Can I ask you, what are you doing here today? I mean, you didn’t have anything better to do today? Got all your shopping done, so you had an hour to kill, so you thought you’d hang out at church? Nothing else going on tonight? Nothing to prepare for tomorrow? And even if all those things were true, why did you pick today to come to church? You didn’t realize that this was one of the busiest days of the church year? Why come when like everybody and their mother is coming to church? Isn’t that like choosing to shop on Black Friday? Why would I want to shop on the day I’m guaranteed to have to fight through the crowds? (Although in your case, by coming to the 6 p.m. service, you did a nice job of avoiding the crowds. But still, why are you here?)

Now, maybe you’re here because it’s a family tradition. You always worship together on Christmas Eve. Maybe you’ve got some extended family with you. It just feels right to be here together. Maybe you want to set a good example for your children. You want them to continue the tradition. Maybe you’re here because you like the ambiance of this service. You love the poinsettias, the candles, and singing Silent Night together with the lights down low. If you think about it, there are a lot of reasons you could be to be here today. A lot of reasons that millions of people around the world are gathered in Christian churches like this one. And yet, I hope, in fact I pray that the real reason you are here today is not found in ambiance or tradition or the fact that if you didn’t show up, someone would be disappointed. No, I pray that you’re here because of an announcement made by an angel in the skies over Bethlehem. The announcement? “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Isn’t that why you and I are here today? We’re here because:

Jesus the Savior is Born!

On this Christmas Eve, we’ll focus on two aspects of that statement. Jesus was the One:

  1. Born in the Town of David
  2. Born to be Our Savior

Tell me, has there ever been a birth announcement quite like the one God made for the birth of his son? I know that there were a lot of people waiting to see what direction Kanye West would go with the name of his child. And of course the birth of little Prince George made headlines around the world. But did any of them have an angelic birth announcement? No, only Jesus’ birth announcement was delivered by an angel.

And yet, just like any birth announcement that you or I might send out today, the angel’s announcement contained two very important pieces of information. No, not weight and length, but rather, time and place.   What did the angel say? “Today in the town of David…” Now, when you and I hear the term “the town of David,” it probably doesn’t mean that much to our 21st century ears. But to the ears of 1st century Jewish shepherds, that term, “the town of David” was packed with meaning. The town of David was of course, Bethlehem, the town where the greatest king to ever rule Israel was born. Even after David died, the Prophet Micah had singled out

Bethlehem for a very important purpose. The prophet wrote, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2) In other words, from the town of David will come a ruler promised from the beginning. The Jewish people saw that as a promise of the Messiah.

But while the shepherds may well have been familiar with that prophecy, what they didn’t know was what the angel told them that night, namely, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.” Just for a minute think about the impact of that single word, “Today.” For literally 1000’s of years, people had been waiting for this day to come. Ever since God, in the Garden of Eden, promised our first parents that “someone” would crush the serpents’ head, believers had been eagerly anticipating the birth of this child. Imagine, for generation after generation, people had been tenaciously clinging to the promise of a messiah, and suddenly, “Today is the day!” It’s like, “What?! Today? Yeah, today, as in Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise!” For those huddled shepherds, today was the day!

But now maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Ok. I realize that those words “today in the town of David” meant a lot for those Jewish shepherds, but do those words really mean that much for me, living over 2000 years later? Actually, they do. Those words, “today in the town of David,” mean first of all that God keeps his promises. 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God had promised that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Now God was making good on that promise. By having Jesus born in the town of David, God proved that when he says something is going to happen, it happens, whether it’s in Jesus’ life or ours. When God says, for example, that “in all things he works for the good of those who love him”, you can take that promise to the bank. It’s going to happen. When God promises, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you,” you can believe it. Even if God has to change world history to accomplish it—even if he has to use the decree of some pagan Roman Emperor to move Jesus’ mother to just the right town at just the right time, he is going to make it happen—because God keeps his promises.

