Christmas Eve Sermon, 2021

Children—Can someone tell me what the 24th letter of the English alphabet is?

Does anyone know?

It’s X.

What a strange question, right?

Here’s another:

Have you ever seen the symbol æ before?

Æ is a symbol or letter used in the International Phonetic Alphabet designating the sound between ă and ĕ.

Between ă and ĕ is æ, and the letter used to write that sound is called an æ. It looks like an a and an e smashed together.

And now you know.

So that’s two strange questions.

Here’s a third:

Do you know anything about the Lockheed A-12 airplane?

The Lockheed A-12 was a high altitude reconnaissance plane produced in the early 1960’s and flown in the late 1960’s.

The “A” stands for Archangel, which I think is a cool name for a plane, and was the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird—which happens to be my favorite plane.

So that’s three strange questions.

But does anyone know what these have in common? The twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet, the phonetic symbol æ, and the Lockheed A-12?

Combined—Did you know?—that’s the name of Elon Musk’s one year old son. X Æ A-12.

That might seem a strange name to us, but it’s not a name without meaning.

The X is intended to stand for the unknown, a variable of infinite possibilities.

Æ, according to the Grimes, the mother, is shorthand for Artificial Intelligence and is, elsewhere, understood to mean love.

Now, I’ve never heard that.

I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s just agree that there was intent behind the choice, okay?

And A-12 was chosen because it was an awesome plane.

So that’s his name—X Æ A-12—and that’s why.

Now, I took the time to tell you all that, because in each of the lessons this evening, God is given a name or is at least called something other than God.

Names in the Bible always mean something important.

Simon has to do with one who hears the Word of God, and Peter means rock.

So when Simon hears the Word of God, believes it, and confesses Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus calls Simon Peter, because of his rock-solid confession of the Truth.

On Christ the solid rock we stand, right?

All other earth is sinking sand.

Names in the Bible always mean something important.

So, this evening, thus says the Lord through St. John: “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

You can talk about God’s knowledge.

You can talk about God’s power.

You can talk about God’s immutability, His changelessness.

But if God is not a God of love—if God is not Love—there is, then, for us all only terror.

God’s knowledge apart from His love is a terror to the conscience, because He knows.

He knows what you said when the door was closed and what you thought when you faked that smile.

He knows what you did, what you do, what you’ve done.

And if God knows but does not love you, His knowledge is not good news.

But “God is love,” and His love is poured out for us, that we would not be consumed.

In love, His knowledge is put to use to help us.

To bring back the stray, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak.

In love, His knowledge and power and immutability are spent for us, for our good.

But remember—love is not a feeling, an emotion, an idea.

Love is action.

That “God is love” means that God must act, must do, must be here with us.

And this evening, thus says the Lord through Isaiah:

“The Lord himself [gives] you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Which means “God With Us” (cf. Matthew 1:23).

The one follows the other: God is Love. God with us.

It can’t be otherwise.

God can’t love us and leave us alone.

He can’t love us and fail to act.

Love is action.

Thus says the Lord: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).It doesn’t say: “Husbands, love your wives, and nod ‘Yes’ occasionally.”

Thus says the Lord: “For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son…” (cf. John 3:16).It doesn’t say He might or He will or He wants to but that He did.

Thus says the Lord: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“Jesus loves me! He who died / Heaven’s gates to open wide. / He has washed away my sin…” (LSB 588:2).

Not might. Not will. Not wants to.

That God is love means that He must come to us and act—and He does.

And how does God act when He comes to us and loves us to the end?

God becomes Man to save Man.

Immanuel, which means God With Us.

And Jesus, which means God Saves.

This evening, thus says the Lord through St. Matthew: “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (cf. Matthew 1:21).

It shocked some of the children last Christmas Eve when I said that Jesus is not the reason for the season—but rather, you are.

I meant it then.

And I mean it now.

But understand me rightly.

Jesus wasn’t born for His own sake.

He wasn’t handed over into death because He lacked.

God is love.

And that Love is shown in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

God, in His love, came to live with us, and for our sake, because we lacked, He loved us to the end—to cross and death and empty tomb.

That’s the reason for the season.

That’s why it’s worth it to know what the names mean.

So that we—as Simon—would hear the Word, believe and confess it, and rejoice—as Peter—in the rock-solid and certain salvation of our King and God and Sacrifice.

Alleluia!

Worship Him—God Most High!

Merry Christmas!

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Christmas Eve Divine Service, 2021
Matthew 1:18-25; Isaiah 7:10-14; 1 John 4:7-16
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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