Save His People from Their SinsĒ
ďAnd she will bring forth a
Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from
their sins.Ē (Matthew 1:21)
Should God give me a long life,
these are the days I will remember when I am old.
To gather together with my wife and children for a Christmas
celebration as a family is a precious thing.
You canít buy it, package it, or even prolong it, except in
your heart. Christmas
becomes filled with things that we treasure in our hearts.
I cannot be a boy again, but I
can remember. I remember
that Christmastime in St. Louis when for several days before Christmas
Eve I kept looking under the tree for my presents and found hardly any
and I was so disappointed. As
the family was opening the presents on Christmas Eve I sat, just a
little dejected, off to the side of the room.
Then my father said, ďRolf, I have a present for you that
wouldnít fit under the tree.Ē He
went out of the room and returned with a bike.
It was a twenty-four-inch Schwinn Racer, black, with white
stripes. I didnít realize
until years later that my father enjoyed that moment as much as I did.
Giving gifts to and receiving
gifts from the ones we love is a wonderful tradition.
The joy of giving and receiving is something we ponder in our
hearts and it brings us joy years later.
I still remember how I felt that night.
But whatever happened to that bike?
Itís long gone. And my father is gone. He
once told me that after his father died a day never went by that he
didnít think of him. Since
my dad died, not a day has gone by that I havenít thought of him.
All of us cherish our memories,
but as we gather together this evening as Christís church in this
place, we find our comfort in something much more precious than
memories. We are here to
take to heart what Mary took to heart when she gave birth to Jesus in
Bethlehem so long ago. The
birth of Jesus is an event that, while it happened in time and space and
cannot be repeated, nevertheless lives on and on and is inextricably
woven into the very fabric of our lives.
Why is that? Because He was born to save His people from their sins.
The need for a Savior from sin
is not self-evident. We do
not by nature understand sin. We
do have a conscience. But
even our consciences are corrupted by sin.
It is easy for us to justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to
others. It isnít hard to
find sin out there in the world or in the people who cause us grief.
It is hard to see the sin within our own hearts.
While the conscience can feel guilt, we learn from an early age
to salve our conscience with all sorts of excuses, rationalizations,
explanations, and outright lies. We are members of the no-fault generation in which nobody is
guilty but everybody is a victim of some kind of systemic
discrimination. The sense
of sin has been so thoroughly attacked and undermined that the
conscience of our nation is callused and insensitive.
This influences Christians.
When the popular culture defines away sin, even Godís people
are effected by it. One of
the names of the Savior given by God through Isaiah is Counselor.
But nowadays Christians spend their time and money on counselors
who donít even believe in sin or the need for a Savior from it. What kind of counsel can come from people who donít know
the fundamental teaching of Godís word and the fundamental needs of
You need a Savior from sin!
It doesnít matter what you think your personal problems are or
what you think may be the solution to whatever ails you.
It doesnít matter what you and I think about our troubles,
their cause, and their termination.
It matters what God thinks and what God says.
God says we are sinners who have, by our sin, brought upon
ourselves every kind of misery, unhappiness, conflict, and trouble of
body and soul. God says
that what ails us is not out there persecuting us, but inside our own
hearts setting ourselves above others, above Godís law, above God
We are our own worst enemies
because we do precisely those things that do not bring joy, happiness,
contentment, and security, but that cause sorrow, insecurity, and a deep
dissatisfaction. We cannot
find peace within because within each of us is the source of all
conflict in the world. The
violence, terror, deceit, dishonesty, and strife that haunts people all
over the world is all due to the same sin that infests the hearts, the
minds, and the souls of every single human being born into this world.
Except for the heart, the mind, and the soul of the Virgin born Son of God, Jesus Christ the Savior. His name is Jesus because He is the Lord God who has come to save His people.
For Jesus to save us from our
sins required Jesus to save us from that which permeates our very being.
He had to become one of us.
He, the eternal Son of the Father, had to become a man.