But those words, “Today in the town of David” mean something more for you and me. They mean that God chose to carry out his plan for our salvation at a specific place and a specific time in world history. Isn’t that why St. Luke documents Jesus’ birth the way he does? During the reign of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, Joseph and Mary travelled up from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. These were all real places and real people at a real time in history. You can find Bethlehem on a map. You can read about Quirinius in secular history. The point is: your salvation and mine was not accomplished in a galaxy far, far away. The birth of Jesus was not some kind of fairy tale that happened “once upon a time.” No, our eternal God who is outside of time, cared enough about us leave his thrown in heaven to step into our world, take on human flesh and blood, be born as a Jewish baby of a Jewish mother in a Jewish town called Bethlehem.

Remember that the next time someone tells you that Christmas is all about the “spirit of giving” or that Christmas is the feeling of “peace on earth.” No, Christmas, first and foremost is not a feeling. It’s not a hope or a dream, it’s not chestnuts roasting on an open fire. No, rather, Christmas is the celebration of a historical event. It’s the celebration of the birth of God’s Son who was born in the town of David.

“Today in the town of David…a Savior has been born—which is really the most important announcement the angel makes. After telling the shepherds where and when the baby was born, the angel goes on to announce who the child is and even more importantly, what he

had come to do. Yes, Jesus the Savior is Born, not only born in the town of David, but more importantly,

  1. Born to Be Our Savior.

If you think about it, this is really the heart of the Christmas narrative, isn’t it? I mean, as wonderful as it is to know that Jesus was born of a virgin mother, or that angels announced his birth, or that a star led the Magi to worship him, the fact is, none of those things would mean anything if it weren’t for the fact that “Today…a Savior has been born to you.”

And yet, I wonder how many people these days just kind of gloss over that word, Savior. Every time I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special, where Linus gets up and recites the words of the Christmas gospel, I wonder to myself, “does that boy who is providing the voice for the cartoon character Linus—does he know and believe what he’s saying, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

For that matter, do you and I fully appreciate what is meant by that word, Savior? You notice that the angel didn’t announce the birth of a philosopher or a great teacher or a wonderful role model to follow. All those titles would imply that all we really needed was someone to tell us how to think better, or to show us how to live better lives. It would imply that we just need a little help, a little tweaking. But, my friends, that’s not what we need. It’s not like we’re standing in ankle deep water and just need a little help getting up on the shore. No, we’re in water way over our head. We are drowning in our sins. We need someone to jump in and save us! We need someone to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We need someone to live the perfect life that God demands, someone to bear the punishment that our sins deserve. That’s the only way we can be rescued from the horrible fate that awaited us. And that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. He has saved us. He was born to live and die to save us from our sins. In fact, isn’t that what Jesus’ name means? What did the angel say to Joseph? “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

And recognize, it’s not just “his people”, not just the Jews that Jesus came to save. No, the angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” literally for all the nations. In other words, the message of Jesus the Savior is for people of every language, every race, every culture. Yes, Jesus the Savior is born!

My friends, do you realize what that means for you and me today? It means that the war is over. You and I are now at peace with God. More importantly, God is at peace with us, for Jesus’ sake. What did the army of angels say from the skies over Bethlehem? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men (that is, peace to humans) on whom [God’s] favor rests.” In other words, because God sent his son to live and die in your place, you don’t have to worry how God feels about you. God has shown you his favor. God has proven his love for you. What does the Bible say? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” (John 3:16)

And really, it’s that peace with God that Jesus has brought us that in turn allows us to be at peace with the people around us. When we know that God has forgiven us for all the sins we’ve committed against him, it’s so much easier to let go of the sins that people have committed against us. Or to put it another way, peace this way (up) creates peace this way (across). Because Jesus has made peace between us and God, he empowers us to make peace with one another.

In fact, maybe that’s why you are here today. Maybe you’re here because you recognize that there are lots of times when your heart, your home, your life is not as peaceful as you’d like it to be. Maybe you’re dealing with all kinds of frustrations, and setbacks and worries. Maybe

you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, or some other kind of heart ache. Maybe what you really need is, well, some good news for a change.

Well, if that’s the case, then you’ve come to the right place. For here in God’s house, yes, here in God’s Word, on this day, God offers you the best news of all. It’s the angel’s announcement, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, [yes, a Savior has been born for you]; he is Christ the Lord.” May that angelic announcement put your heart at peace and fill your life with joy today and tomorrow and forever.   Amen.