Dec 25, 2018 – The Manger and the Basket

Dec 25, 2018 – The Manger and the Basket

This morning I’m thinking about Moses. Yes Moses, you know – the Old Testament guy who wrote the first 5 books of the bible? Let me tell you why I’m thinking of him on Christmas morning. It’s because of the manger in which Christ was laid after He was born that we celebrate today. That manger of Jesus reminds me of the basket of Moses.

Remember the story? At the time Moses was born in Egypt, pharaoh was killing all the male infants of the Hebrews. Moses’ mother, to protect him, sent him off down the Nile in a basket and he floated into the life of an Egyptian woman. And not just any Egyptian, but the daughter of pharaoh, the man who’d ordered the killing of the Hebrew infants.

Now in just the birth and the basket we see many parallels to Moses and Jesus. The earthly father of Jesus and the daughter of pharaoh were neither of these infants’ natural parents and yet both did their tasks of parenting with God’s guidance. Both raised these sons in an admirable fashion and gave them the love, protection and care that they needed to become the people God planned for them to be. And both parents faced adversity and tyrannical leaders.

For pharaoh’s daughter, Hatshepsut, she was under the influence and control of the man who chose to put to death all the Hebrew babies… except the one she saved. And for Joseph, the husband of Jesus’ mother Mary, he protected this Holy Infant, born today, by taking Him, of all places, into that same Egypt where Moses was raised. Joseph did this to keep Jesus from Herod putting Him to death along with all the other baby boys in Bethlehem, in Herod’s attempt to slaughter this very Infant King.

So while Hatshepsut and Joseph each did admirable jobs of parenting it was under less than comfortable or ideal circumstances. And then there’s the basket and the manger themselves. Neither was meant for the purpose they were put to use for. Both were meant for low and menial tasks, things that certainly we wouldn’t associate with anything special or holy. And yet through the hand of God, both were transformed from common to sacred… from rude to royal. God choose to use what was ordinary to give shelter and protection to these extraordinarily sent individuals.

There is much, much more that Moses and Jesus have in common that we simply don’t have the time to review this glad morning. But I’d like to point out that from just a few verses beyond the gospel lesson today, John writes of one more parallel that’s important. In verse 17 he writes, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Both Moses and Jesus gave us what God knew we needed and at the right times we needed them. The law of God that came through Moses showed us the mind and will of God. That law put structure and form to the holiness of God in a way that we could grasp. And that form taught us… that we could not accomplish that holiness on our own.

St. Paul writes in Galatians 3, “24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” The law, then, gave us a firm understanding of how perfect, just, and righteous God is. And that understanding leads us, as Paul pointed out, to our need of Christ, our savior. He would be the truth of God for us and also grant to us the mercy that we needed in order to have the holiness required of us to have a restored relationship with God.

The law Moses gave us helped us to understand that, in our breaking the law of God, we broke our relationship with God. Jesus, on this holy day, came not to eliminate the law but to fulfill its demands. And that fulfillment is then given to us by grace through faith alone.

As John this morning points out, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The truth is that God alone could fulfill the needs of the holy law that was given through Moses. And the grace that grants us that holiness, comes through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Before I close this morning  let’s go back to that manger and basket and point out that the manger and the basket remind me of us; of you and I. As I said, these were things that were common and ordinary. By God’s grace they were transformed into extraordinary vessels that carried God’s Law and Gospel into this world. By His grace to us, that is what He transforms us into also, vessels of His Law and Gospel in this world. In Christ coming to us, that we celebrate this morning, we rejoice that He has made of us something extraordinary. He, and He alone, has come to bring us the truth, that God’s grace transforms us!

When we come to take communion today, remember that His Word and sacrament transforms us. At the manger this morning, the Christ of God comes… to us and we rejoice that we are not left unchanged by His coming. Be glad this Christmas Day for the manger, the basket and for God’s grace come to you. In the name of our Infant King, Jesus, amen.

[Sermon #995 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO]

Old Testament Reading                                        Isaiah 52:7-10

7 How beautiful on the mountains  are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

 New Testament Reading                                      Hebrews 1:1-6

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?  Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Holy Gospel                                                               John 1:1-14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.