O God, you have made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Grant that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light, we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven; through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Gelasian Sacramentary, 7th Century)
God of majesty, on this holy night your light and life broke into the darkness of our human condition. Grant that your light and life will continue to shine through us into a dark and weary world until that time when your glory reigns forever; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord; who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Thoughts on the Readings
The Common Thread
A decree was once made that the entire Roman Empire should be counted, so that taxes could be levied for the support of the empire. However, a greater proclamation went out long before the empire of Rome, that the government of all people would rest upon the shoulders of the child of light. That government will increase, forever adding citizens to his kingdom. So we see that God used the Roman Empire that no longer exists, to advance a better royal edict, that the glorious reign of the Prince of Peace would have no end (Luke 1:33). “He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness,” bringing salvation through his grace to all people. Now we await with blessed hope the final appearing of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to redeem the world.
First Reading - Isaiah 7:10–14
In the previous chapter, the Lord promised that the enemies of Jerusalem would be shattered while Jerusalem would still stand. The Lord demanded faith no matter how powerful the enemy appears, and allowed a sign to be granted for the weak-faithed King Ahaz. Ahaz would not ask, not from deep piety but out of lack of trust. Though the immediate promise was distrusted, God provided and even greater sign that would take place long after the king was dead. That sign is the promise of a child who will dash all the enemies of true faith in God.
Psalm - Psalm 110:1–4
The Lord God bade the Lord David to sit by his side while he conquered his enemies. His rule will be more complete than King David’s. The Lord of Heaven will rule utterly and will do so through a priestly king. David’s priestly rule foreshadowed the coming kingdom of the King of kings, the High Priest of heaven who rules in righteousness like the ancient priest and king Melchizedek (Gen 14:8).
Second Reading - 1 John 4:7–16
John speaks of Christian love, that unique brand of love that sacrifices self for the good of others. This sort of love comes from God. We cannot muster it from within or muscle it into existence. When we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, his Spirit comes to live in us, and we in God. That is when his love is first, birthed in us and finally, perfected if we endure with abiding faith in God’s love for us.
Gospel - Matthew 1:18–25
Think of Joseph’s great faith. Who among us would be so bold because of a dream? Yet, it was in a dream that an angel told Joesph to take the young, pregnant Mary to be his wife. The messenger reminded him of Isaiah’s prophecy, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son. When he awoke from his sleep, he did as the angel had instructed and took Mary to be his wife, calling her son Jesus. May we also awaken from our slumber and cry, Immanuel! God is with us—“even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20 NASB).
Read the entire Sola Devotion, which includes an additional Scripture graphic for your use and a reading from The Augsburg Confession, "Concerning Love and the Fulfilling of the Law."
The ability to love God is not something that we are born with or that we can develop on our own with this fallen nature of ours. In order to love God, one must first be born again. Everyone who believes in Christ Jesus is reborn by the will of God. Then they are empowered to love God and neighbor, since whoever truly loves has first been born of God and knows God. Love does not spring from the human heart but from the heart of God, since he is love. Real love has nothing to do with our loving God, and everything to do with God having loved us so much that he sent his Son to be the atonement for our sins. This power to love is received by faith, “for love is from God.”