Luke 2:1-20; Revelation 12
Eve of the Nativity of our Lord, 2023

In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit

    Right from the very beginning, our Lord was not afraid to get His hands dirty for us.  He forms Adam from the dirt, the dust of the ground, and into that hand-formed clay God breathes the breath of life.  Then, He takes from Adam’s side and creates Eve, giving male and female to become one flesh.  God is not above interacting with the physical stuff of His creation.  He declares it all to be very good.  He’s not afraid to get down in the dirt for us and for our blessing.

    Now what do you think Lucifer thought when he saw all of this?  He was a great and glorious angel whom God had created, and yet it wasn’t to any angelic spirit but to bodily human beings that God said, “You are the ones created in my image.  To you I give dominion over all creation.  Carry on my creating and ordering work.  Fill the earth and subdue it; be fruitful and multiply.”  Lucifer was moved to jealousy over this.  In rebellious pride, he led a mutiny against God together with 1/3 of the rest of the angels, and in the end he was cast out of heaven.  We of course know him as Satan, meaning “adversary,” and the devil, meaning “accuser.”

    After the devil succeeded in deceiving our first parents into joining his mutiny, luring them to forsake the Creator’s Word and follow their own deathly wisdom, God spoke this curse on Satan, which is the first Gospel prophecy in the Bible.  The Lord said to the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”  (Perhaps God was taking a jab at prideful Satan there, since the devil has no seed; he can’t be fruitful and multiply in the way that human beings can.)  Then God goes on to describe what this Seed of the Woman will do, “He will crush your head, Satan, and you will crush His heel.”  

    So the promise of our being saved from the curse of sin and death is tied to the Seed, the Offspring, the birth of the Child.  That’s why it is that, ever since the beginning, the devil has hated children and has sought to devour babies.  Remember how Pharaoh sought to kill the Israelite baby boys in Egypt, or how Herod slaughtered all the male children 2 years old and under in Bethlehem.  Consider all the pagan religions with their child sacrifices.  Consider our own pagan practice of abortion, more than 900,000 a year in this country–not to mention the willful practice of rejecting God’s gift of children and pregnancy even within marriage.  The devil hates children and babies, because he hates the promise of the Gospel, the promised Seed of Eve, the One whose birth we are celebrating this holy night, Christ the Lord.

    So while it may seem strange on Christmas Eve to hear talk of warfare in the readings–battle and garments rolled in blood and a dragon trying to consume the Child–this helps us to see what is actually going on in the narrative of Christ’s birth.  This is combat that is being engaged in.  The Son of God has infiltrated enemy territory in and through the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary.  The devil knows He’s here.  The dragon is just waiting for the right moment to strike.  

    Sometimes you’ll find that children have put some strange toys or action figures into a nativity scene in the house.  Not something I would necessarily encourage–although it actually would not be inappropriate to include a dragon lurking in the background behind the ox and the donkey and the shepherds.  For the incarnation of Jesus is an act of war against the evil one.  It is written, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).

    Think about what a wondrous thing it is that we’re observing and celebrating tonight: God the Son, through whom all things were created, both visible and invisible–He Himself is now entering into and joining Himself to His creation.  True God becomes true man.  The Lord shares in our flesh and becomes our blood brother.  Just like in the beginning, He is not afraid to get His hands dirty for our benefit.  He is born where there is a dirt floor.  He is laid in a cattle feeder.  He becomes like us so that we might become like Him.  He shares in our human nature so that we might be partakers of His divine nature.

