Begotten (Psalm 2)
The LORD said to Me, "You are My Son; today I have begotten You." (Psalm 2:7)
The second Psalm speaks of Jesus as the true King of Israel. "That He would suffer, and through His suffering become King and Lord of the whole world. Within this psalm stands a warning against the kings and lords of the world: If, instead of honoring and serving this King, they seek to persecute and blot Him out, they shall perish. This psalm also contains the promise that those who believe in the true King will be blessed" (Reading the Psalms with Luther 17).
Christmas is a time Christians come together to honor and serve the true King. It is also the greatest time for those who seek to "persecute and blot Him out." The Psalm reminds us that the devil and the world will always oppose the Church. They will always oppose the true King established, appointed and set on the holy hill of Mount Zion (v6). They seek to "persecute and blot Him out" because they don't understand His Kingdom. Jesus' Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world. "If My kingdom were of this world," Jesus tells Pontius Pilate, "My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from this world" (John 18:36).
Jesus' kingdom does not come with an army to rule by force and sword. He comes as a teacher with a proclamation that defies the world's understanding. Against this proclaiming Kingdom, Satan throws everything in his power at it (LW 12:15):
- We are pressed from both sides by Satan ... He threatens force through kings, nations, rulers, and people. But he uses deceit when he instills in us questions as to how it is possible at the same time to retain the Word and to preserve peace.
Everything Satan has power over inside and outside the Church. He throws it at you for bearing Christ's name. He uses political machines that tolerate any religion EXCEPT Christianity. We see this in America where a large menorah is annually erected across the street from the White House. In every picture, it dwarfs the White House in the background. But no manger scene around the White House. No cross will be erected in Lent. Why? The Supreme Court says the menorah isn't a Jewish symbol. It's a generic winter holiday symbol. Christians can find ourselves in court if we try to put up a manger or a cross on public property. We might even find ourselves in court if we do it on our own private property. Laws are constantly made that infringe on a Christian's religious liberty. Satan uses the wisdom and philosophy of this age against the Church. How often have you heard Oprah or someone else say something like, "If you know better, you do better." There's never been more anti-Christian garbage than that. We confessed at the beginning of this service that we are "poor, miserable sinners" who have sinned against God and His King in thought, word and deed. We know better. We know we shouldn't sin, but does that stop us from falling into temptation? No. It makes us ashamed, but it doesn't stop us from doing it. Self-help psycho-babble doesn't help. But Satan still throws it at the hearts of Christians to get them to believe it instead of God's Word. Luther encourages us (LW 12:26-27):
- Let us, therefore, learn to be brave in all perils, especially ... against ourselves and our hearts. For there Satan has a most firm seat and is supported especially by the past. For he knows that we are sinners, therefore he holds the succession of our sins and the sad 'bond' (Col. 2:14) before our eyes and oppresses us. ...
- When Satan reproaches you: 'Behold, you are a sinner, you do not believe, you do not love as the Word requires'; you say against this: 'Why do you plague me with these visible things? I perceive these things well. Nor is it necessary for you to teach me. This is necessary, that I follow the Word and direct myself to invisible things, that is, to Him who dwells in the heavens and to His Word. In His eyes all things which terrify me are a mere jest and trivial spectacles of the flesh, as they are called, which are arranged not for terror but for laughter.
As a third attack against Christmas, Satan uses materialism to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is turned from a celebration of the birth of Jesus into a month-long spending spree followed by hours and hours of the kids playing with the boxes instead of the expensive toys we bought for them. Satan tries to make us think that we NEED all this stuff. But it's all a distraction. Something to take our eyes off Jesus.
What we really NEED is sitting right in front of us. The baby lying in the manger. The firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). Begotten of the Father before all worlds. Sent in the "fullness of time" to be born as our King and Savior (Galatians 4:4-5). The baby who would grow up to take on your sins. To nail them to the cross and bury them in the tomb. Satan tries to drive this out of our minds through every means available. And it's been working ever since the Garden of Eden. But it's not just from forces outside the Church that we need to worry about a satanic attack.
Satan works very well and very handily inside the Church too. Luther is known to have said, "Where God builds a church the devil builds a chapel." Satan is as comfortable working inside as he is outside. He works to detract from the message of Law and Gospel by telling some people, "You only HAVE to go to the BIG services. God's okay with that." To others, he says, "You're in church ALL THE TIME! You don't HAVE to do anything else. God's okay with that." Both of these lies take our eyes off God's demand for perfection and make us believe God accepts okay. When we listen to the lies, we find ourselves struggling against ourselves and against the devil himself. Without Christ, or with a wrong view of Christ, we're in deep trouble if we're in that fight. We're all by ourselves.
Satan also works to confuse the Church and the world. He gives the idea to set up Heaven on earth. A Christian utopia. This was the idea behind the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope crowned the Emperor. The Emperor had a vote in electing the Pope. Why? It was a Christian kingdom. Everyone in it was a Christian--or else. But it didn't stop in Rome. Calvin and Zwingli worked to do the same in Geneva. Many today want the United States to return to its "Christian" roots. To be a Christian nation that Jesus would be proud of and come back and rule. A Christian nation Jesus probably wouldn't recognize because it is not the kingdom He established.
