Today is Christmas. All the shopping and wrapping, all the decorating and preparing, all the card-writing and errand-running has led up to today. In the church, all the Advent hymns, and wreaths, all the mid-week services, all our focus and talk and attention has been leading up to today. The day of Christ's birth, or, at least, the day we celebrate it.
When I was a child and I wasn't doing something as quickly as my parents wanted, I would sometimes hear the sarcastic reminder, “yeah, and Christmas is coming too!” (which worked especially well in January). But today Christmas is here, it's the day we've all been waiting for.
Today – the word, “today” - is also a key word in the Christmas Gospel. It's a word the angels used to announce the news to the shepherds.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
The Greek word for “today” - “sameron” occurs throughout Luke's Gospel. “Today” Salvation has come to your house, Zaccheus. “Today you will be with me in paradise”. But here is the first instance, in the angelic announcement of Christmas.
There had been many previous announcements. The annunciation to Mary. The dream message to Joseph. The prophets are filled with announcements of the coming Messiah – the Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God. The Immanuel born to the virgin. And we have spent this month-long Advent season rehearsing the promises of the Savior who had long been foretold.
But now, for those shepherds, today is the big day. The day it all comes to fulfillment. The day of Christ's birth.
No, God's salvation isn't sometime, somewhere out there, somehow undefined and unsure. In Christ, in Bethlehem, in the mangers, in swaddling clothes, today, he is born, said the angels. It's as real as it gets.
God always works in time and space for us. It was he who created time, who made the days and cycles of our time, who set the moon and stars in the heavens as signs of time's passage. Who designed the rotation of morning and evening, so that each day begins anew. Who established one special day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest.
There was that day you were baptized, which you probably don't remember. That was a special day. There was the day you were confirmed, which you probably DO remember. Or maybe there are other special, important, momentous days you remember – your wedding day, the birth of a child, a graduation or some other event.
But today, today, is Christmas. It marks that one day, the day in which God's many promises to send a savior came true. He remembered. He came through. Christ the Savior is born.
Today was only necessary because of that dark day in the garden. That day not so long after the first days, when Adam and Eve disobeyed. A truly fateful day which would have ramifications for all other days. But on that same day, God in mercy made a promise, that the serpent's head would be crushed by the seed of the woman. And now, today, Christmas brings that to fruition. Now the offspring of the virgin sets foot on earth – a very human foot, but also divine.
Today he comes for you, too. We mark the first Christmas every year with a special day (even though it probably wasn't December 25th). We remember this day because the Christ-child is born for us, too. Today is our day of good news and great joy- as it is for all people. In the town of David a Savior has been born – to us!
Today. A God who comes in time, to save us who live day to day in sin, and whose days on earth are numbered because of it. Death will come one day. Sometimes the doctors can tell us, roughly, how many days we have left. Sometimes they can even say, “today is your last day”. But what we all know for sure is that one day, sin will come home to roost and bring its wages of death to our body. (Unless Christ comes first, and we see that day.)
But today, death has met its match in the new life of a baby born to die. For as Christmas is a special day, it too points to another day, a Friday. Good Friday, when day turned to night as our Lord suffered. That day when God poured all his wrath and judgment on his Son. That dark day which dealt with all the darkness beginning at Eden and all the shadows that follow.
Oh, but there's one more today worth mentioning – the new day that dawns that Sunday. Easter is never far from Christmas either. Separated by the calendar, but part and parcel of the same purpose. That day, the Lord's day. Just as the first day of creation was a Sunday, so the New Creation is ushered in a Sunday, with the re-birth into life of the Light of the World. Yes, today is Christmas, in which the dark night of Bethlehem breaks in the glorious dawn of celebration. But for us any day with Christ is a new day, in which the light of his love and grace breaks into our dreary sinful existence. Today.
Each day, we remember our baptism, and the Old Adam drowns and the New Adam arises. Today, our sins are forgiven. Today, new life is yours in Christ. Today, it's Christmas, and the best gift isn't under the tree. But he did die on one, only to rise again. Today, it's the day of his birth, and every day he gives you new birth. Today, he has come and is present for you always – even to the ends of the earth. Today, a Savior has been born to us, he is Christ the Lord!