    And already here we are seeing the victory being won.  For remember that with the fall into sin, we were cut off from God’s presence, separated from Him and bound for the emptiness of unending death–that’s what we deserve.  But now God and man are brought back together again in Christ, who is both God and man in one undivided Person.  By becoming human, Jesus has sanctified your humanity and made it good and holy again.  By believing and being baptized into Christ, you get your humanity back that Satan stole away from you through sin.  You are no longer cut off from God; Jesus brings you back into fellowship with Him again in His flesh and blood.  He is the Way back for you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

    That joyous reality is what we are witnessing with the angels appearing to the shepherds.  It’s as if heaven and earth are no longer separated.  The angels spill over heaven’s edge and fill the air with the reflected light of God’s glory.  The barrier is broken down as the song of heaven is heard on earth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  There is truly peace now between God and man in this divine and human Child Jesus.  God and sinners are reconciled; you are reconciled to your Creator.  “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

    This isn’t some namby-pamby Savior.  You have a Savior who fights for you.  Just consider what His taking on of our human flesh means.  It means that whatever the devil did to us human beings, he’s now done it to the Son of God, too; and that’s simply not going to stand.  Jesus is here to do something about it.  The devil is a prideful, narcissistic bully, who taunts us and knocks us around and tries to belittle and demean and disgrace us with various sins and afflictions and troubles.  But we have an older brother who can stand up to the bully now, One who is without sin.  

    And so Jesus faces the temptations we face; he endures the taunts and the mocking and the mistreatment in our place.  He makes Himself to be such a tempting target that the devil cannot help Himself.  Jesus lures the dragon in and allows him to do his worst to Him.  Our Lord stands in for us.  For He has real human hands that can get dirty and can be nailed to a cross, a real human head that can be pierced with thorns, a real human side that can be thrust into with a spear, real human blood to shed.  But because this is the Son of God we’re talking about here, it is also divine blood, powerful blood that cleanses us of our sin, that destroys death, that conquers the evil one.  Having drawn the bully Satan in, Jesus lets the devil punch himself out on Him and use up all his ammunition until he has nothing left.  And then Jesus takes him down to the depths of death and crushes his ugly head with His bruised and bloody heel.  And our Lord rises again victorious, having reasserted man’s dominion over creation.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to this Jesus.  

    And it all starts here in Bethlehem, this battle for humanity, this war for your soul.  Revelation 12 indicates how the dragon, unsuccessful in his attempts to devour the Christ Child, persecutes the woman and makes war with the rest of her offspring.  This woman is both a picture of the blessed Virgin Mary and also of the Holy Christian Church.  All of you who hold to the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus are her offspring.  The final skirmishes of this battle will carry on until our Lord Jesus returns.  So be vigilant; because your adversary the devil is still walking about like a prideful, roaring beast, seeking whom he may devour.

    But then remember especially what the Scriptures say, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  For those who take refuge in Christ, not even the devil can separate us from the love of God.  The dragon is defanged and declawed; he breathes no more fire for those who believe and are baptized.  Together with our Lord, we also crush Satan under our feet, as it is written, “They overcame (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”  Confessing our faith in Jesus the Lamb of God, we share in His victory.  He was born as one of us so that we would be born again in Him to eternal life.  He was laid in a lowly manger so that the lowly would reign with Him on high.  He was willing to get His hands dirty in order to rescue you and re-create you and breathe new life into you.

      So if you are suffering some bodily affliction, know that Jesus shares in your bodily humanity to restore you to wholeness.  If you are feeling isolated or are broken-hearted this holiday season, know that Jesus has come to bring you the light of His fellowship to comfort you.  He’s not a God far away;  He is Immanuel, God with us.  If you are struggling with sin, if you’ve drifted away from being in the Lord’s house and at the Lord’s table each week, know that Jesus doesn’t give up on you but longs to have you back with Himself.  Come home into the refuge of Christ, the only place where you are safe from the onslaughts of the evil one.  In Jesus you have the forgiveness that brings victory over sin and Satan and even death itself.  

    Come today, and kneel before this nativity scene–not just the one below the altar, but the one on the altar.  For Jesus is humbly mangered there for you in the consecrated bread and wine.  Bow before Him and receive Him.  Let your humanity be restored by receiving His true body and blood, born for you of Mary, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  A blessed and merry Christmas to you all.

In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit