God’s Great Reversals
Text: Various, Luke 2:1-20
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We always know that it’s a special occasion, or that something great is happening, when we do things out of the usual order. When we put on clothes that are outside of our usual daily wardrobe, it’s because there’s an event worth the effort. When we spend extra time making a more elaborate meal than our regular fare, it’s because we have special guests. When we stay out late instead of being in our homes or beds, like tonight or Easter Vigil, it’s because there’s something happening that’s worth seeing in person.
And what we see tonight is definitely worth it. Yes, we have especially wonderful music and singing that deserves to be heard with the ears that God gave us instead of over cold, tinny computer speakers. And yes, we have that unique glow of the light that only seems to be spotted in sanctuaries around the world on Christmas Eve—that combination of Christmas tree lights, luminarias, and candles. But the real thing we’ve come to see, the real thing that’s worth getting off the couch and out the door to witness, is the culmination of centuries of prophecy. It’s the pinnacle of all that God has been doing in the world ever since humanity needed rescuing, ever since our fall into sin.
Indeed, we would be making a mistake if we thought that God had been doing things one way for millennia, only to turn around and do something entirely different in Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus. No, for the eyes and ears trained in God’s Word, made discerning and wise by the Scriptures, we can see that what happened in a manger the first Christmas was the latest and greatest chapter in the history of God saving His people time and time again through the same marvelous ways; ways that consistently turn the world upside down.
For instance, consider what happened in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s fall. When we read the words of the curse spoken to the woman, it was that childbirth would be painful, even dangerous. And yet, the Lord would take that pain, that curse, and turn it into something good and marvelous: “I will put enmity between you and the woman,” the Lord told the tempter, “and between your offspring and her offspring.” It would be the offspring, the one born under the curse, under the Law, who would redeem those under the Law: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
And so it would continue, this great reversal of the Lord. It seems He delights in taking something and flipping it on its head, turning misfortune into joy, pain into salvation, tears into laughter. He even takes darkness and turns it into light, as we’ve heard: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” the prophet declared, “those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Or that the Lord would take something dead and make it alive: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Or that a small, unimportant village would become the very center of the universe: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth one who is to be the ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
So it is tonight that we see a meek virgin, a girl of no social standing, no status or clout, who now gives birth to the almighty Son of God. We see eternity itself wrapped in swaddling cloths. We see God in mortal flesh. We watch shepherds—not sages, not noblemen or politicians—mud-stained working men in the fields, who are honored by God beyond imagination as they become the first witnesses to His arriving on earth in human flesh, as He had always planned, the latest and greatest chapter in how He takes everything and reverses it in the best imaginable way.
What is it that you have come tonight to have God reverse? Surely it must be something if you’ve broken your usual routine to be here. You know that whenever God arrives, He turns everything upside down. Have you come because you’re tired of all the bad news in the world and you want some good news, some Gospel? Have you come because you’re exhausted and you need rest and refreshment that even a comfortable bed can’t provide? Have you come because you’re confused and need clarity? You’re in darkness and need light? You’re worried and anxious and need certainty? Have you come because you feel guilty because of what you’ve done or not done, or because you feel shame because of what was done to you, and you just want to be clean again? Are you here because you’ve been wandering, missing, absent, and now you want to be present again? Are you looking for peace in your conflict, hope in your tragedy, joy in your sadness?
God has entered the world, and that means that He has entered your life, at Christmas. When His
Word, when the good news of what He has done for you, takes hold of you; when He comes into your life in His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, it changes things. It reverses them. It sets them right. Tonight is the continuation of what God has been doing from the start—taking something poor, lowly, broken, dark, weak, sad; and making them rich, glorious, whole, light, strong, and joyful. He sets the world right when He arrives at Christmas. He sets you right when He arrives in your life.
This night is the start of something great. It’s the continuation of what God has been doing. And it will continue still. It will continue with the rest of this Christmas season, which in truth is only just now beginning. It will continue with Epiphany, with Lent, with Holy Week and Good Friday. It’s then that we’ll see the greatest reversal as the holy Son of God becomes sin for us, the righteous Lord dies in the place of us unrighteous. And this goes right into Easter, when death is turned to life that can never die. But it starts tonight. The Lord invites you see Him in Bethlehem, to go with Him to all the places He will set things right, where He will reverse the world to what it was always meant to be. He invites you to see how He does this for you. In the name of Jesus, who is God with us. Amen.