The Story of Scripture: Hurray! Jesus is Here
Genesis 2:15-17, Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 28:1-10
It is a special day, one of the most cherished days on the church and world’s calendar, celebrated by hundreds of millions of people. It was a day that changed everything. The world was never the same because of the events that are celebrated. There is magic in the air centered around the joy and happiness people feel. The day inspires us to feel and act in a more caring and loving way. The spirit we feel is because of a miracle. And yes, the season also brings any grief we might feel to the surface, because the event brings us face to face with the solution to mortality. In the church, this day is so special that we take more than just one day to celebrate it. It is such a beautiful day because it reminds us of the reality that Jesus is here.
Of course, this special day I am talking about is…Christmas.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
Christmas? On Easter? What is going on?
When we mapped out our year long study of the Story of Scripture, God, in his great kindness, allowed our schedule of the end of the Hebrew Scriptures and the beginning of the Gospels to fall on today: Easter Sunday. How fantastic is that? For both Christmas and Easter have the same message for the bookends of birth and resurrection: Jesus is here!
Reviewing our yearlong story of Scripture, we remember one of our early readings. The story of the Garden of Eden gave humanity its destiny. This destiny was from God, and it was for our good. It contained promise, permission and one prohibition.
Promise. Work the Garden and take care of it.
Permission. You are free to eat of any tree in the garden.
Prohibition. Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Yet the people disobeyed the one command. And they got what they wanted. We can know. We can know good. We can know evil. Humanity brought upon itself blessing and curse. When we know evil, it separates people from their Holy God.
Relying on the destiny of humankind, given by God, as one of promise, permission and prohibition, we continued on through the story of Scripture. We heard of Abraham and Israel, Joseph and Moses, slavery in Egypt and Let my people go. We heard of wilderness wandering and law for the covenant community. What was Israel’s job? To be God’s people in the world, and eventually give birth to a Messiah.
As the story goes on, the people do not always follow God, they demand earthly leadership, and turn to kings. The kings often do not bring people closer to God. Eventually the people forsake God and turn to idols, and are judged by world empires Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And finally, during the Persian Empire, the people are allowed to return to their land. Through all the ups and downs, prophets guide the people. We looked at some of these prophets during Lent.
The last prophet in Hebrew Scripture was someone named Malachi. He tells that one is coming who will announce the coming of the Messiah. 400 years later, John the Baptist announces Jesus Christ and his public ministry.
We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. At just the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of being children of God. Because you are God’s children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, God has made you an heir
But before Jesus became a public minister of his Heavenly Father, there was that miracle: Birth, as a baby. The Messiah would surely come in triumph and military power. He came as a baby, weak and dependant.
Mary took care of him. Mary had him inside her, and grew him and gave birth to him, and cared for him and raised him. And Joseph partnered with Mary, at first skeptical of this holy miracle, announced by an angel, Joseph seeks to be honorable. But honor was staying with Mary, and raising this child, who had come from the heavens.
Mary and Joseph, this child…you should name him Jesus, because he is the savior! He will rescue the people from their sins.
Do you remember the prophet Isaiah: He said long ago, that the virgin would be with child and that child would be Immanuel. God is with us!
It all seemed like a dream to Joseph, because, quite frankly, it was. But dreams do come true. And this one did. Not in a comfortable home, but in a barn, for there was no room at the inn. The sheep and cows joined God’s chosen parents, in welcoming a little child. This little child would grow up to be Savior. But in the beginning, I imagine Mary and Joseph only had one thought when they looked into that baby’s eyes:
Hurray! Jesus is here.
Last Sunday we observed Palm Sunday, the story includes praise to the King, as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The story ended well.
No, he died. You didn’t hear. The whole city knows about it. He died. Jesus died.
That is what is great about stories. There is a point when challenge questions a hopeful outcome, when it is dark, when it doesn’t look good. Jesus had died. What did the disciples talk about when they were locked up in their rooms, hiding out of fear of Roman authorities? Did doubt seep in?
After the Sabbath, the day where rest was commanded, but also the day after Jesus had died, and there was so much to do, as soon as Mary and Mary were able, they went to look at the tomb.
What were they looking for?
An earthquake violently erupts. And Angel of the LORD comes down from heaven. The angel goes to the tomb and Rolls back the stone…and sits on it. Upon seeing this angel, whose appearance was like lightning and bright like snow, the guards charged with keeping the tomb shook, almost dying.
Mary, the angel says. Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He was crucified. But he is not here. He is not here in this gravesite. He has risen. Do you remember, that is what he said he was going to do! Go ahead, look inside. Look for yourselves. And after you do that, go quickly and tell those disciples (who aren’t here), he has risen from the dead. And he is going to Galilee. That is where you’ll get to see him.
And the angel said what the angel needed to say.
The women, they are so nervous, so filled with excitement and anxiety, they run. They run to get those disciples. And then Jesus met them.
Greetings, Jesus said.
There he was. There was Jesus. Right before the women. They fell down to worship. They held on. He was there. It was him.
And Jesus repeats the angel’s message: Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers, go to Galilee and we will see each other.
Hurray! Jesus is here.
The message of Christmas is the same message of Easter. Hurray! Jesus is here.
Christ is risen.