Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 25, 2011

Sermon on 1 John 4:7-11 (Christmas Eve)

God’s Christmas Truce

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

December 24, 1914.  The first Christmas of World War I dawned.  Along the dreaded Western Front the armies of the Allies and the Central Powers dug deeply into their trenches to fight the war they thought would be done by now, but which lasted until 1919.

But that first Christmas, something incredible happened.  Tentatively, at first, but then more and more boldly, soldiers from both sides, especially the Germans and British, began communicating with each other.  The two sides exchanged gifts – chocolates, cigarettes, cakes, buttons.  Some even played impromptu games of soccer (reportedly, the Germans won one of those games 3-2).

In other words, the two sides called a truce.  They suspended fighting to celebrate Christmas together.  But, when Christmas ended, you can imagine what started again.  The killing.  The soldiers who sang, smoke, and played together on December 25 shot each other on December 26.  And for the next five years, until finally all sides put an end to the war that claimed 15 million lives across Europe.

But that’s the nature of a truce, isn’t it?  Truces are temporary.  They suspend the fighting.  They don’t end the fighting.  That happens a lot during Christmas, doesn’t it?  And not just on the Western Front.  Arguing couples agree to be civil today – “for the family” or “for the kids” or “because it’s Christmas.”  People put aside their differences and sit down to open gifts or carve turkeys.  People feel like this is the meaning of Christmas – peace on earth, good will to men, today.  In other words, a truce.  Because that spirit doesn’t last all year long, does it?  Those temporary lulls in the bitterness, rage, and anger are all too transitory.

But did you listen to John?  He said, Dear friends, let us love one another (1 John 4:7a, HCSB).  He didn’t reserve this love to Christmas Eve or any other holiday, season, festival, or truce moment.  He just said, “Love one another.”  Always.  Kind of like Jesus, when He told that parable about the servant forgiven of his massive debt.  It wasn’t enough that the man thanked the king, he was now supposed to live the rest of his life in that same way – not demanding full repayment of all debts, but rather forgiving debts as he had been forgiven.  And when he didn’t, his formerly forgiving king threw him into jail.

John doesn’t tell a parable.  He just tells it like it is.  Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…. God’s love was revealed among us in this way:  God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this:  not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another (1 John 4:7, 9-11, HCSB).  This is love.  This is God’s Christmas truce: the birth of His Son.  Only He didn’t resume shooting after the Baby was born.  God didn’t reserve His love for certain times, places, or people.  He sent His Son into the world to save the world by dying for the world.  While we were still sinners.

Christmas reveals the successful delivery of the package God sent:  His Son, the Word made flesh, God with us.  And it’s signed, “Love, God.”  Better than cigarettes, chocolates, and cakes for sure, because God sent us life.  He sent us forgiveness.  The end of the war between us and Him.  A war we could never win.  A war He won for us.

This love from God flows into our hearts by faith, and flows out of our hearts by our words and deeds.  Words and deeds that are a pale reflection of the words and deeds of God on this most holy night:  a Savior born, peace passed out.  Beloved, God loved us in this way.  Amen.

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