24. December 2016
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
How appropriate that the Bread of Life should be born for us in Bethlehem, which means the House of Bread! The One who created our hungers generously satisfies them forever with pure joy. Just as the Lord ordained from before the foundation of the world, so tonight the galaxies of heaven and the powers of the earth converge on this little spot of Bethlehem.
This does more than take our breath away; it breathes new life into us. God is faithful to His promise in making complete what Moses, patriarchs, and prophets hoped. The Lord is so sure and so courteous, that the invitation, “Fear not,” opens our ears to hear the good news about His birth for us.
The invitation of Christmas is the invitation to all of hungry humanity, riddled with wild cravings of our lives, to come to the House of Bread in order to feast forever on that Bread of Life. In Christ, we have the union of richest majesty of God and poorest lowliness of humanity. God in Christ Jesus knows our need as intimately as the baby Jesus knew was fed by His mother’s breast. The intention of the Living Giver is that we shall live with him as long as he lives.
Does anything in human existence illustrate so dramatically, as does hunger, that we are creatures of dependence and exchange? We have hunger for food, for friendship, for knowledge or power, for love or life. We depend on others to feed this hunger. Starvation—literally or metaphorically understood—is the death of not being nurtured by another. If you try to living only by oneself, you, a dependent, human creature dies.
Not all who hunger eat and live. Hunger does not create that which satisfies it, even though the hunger may testify that there is something designed to satisfy the designed desire. Hunger alone is without purpose and only leads to death. Our hunger is meant to lead us to true satisfaction.
In the desires we know, a sign is given to the hidden presence of the One “who opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” God the Giver is also Designer and Implanter of the hunger. When he creates and sustains the exchange between hunger and satisfaction, he hints at the mystery of the reality He is and that He makes.
All the great issues of life and death are linked to eating and drinking. This simplest action is the pattern or parable of the deepest exchange of our Creator God and His creatures. When our need becomes unbuckled from the purpose and the ruling lordship of the Creator, our desires become greed, the craving to consume becomes cannibalism, our lives full of fear and anger.
Hunger is a word that sums up every human need. Hunger points to the human longing for life by the union with the thing desired. But there is a problem: our hunger is never fully satisfied. The every feeding of our unbuckled hungers suggests further and future hungers. We’re only satisfied until the next meal. For humanity, satisfaction is the warning of our persistent dissatisfaction.
But Christmas is for joy not melancholia. Even the very depression many feel at Christmas time is a signal of trying to satisfy our hunger and cravings with the wrong sort of bread. We need Bread from Heaven, the Word, “Fear not.”
The invitation of Christmas is from him who gives the Bread of Life to live forever in the House of Bread. Our desires are satisfied in him who was born for us. In Christ Jesus is the union of the perfect exchange: the majestic and generous God joined to the perfect and satisfied man.
Our restless and fearful hungers are fed with the life giving Bread of the perfect rest. Our creaturely hungers are increased and then exchanged with Christ’s perfect satisfaction. In Jesus, death and life are exchanged. Christ knows every hunger and thirst of our human existence. He knows our temptations, our sin, our death. He came in the flesh to suffer them for us and to satisfy our hunger by His innocent suffering and death. He satisfies our hungry hearts in the way only the giving God can.
This holy house is tonight your Bethlehem, your House of Bread. The altar-manger at which we feed on the Bread of Life gives us forgiveness, life and salvation, not for the hunger of our bellies, but to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness—for restoration, recreation, holiness.
The Christmas invitation to come to Bethlehem is issued to a fearful world that is starving in many dimensions. This world and we its creatures tries to satisfy its emptiness with a steady stream of melancholia and pursuits of the flesh. Christmas is not an invitation to nostalgia or sentimental enthusiasms about a quiet, strange, or even fascinating small town gathering.
Christmas is, rather, the invitation extended to the poorest and hungriest of us creatures to nurture ourselves on the passion and power, the grace and glory of the highest Majesty, who in the Christ Child joined to us victims of our endless hungers to be our Bread of Life and joy forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Revised from a sermon by Rev. Dr. Kenneth F. Korby