to reconcile us to God, thus giving us salvation, assurance, a higher calling, a new life.

The Bible uses many words to describe this notion of salvation. I dusted off an old seminary text this week and found the topic about salvation under the headings of words like: “Atonement,” which refers to the covering of sins. Another related word is “Propitiation,” which refers to the turning away of wrath and the reconciliation of God and creation. “Expiation,” more directly refers to the blotting out of sin, or making past sins forever eradicated. These are perhaps unfamiliar words that state the very familiar concept of “God's forgiveness extended to us through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

I can illustrate the idea of blotting out and eradicating sins by admitting that I spilled a half can of tomato soup on our kitchen counter last week. It was running off the non-porous counter top toward the floor when I grabbed a sponge and quickly soaked up the soup and washed it down the sink. “ Sponge Bob Square Pants” saved the day by “blotting” up the soup and “eradicating” it down the sink. Note that God does not wash you down the sink into the garbage disposal, but he separates you from your sin and washes your sin away forever. And God is able to do this through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. For salvation to occur there has to be a Savior and that is the baby born son man no more may die. That's what allowed Chris Wilson's mother to explain to him that his friend Billy Wicker was not lost in death but was with Jesus in heaven.

If we can believe that then we have found the “Peace on Earth.” that the Angels sang about to the lowly Shepherds on that first Christmas Day. Or, as Charles Wesley expressed this imagery in his great Christmas Carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “…peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Reconciliation, friendship with God, always overflows into peace, a new confidence and assurance.

Talk about a new more positive image of yourself! Through new eyes we see ourselves as a person for whom Christ died. The school teacher can look upon his students with a new love and concern to be able to be the best. A salesman will bring a new authenticity and character to his old sales pitch. Clients can't help but feel that this fellow is honest and believes in his product. Children will trust their parents and know that they would give their lives for them.

Mary Wicker would have willingly taken her little Billy's leukemia unto herself, if she could have. She would have been Billy's salvation from leukemia, the means of his healing, the propitiation , and the willing sacrifice to save her only son. She would have been his expiation from sickness, the blotting out, totally eradicating the disease and certain death.

What better time than the present to present the present of Christmas peace? We will be making visits, phone calls and sending e-mails to friends and family this week; why not add a little note of love and joy as you exemplify one that has been made whole by the Savior, the Christ Child.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
12/19/04, A4A