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Do You Hear What I Hear?

December 25th 2010

The shepherds glorified and praised God for what they had heard and seen. Christmas is about hearing and seeing. What do you hear in the jingle of bells? In the Christmas music that fills the air? What do you see in the Christmas tree? The lights? The ornaments? The gifts? Christmas is all about hearing and seeing.

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Christmas Eve – Luke 2:20 – “Do You Hear and See What I Hear and See?” – 11pm, 12/24/10

Our text for this evening comes from verse 20 of the Christmas Gospel. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Lk 2:20).

Christmas is a feast for the eyes and the ears... What do you see? What do you hear?

The shepherds glorified and praised God for what they had heard and seen. Hearing and seeing are at the heart of Christmas. For instance, what do you hear in the sounds of the season? What do you hear in the jingle of bells? In the Christmas music that fills the air? What do you see in the Christmas tree? The lights? The ornaments? The gifts? Christmas is all about hearing and seeing. That thought reminds me of the 1960s Christmas carol entitled Do You Hear What I Hear. I would invite you to listen to the words of that song this evening and ponder the question of what you see and hear this Christmas.

Soloist sings: "Do You Hear What I Hear"

For the shepherds, on that Christmas night long ago, it was all about hearing and seeing. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.... ‘I bring you good news of great joy .... unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ .... the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us’” (Lk 2:9-11,15).

What they heard and saw was much more than and angel’s proclamation of a birth and a newborn baby lying in a manger. In the Greek language there are two words for “to see.” The first is simply to see the things around you – the tree, lights, candles, gifts. The second, which is the word used in our text, means to see deeply – to perceive beyond what the eyes see.

This is how the shepherds heard and saw. They heard a Good News message from God Himself proclaiming that the long awaited Savior had been born – He who is Christ the Lord. They saw with eyes of faith that newborn Savior who would save God’s people from their sin.

The famous sculptor, Michelangelo, when he was in Florence, Italy, saw an enormous block of granite that no one knew what to do with. Michelangelo, however, did not simply see a block of granite. With his eyes, he perceived what would be one of his greatest and most famous works – a statue of David.

Earlier, I asked you to ponder the question of what you hear and see this Christmas. How would you answer that? Do you hear and see Christmas like the world outside the Christian church does? Do you simply see it as one of the more fun and spectacular holidays to celebrate? Are the decorations, gift giving, feasting and even attending church on Christmas Eve simply part of what makes the holiday special? Or do you hear and see something more?

  • So, what do you see as you look into the manger? Some quaint family whose story is told at this time of year? Or do you see a newborn baby covered in birth blood who would grow up to shed His blood on a cross.
  • What do you hear in the message of the angels? Just another story that might be exciting for a while but no lasting benefit? Or do you hear the Good News that a Savior has been born for you, filling you with great joy?
  • What do you see as you look at the Christmas tree with all its lights? Do you see the mess it will make when you haul it to the curb or the time it takes to put it back in the box? Or do you see a symbol of the eternal life, a symbol pointing to heaven, a symbol of Jesus the Light of the World.
  • What do you hear as you listen to familiar Christmas carols? Do you hear background music to shop to? Or do you hear the Good News proclamation in song of a Savior born for us.
  • What do you see and hear as you gather for Christmas worship? Are you simply fulfilling your Christmas duty to God or fulfilling a family tradition by sitting through the longest service of the year? Or do you hear God’s Word – a message of Law calling sinful people to repentance and a message of Gospel assuring you of His grace and forgiveness?

What we see and hear at Christmas must be much different than what the world sees and hears or Christmas is meaningless. Not only is Christmas at stake but so is eternity. The sights and sounds of Christmas – the songs, decorations, lights, and presents – all point to Jesus – Christ the Lord – God made flesh – born to save us from our sins. If He were not born, we would be dead in our sins.

The third verse of the song we heard asks: “Do you know what I know?” Do you? Do you know about the Christ child? If you do then heaven is God’s gift to you this Christmas. In fact, it is a gift that makes a difference in our daily lives.

  • What do you see when sin entangles your life? See the loving arms of a Savior stretched out on a cross offering free forgiveness.
  • What do you see when it seems no one loves you? See a Father’s eternal love wrapped in swaddling cloths and laying in a manger.
  • What do you see when everything is going wrong and life’s pressures are mounting against us? See a Savior who tells us, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33) – a Savior who says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
  • What do you see when the darkness of the grave covers over a loved one? See Christ Jesus, the Light of the world, risen from the dead, “who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2Tim 1:10).

God’s gift to you this Christmas is given again and again in Word and Sacrament.

  • What do you hear when the pastor declares, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins?” Do you hear with ears of faith that the forgiveness won on the cross actually comes to you?
  • What do you hear when God’s Word is read and proclaimed? Do you hear with ears of faith the power of God for salvation?
  • What do you see as you receive the bread and wine in Holy Communion? Do you see with eyes of faith the very Body and Blood of Jesus, shed for your forgiveness?
  • What do you see when you look at yourself? – – A sinner? To be sure. A saint? Yes! Because of the blood of Jesus your sins are forgiven.

What we see and hear with the eyes and ears of faith is much different than what the world lost in the darkness of sin and death sees and hears. And for that, our response is the same as the shepherds. “When they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child ... And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Lk 2:17, 20). We also, return to our daily lives telling others the Good News and glorifying and praising God for what we have heard and seen by faith – a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

Everything depends on what you see and hear this Christmas as you look into the manger. Do you see what I see? Do you Hear what I hear? Do you know what I know?Amen.

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