Heaven Has Come Down

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Every year, we gather in churches to hear the story of the child laid in the manger.  Even people who will never darken the church's door throughout the year find themselves coming to a local church to hear this age-old story of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the manger, the shepherds, and the angels.  Again, no matter how often we hear this story, it is just as powerful and moving as when we first heard it as a little child. 

Now, as a pastor, there is always a challenge to how this great story should be preached.  In other words, the Christmas story can be preached from the shepherds' perspective.  Or it can be preached from the perspective of Mary or Joseph.  I have even heard the story of Christmas preached from the perspective of the alarmed animals in that cave where Jesus was born that Christmas long ago.  However, consider a moment, what about considering this Christmas story from the perspective of heaven?  What did the birth of the Son of God mean for God the Father and the angels of heaven?  In other words, instead of looking at the story of Christmas from our earthly perspective, what if we considered the story of Christmas from a heavenly perspective?  Instead of looking at the birth of Christ and then gazing upward towards heaven, what if we consider the birth of Christ from a heavenly perspective, gazing downward to earth?    

There is an old Lutheran pastor (Jaroslav Vajda) who once wrote an iconic hymn titled “Before the Marvel of This Night.”  I must warn you in advance that it is a very poetic hymn.   It is a hymn that speaks from the perspective of heaven about the birth of Christ long ago.  

Consider for a moment the first stanza of this hymn – where God the Father speaks to the holy angels.  I will intentionally read it slowly. 

Before the marvel of this night

Adoring fold your wings and bow,

Then tear the sky apart with light

And with your news the world endow.

Proclaim the birth of Christ and peace

That fear and death and sorrow cease.

Sing peace!  Sing peace!  Sing gift of peace!

Now, do you hear this grand Christmas news for you?  In the birth of Christ, God the Father instructs the angels to tear the sky apart and proclaim that fear, death, and sorrow shall cease. 

Listen and ponder, verse 2: 

Awake the sleeping world with song.

This is the day the Lord has made.

Assemble here, celestial throng,

In royal splendor come arrayed.

Give earth a glimpse of heavenly bliss,

A teasing taste of what they miss.

Sing bliss, sing bliss, sing endless bliss.

Do you hear this grand Christmas news for you?  In the birth of Christ, we are to be awoken from our sleep to be given a glimpse of heavenly bliss. Indeed, in that first Christmas, heaven came down.  

Listen and ponder, verse 3: 

The love that we have always known

Our constant joy and endless light

Now to the loveless world be shown,

Now break upon its deathly night.

Into one song compress the love

That rules our universe above.

Sing love!  Sing love!  Sing God is love!

Sing love!  Sing God is love!

Did you hear this grand Christmas news for you? The angels always knew the love of God; however, in the birth of Christ, the Son of God broke into this deathly world of sin to show and give this very love.  Indeed, the angels of heaven always knew the love of God for His creation.  However, that Christmas long ago, they witnessed the love of God for His creation as they saw how God fulfilled His promises of old and broke into this deathly dark world.  They witnessed how God’s love for His creation compelled Him to send His only begotten Son to redeem the children of Adam and Eve.  John 3:16 says it best, 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

And so, we could summarize this hymn and summarize Christmas from a heavenly perspective by saying that the story of Christmas is one big descent into darkness, sin, and death for humanity’s sake.  Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary to come into this dark world.  He was born and laid in that manger to live in this world of sin.  And He went to that cross to die a death to redeem you and me from the sting of sin – death itself.  And so, from the perspective of heaven and the heavenly host of angels, a Child was born in Bethlehem that Christmas night long ago to take away your sin, destroy your death, and bring eternal life to you.  Again, from a heavenly perspective, Christmas is one big drop – one big descent - of the Son of God to come to you to make all things right.  Through the Child in the Manger, a warring, divided, hate-filled people are forgiven and given peace with God the Father.  This is not a mythological story, a pious sentiment, or a fluffy abstract idea – what the angels in heaven witnessed and what they proclaimed at Jesus’ birth is the gift of peace for sin-sick humanity.  

And so, we sing God is love because He did not leave or abandon us.  The love of God did not stay in heaven but descended into sin’s darkness. 

We sing bliss, endless bliss because royal splendor came arrayed - heaven has come to us.  

We sing peace – the gift of peace – because the sky was torn apart so that light would shine on us to chase away fear and death.  

Dear Baptized Saints, no wonder why the angel said to the shepherds, 

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  

Merry Christmas, dear Saints of God.  Unto you a Child has been born, His name is Jesus Christ – the One who has descended to you and has taken away your sins.  He is great joy for you in this often-joyless world.  He is the love that fills the songs of the angels and fills our songs this evening.  May the gift of Christmas abide with you this evening and in the weeks to come.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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