When Satan can't confuse the Church and the world, he confuses faith with reason and emotion. Satan confuses faith with reason by pointing out that most of Christianity doesn't make sense. How can you logically accept something as true that you cannot explain? But I ask you, what is faith? "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We're convinced of the Christian faith by the Holy Spirit. You don't understand everything, but you don't have to. That's faith. Believing because the Bible says so. This kingdom God establishes through His Son. Believing it because it's God's Word. Not because you can make sense of it. Satan wants to make faith reasonable. God simply calls for faith. Unshakable faith in Jesus. Not able to be shaken by reason or emotion.
Satan goes into an emotion confusion by attacking where our hearts are most passionate. Our family. Many churches have done away with Christmas morning services. "No one comes," they say, "because service cuts into 'family time.'" Our own congregation included. I'd like to see us have Christmas morning service. I grew up in a church that never had a Christmas morning service unless it fell on a Sunday. It wasn't seen as important without it being on a Sunday.
Last year, Christmas fell on a Sunday. Many churches CANCELLED SERVICES because the regular Sunday service would cut into "family time." Like "family time" is more sacred and more worthy to be worshipped than Jesus. Satan at work to confuse us with our own emotions.
Satan tries as he might to destroy living faith with whatever tools are necessary inside and outside the Church. But he never succeeds. Jesus promised the disciples, "On this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Nothing Satan can do will prevail against the Church. In Heaven, God laughs at his attempts (v4). Satan attacks the Church like a man trying to chop down a tall Christmas tree with a mistletoe leaf. That mistletoe leaf may appear as 185,000 soldiers surrounding Jerusalem, but God sends one angel to wipe them all out in one night (2 Kings 19:20ff). Satan will never destroy the Church. He may make her very few in number. He may ridicule and torture her, but he will never destroy her. She is the bride of Christ. Nothing and no one can stand against her because God Himself protects her.
That's the great blessing of Christmas. The Church can only exist because Jesus has come in the flesh. Jesus came in the flesh to fulfill Satan's punishment and give us our eternal reward. This dual-purpose is tied up in God's great words: "You are My Son; today I have begotten You" (v7). This word "today" gives Satan voice to say to you, "Is Jesus really God? If He is, why does God say, 'Today I have begotten You'? There must have been a time when Jesus wasn't."
But we must remember the speaker of these words. God the Father is outside time. He created time. As the Psalms and St. Peter say, "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). Every day is "today." To God, there is no other day than "today." St. Augustine tells us (LW 12:52):
- In God's case there is neither a past nor a future, but outside of time and in eternity is in present time. And yet the Holy Spirit wished to use the past tense in order to denote the completion of the nativity. Otherwise, if we wish to speak as it is, the Son of God will be born and has been born today, daily, and always. For eternity has neither past nor future. In this way the expression "today" must be understood as time as it is to God, not to us. For God is not speaking with us but with Him who is outside time in the presence of God.
In the Nicene Creed, we speak of Jesus having been "begotten of His Father before all worlds." Through Jesus, God created the world (Hebrews 1:2). In His eternal begetting, God promises to give the creation back to Him. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus achieves the promise. In Heaven, laughing alongside God the Father at Satan's attempts to destroy the Church, Jesus intercedes for all those who call upon Him in faith. Not the occasional, "Oh no! I'm in REALLY deep trouble now! Help me, Jesus!" This is a daily--even eternal--intercession we need from Jesus.
As God the Father's begetting of Jesus is best expressed as daily, we best worship Jesus by following Luther's encouragement that confessing our sins is a daily return to our Baptism. Daily receiving God's promises to us through Jesus. We come before Jesus. Confessing our sins. Receiving His forgiveness. Serving Him with fear. Rejoicing with trembling (v11). Kissing the Son (v12). Through this worship, we take refuge in Him and find ourselves blessed beyond measure (v12). In that refuge we find the sweetness of the Gospel. The great complexity of Jesus' kingdom. The kingdom where you and I stand. Not as servants and slaves. As children of the heavenly Father. Brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Fellow conquerors of the sinful world through the flesh of the baby in the manger (LW 12:20):
- The Gospel only holds up Christ to the souls and eyes of all and commands all to behold Him alone, to depend on Him alone, to trust and believe only in Him. Having assumed our flesh, in our flesh He conquered Satan, killed death, laid waste and destroyed hell. It proclaims that He alone is wise, because He alone knows and does the will of God the Father. Him alone it calls righteous, because He alone has done no sin, but is able and willing to communicate His righteousness to all who believe in Him. It speaks of Him alone as a power, because He alone conquered and despoiled the mighty one guarding his own house (Luke 11:21, 22). Therefore it wishes us to trust in His wisdom, righteousness, and power; and then indeed it promises that we also will be wise, righteous, and powerful.
Wisdom, righteousness and power are only a few of the blessings we receive in Jesus. Take refuge in Him. The Son of God has been born a baby. He has become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones (Genesis 2:23). He has conquered Satan so that he is powerless against the Church. Although Satan still attacks us, we can rest assured that the Jesus who laid in the manger in Bethlehem protects us in our battles for life everlasting. Amen.
Thanks be to You, O Lord Jesus Christ, because You were once dead, and by Your blood redeemed us from sin and everlasting torment. We desire to serve You all the days of our life. Preserve us in the midst of so many enemies, and by Your mighty hand preserve us for Your eternal kingdom! Amen.