Only the Gospel converts. Only the good news that Jesus loves sinners, of whom I am the worst – only that good news creates faith and strengthens faith. And on a night like Christmas Eve when we have more visitors and occasional members, that message must right forth. That doesn’t mean the Law shouldn’t be preached – we need to hear why the Gospel is so amazing, after all – but the Gospel must take center stage.
And really, isn’t that the center of Christmas? That baby is God! Here he is, stepped into his own creation, to this dirty, broken place, to be broken in our place. This Child will be stricken, smitten and afflicted. We will esteem him not. And yet, by his wounds are we healed!
So tell me this: For a preacher who revels in the Gospel, who marvels at the love of God for a broken sinner like me, why is it that my drafts for sermons on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are so law-heavy?
I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.
OK, yes I do. I am still a sinner. I still have this stupid, stubborn sinful nature dwelling in me that loves the Law – not as a Christian does, not as a way to say, “The Law of God is good!” but rather as a demonic voice whispering, “Give them what they deserve! Tell them how horrible they are! Let them despair!” – and to be clear, this sinful nature does not long for godly repentance, but godless loss of hope.
Usually this voice doesn’t whisper at me as I’m writing sermons. Maybe it’s habit? We’ve just finished Advent today (ok, technically Advent doesn’t wrap up until Christmas Eve, but my last Advent sermon of the year was this morning). Advent is all about repentance. It’s a somber time, as we prepare to meet Jesus and see just how much we desperately need him. So I’ve had law-heavy sermons for the last four Sundays. These were appropriate for the season but also didn’t leave the congregation despairing; each one revealed our need for a Savior, and each pointed to him for salvation.
But this is Christmas! This is the time to let the Gospel shine. Look! That baby! God in flesh, dwelling among us!
I suppose that for most of you reading this post, it’s really an academic thing. Yet, it’s so important to allow the Gospel to shine and not get in its way.
I really need to rewrite those sermons. I’ve got a few days yet. I’ve got time.
Barring emergencies that usually pop up this time of year, of course.
The crazy thing is, I’ve already done an outline for next Sunday. The text is the tail end of Luke 2, featuring Simeon and Anna exclaiming in joy over Jesus on his 8th day after birth. And that sermon is solid Gospel proclamation.
So yes, this is my sinful nature pushing me to become more law-heavy, but it’s the timing. My sinful nature knows that on Christmas Eve, we’re going to have guests who need to hear the Gospel. If I miss one service, if I mess up in one sermon, that’s the one to mess up.
The Gospel empowers me, not the Law.
The Gospel has transformed me, not the Law.
Why would I keep that back from the congregation?
Father, help me proclaim your Son, born to save sinners like me. Let me preach the Law and Gospel both faithfully. Let Gospel predominate. Use my mouth to speak your Word to people hungry to hear about their Savior. Forgive me for messing up. Forgive me my failures. Point me to your Son for my comfort – and point me so that I point to him.