Martin Luther once preached an entire sermon on just two words from the Christmas story– the words FOR YOU. These words appear in the angel’s words to the shepherds in Luke 2:11 in the old German translation. The NIV (below) reads ‘to you.’ The old, familiar King James Version reads, “unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” Other translations vary it even more, one saying “Your Savior has been born,” and another one says, “a Savior has been born for everyone.” They all communicate the same message; saying the same thing in different ways, but still true to the original text. My favorite is Luther’s: a Savior has been born, said the angel, FOR YOU.
The Christmas story, Luther said, is a nice story. A young couple, far from home and down on their luck, can’t find a room for the night, and have to stay in a barn. That is the very night that Mary goes into labor and gives birth to her first child, a son. But everything works out just fine, and soon they find that they are not alone, but shepherds arrive with the news that a sky full of angels had told them about this birth, and that this child was to be someone very special. That is indeed a nice story with a happy ending.
But Luther is quick to add that this is not only a nice story. The story of Hansel and Gretel is also a nice story. At first there are some tense moments with the wicked old woman threatening to bake and eat the two little children; but then it all works out, and, just like the Christmas story, it has a happy ending. However, Luther says, the Christmas story is also a true story. This is the first thing we need to remember.
C. S. Lewis was an expert on stories. He was a professor of Literature at Cambridge and Oxford, and part of his job was to teach about the stories in civilization’s greatest literature. He knew what made a story great, he knew how a good short story or a good novel should be structured, he knew about character development and dialog and styles of writing, and he knew about symbolism and hidden meanings. He was a recognized world authority on fictional stories. He was also a writer of stories; children’s stories, science fiction, and religious fiction. Today, over 50 years after his death, all Lewis’s works are still in print and selling very well, and his Narnia Chronicle series is being made into several movies. Lewis knew about stories and inventing stories and writing stories. Lewis did not become a Christian until he was in his thirties, and when he did, he said to a friend: “The thing I finally came to realize about the story of Jesus is that it is true.” From beginning to end, he said, it is not the sort of thing one would make up, nor is it told like a made up story. It is told like a story that really happened. Once he realized that, Lewis said, “I had to become a Christian, because there is no other true story like it in all of human history.” So said C. S. Lewis, whose writings convinced me of the truth of the story after two years of doubt and uncertainty. So also said Luther: not only is the Christmas story a nice story, it is a true story.
And yet, said Luther, that is still no big deal. But, he said, what IS a big deal about the Christmas story, and what makes it the most important true story of all time, is that it was all FOR YOU. God became a man, born as a little baby in those most humble circumstances, FOR YOU.
The Christmas story was just the beginning of the story of what God would do FOR YOU while he was on earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus would grow up, as children do, and go on to live a life and work a job just like anyone else. Then, at age 30 he would begin a three year ministry that would change the world. And then, most importantly of all, he would die on a cross, giving his life as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of all the sins ever committed in all the world. By that forgiveness, God offered to all who would believe in Jesus the gift of eternal life in his heavenly kingdom. Jesus’ birth would not only change the whole world for the time being, but it would, in the end, offer YOU the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life.
Luke 2:11 — Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
I Corinthians 11:23b-24 — The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Acts 3:19-20 — Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And fit us to heaven to live with you there.
—Away in a Manger, verse 3