If we had no need for a Savior,
we would have no need for Christís birth. The purpose of His birth was to save His people from their
sins. To save means to
rescue or deliver. Our sins
keep us away from the enjoyment of Godís love.
Our sins cut us off from life.
Our sins drag us down to hell.
When the angel said that Jesus would save His people from their
sins, he was saying that sinners need to be saved from their sins.
Note the preposition here. Jesus
saves His people from their sins. He
doesnít save their sins. He
doesnít save them in their sins.
He doesnít save them for their sins.
He saves them from their sins.
That is to say, He takes their sins from them.
How does He do it?
This is the most important question we could ask.
We need to know the answer.
How does Jesus save His people from their sins?
He takes those sins upon Himself.
When our many sins of thought, word, and deed are reckoned to us,
we stand condemned and powerless to do anything about it.
But the almighty God is not powerless, though He appeared in
weakness and humility. He
covered up His almighty power by coming into this world in a humble
fashion. But His coming was
for war. His birth was the
beginning of the fulfillment of Godís promise that the Seed of the
woman would crush the head of the serpent.
The innocent Child grows to be a
Man. No sin ever touches
His soul. He is pure and
holy. He never has any need
to repent of any sin. This
holy life of Jesus then goes to battle against all the evil in the
world. In order to rescue
us from damnation in eternal hell Ė which was the due penalty of our
sins Ė Jesus confronted all of our sins. He set His innocence against our guilt. He, whose heart, mind, and soul were free from any taint of
sin, took upon Himself, into His heart, His mind, and His soul, all of
our sin. Every act of evil,
every desire to do evil, all the guilt of all the sin of all the people
of the world was imputed to Him, reckoned to Him, assigned to Him.
His innocence destroyed our sin.
Jesus does not save us from our sins by what He does in us.
Jesus saved us from our sins by what He did in Himself.
The conflict between good and evil and the triumph of good over
evil took place when the innocent, virgin born Son of God confronted in
Himself all of the evil of all mankind that was reckoned to Him. He has already saved His people from their sins.
And here are His people.
Here we are: sinners all. Underneath
the joy of the season are the depressing and familiar effects of sin.
We remember arguments in which we spoke unkindly.
We remember promises that we broke.
We remember when we failed in our duty and we cannot set aside
what we remember except perhaps for a while.
Then we hope that our good memories will somehow outweigh our bad
memories as we try to make ourselves happy.
How can it be that Jesus has saved us from our sins when we keep
on sinning and our sins keep on bringing us the same old troubles and
We need to stop and consider
Godís word to us and to assign to Godís word more trustworthiness
than our feelings. What
could anyone have discerned in looking at the Christ Child lying in a
manger? Who could have seen
his salvation in that little baby?
Simeon did. But he
saw in the Christ Child his salvation because he went by Godís word.
This is what we need to learn how to do.
We need to learn how to tell our hearts, our consciences, and our
feelings that the truth on which we depend is not dependent upon us.
The truth that saves us from our sins is Jesus Christ Himself.
He did all of the doing that needs to be done.
He did all of the fighting that needs to be fought.
He did all the saving necessary for our salvation.
This evening we lay claim to it and we embrace it as Godís own
We look to the Child in
the manger and see His innocence shining forth as a pure ray of
uncreated light. Then we
witness the confrontation by which we were delivered from all misery.
We see the innocence of the God-man confront and destroy all the
sin we have done. The
devilís head was crushed when Jesusí innocence bore our sins.
No more can the father of lies and murderer of souls accuse
Godís people. Jesus has
saved them from their sins. Thatís
the end of all accusation, death, hell, and sorrow.
There is always a touch of
bitterness with the sweet when we reminisce about Christmases past.
The love of that lost loved one remains so precious in our
hearts, but there inside those same hearts is the unresolved guilt and
sorrow we feel for what we have done wrong. So this evening we set aside for a moment all of the memories
of past Christmases and take to heart this simple truth: Jesus has saved
us from our sins.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus