Realism & Idealism in the Coming of Christ, Matthew 1:1-17

“Realism & Idealism in the Coming of Christ”

Matthew 1:1-17

December 25, 2022

Faith Presbyterian Church – Morning Service

Pastor Nicoletti

The Reading of the Word

It is a blessing to be gathered here on Christmas morning to worship together on the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. I also realize that there’s a cost, to many of us, to be here.

Since Christmas is rarely on a Sunday, many of our traditions for celebration are family-based, rather than church-based. And gathering like this often means disrupting or even setting aside some of our family traditions.

That said, I am thankful you are here, and I hope that it is and will be a blessing to you as we gather and worship our King on the day we celebrate his birth.

That said, I realize that many of the adults here are thinking of hot coffee and warm breakfast treats and cozy pajamas … while many of the children are thinking of presents (opened or unopened) that wait for them at home.

And so I have tried to reward you all for being here this morning by preaching from the portion of the Christmas story that I know everyone is the most excited to hear – the portion with the most action and drama: the genealogy.

I realize the text before us might seem like a let-down. I realize it might seem tedious. I realize it might lead you to long all the more for the comforts of home. But I want to urge you to stay tuned in with me for the next few minutes ahead. Because I think we learn things in this genealogy that should deeply impact how we think of the story of Christmas, and how we think of the celebration of Christmas.

With that all said, we turn now to Matthew 1:1-17.

Please do listen carefully, for this is God’s word for us this morning:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” [1 Peter 1:24-25]

Let’s pray …

Prayer of Illumination

Lord Jesus,

Today we celebrate how you, the Living Word

Came to us, your people.

We ask that now, as we come to your written Word

That you will again be at work among us.

As we consider your words to us in the Holy Scriptures,

Give us eyes to see and ears to hear you in them,

For your glory, and for our good.

We ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen

Introduction: Christmas Realism vs Christmas Idealism

The words we have just heard are how the Apostle Matthew begins his gospel of Jesus. It’s not with the angels, or with the shepherds. It’s not with miracles and wonders. But before anything else, he gives us a genealogy.

As we consider that this morning, I’ll be drawing significantly from the work of Tim Keller – whose preaching and writing on Christmas often helps me, at least, come at the Biblical accounts of Christmas with fresh eyes. [In this case I am especially drawing from his chapter “Mothers of Jesus” in Hidden Christmas (pages 20-40)]

And this morning, I want to especially reflect on the themes of realism and idealism when it comes to Christmas. Because, in many ways, the season of Christmas is – both in our culture and in our own lives – a time of a clashing of idealism and realism.

Think about it in our popular culture. There are piles of Christmas movies and Christmas books and Christmas stories that are rooted in this conflict between realism and idealism. There is a whole genre of feel-good Christmas movies that start with a cynical realist who scoffs at Christmas, but is restored to an idealistic view of the season by the end of the story. Other times it is an idealist whose Christmas idealism is threatened by cynicism, but who then, in one way or another, has the idealistic magic of Christmas restored and reaffirmed in his or her heart.

Other movies take the more cynical approach. They tear down or re-educate an idealist, either in a comedic form, or in a dramatic form.

But either way, whether in stories for children or adults, whether enchanted stories or disenchanted stories, in our popular culture we see this tension and even conflict between optimistic idealism and a more pessimistic realism when it comes to Christmas.

We often experience that same tension or conflict in our own lives as well.

Maybe you are one of the idealists when it comes to celebrating Christmas. You want everything to be just so. You put lots of effort into making it special and other-worldly even, for yourself and for others, and if anything bursts that bubble, then the season is, for you at least, a disappointment.

Or maybe you’re on the other end. Throughout December you mutter about consumerism. You refuse to get into the season. You roll your eyes at those who do. You can’t wait to get through all the sentimentality and get to January.

Some of us, in our positivity or negativity, are following the patterns of our families growing up. Others are acting against that pattern. But either way we often see something of a divide.

In some sense, this split can appear in many areas of life. But it seems to be especially pronounced when it comes to Christmas.

How do you see this in your own life? And either way, what are we to do with this divide?

Well, Matthew’s answer for us, I would argue, is the genealogy of Jesus.

That might seem odd, but bear with me here. This morning I want to argue that with this genealogy, Matthew first addresses idealism and realism in the coming of Christ, and then he addresses idealism and realism in the people of Christ.

Idealism & Realism in the Coming of Christ

So, first in the opening verses of his gospel, Matthew addresses idealism and realism in the coming of Christ.

Let’s start with the “realism.”

By beginning with a genealogy, Matthew is making a statement. He’s telling you what kind of book you are holding – what genre it belongs to. And Matthew begins by grounding his account in history. He walks the reader through the history of Israel, and explains to them where Jesus fits in that history. By doing this, Matthew makes it clear that he has no intention of telling an idealistic fairytale whose main purpose is to communicate moral lessons or sentimental inspiration that is separated from actual events in the real world. Matthew does not begin with “Once upon a time” or “Long ago in a galaxy far, far, away,” or any ancient equivalent [Keller, 21]. Matthew makes it clear that he is writing history – that the story he has to tell is rooted in reality: in the same world and history in which his readers live. And so, with this genealogy, Matthew is telling us that the gospel account as a whole – and the Christmas story in particular – is an account of real history, and not idealistic fantasy.

And so if we are going to take the Bible seriously – if we are going to take the Christmas story seriously – then we must approach it as a work of real history. That means that we cannot recast the story as an ethereal, idealistic fairytale. And yet, we need to admit that we are often tempted to do that.

When St. Francis of Assisi invented the nativity scene, he did it by incorporating actual animals into the Christmas mass, because he wanted to remind the people of the concrete, earthy, messy, realities of Jesus’s birth. Our pictures and stories and statues and figurines, while not bad, are often quite sanitized. St. Francis wanted the people to remember that that first Christmas was messy, and smelly, real. He wanted them to work that into their imagination.

It’s also why, as I will do now, many of us preachers give a disclaimer before their congregation sings “Away in a Manger,” reminding everyone that the baby Jesus did in fact cry. That correction is important first as a reminder that crying is not inherently sinful, and second because we need to resist a stylized, idealistic picture of that first Christmas. It was loud. There were all the sounds you’d expect from a birth and then the presence of a newborn.

And so, when we come to the Christmas story – the story of Jesus’s birth – we need to be sure to anchor it in the real. It is a story of realism, that took place in time and space and as part of the real and messy history of the world that we live in.

What are the ways that you tend to disconnect the Christmas story from reality? In your imagination do you tend to think of it as something more unworldly? In your reflection do you tend to treat it more like a moralistic fairytale? In your retellings, do you tend to think of it more as a vaguely inspirational story about how light triumphs over darkness or something like that?

There are unworldly elements, and moral take-aways and hopeful inspiration in the account of Jesus’s birth. But before any of that, Matthew makes it clear that the first – the primary thing we need to take away is that what he is describing really happened. Jesus really was born. He came to the earth in time and space. The Christmas story must be grounded in realism.

But then, at the very same time, Matthew impresses upon us that Jesus’s coming, while real, was not ordinary, but extraordinary. He tells us that Jesus came not just as a particularly cute baby, but he came as the Messiah – the Christ. Matthew emphasizes that point in verse sixteen.

Matthew tells us that the events of the first Christmas really happened. But he wants to be clear that those events were shocking. Because in them, no ordinary baby had been born, but the Messiah had been born. The long-awaited Christ had come. The son of David, the King whom God had promised would rescue his people, had arrived. The Son of God had invaded earth from heaven, and he had come to deliver his people and make all things new. That is what has happened. And that is earth-shattering news.

And Matthew, like a news anchor focused on communicating world-altering events – Matthew is focused on explaining to his readers that the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, has been born … he has come from heaven to earth. And it’s real. It’s true truth. It happened in time and space. And it changes everything.

And with that announcement, Matthew, at the very same time he firmly grounds his story in the real, also links it to the ideal. At the same time that he announces it as earthly history he links it to heavenly realities.

And so even as Matthew lays hold of realism when it comes to Christmas, he does not cast idealism aside, but instead he calls on us to see our idealism … and our sentiment … and even our magical imaginings around the season … in a new light.

It is interesting how our culture approaches Christmas. My wife, Rachel, was commenting on this the other day. After reflecting on some of the Christmas movies on offer, she said to me something like: “Isn’t it odd and kind of ironic how our culture invents all sorts of magical stories surrounding Christmas … but then, at the same time, rejects the amazing and magical true story that’s actually at its center?” And that struck me. How are we to think about that?

I think we tend to fall into one of two camps. One is the secular response to just classify the Biblical Christmas story as one more magical story among others. You’ve got Rudolf and Santa, you’ve got a long string of Christmas movies and books, for children and adults, and then the story of Jesus is just one more in the list.

Another response is to see the two types of stories – the Biblical story, and our secular myths, as completely disconnected.

Interestingly, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien give us a third alternative which is worth considering this morning, I think, as we ponder how the realism of the first Christmas intersects with the Christmas idealism of our culture.

And the approach of Lewis and Tolkien is actually much broader than just Christmas – it’s about how all myths and fairytales might relate to Biblical truth. And it’s a topic worth considering as our culture is currently awash in myth-like and fairytale-like stories. Right now, in our culture that in so many ways is so secular, it’s myth-like comic-book movies that dominate the box office, and fairytale-like television series that dominate our streaming services. Our culture is saturated with modern myths and fairytales – not only at Christmas but throughout the year.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were lovers of, and experts in pagan mythology – especially Norse mythology – with both teaching at Oxford University. On September 19, 1931, Tolkien, Lewis, and their friend Hugo Dyson got together for the evening – and Humphrey Carpenter has chronicled their interaction that night. [Carpenter, 42-45]

At the time, J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson were both Christians, but C.S. Lewis was not. After dinner, they went for a walk. The conversation soon turned to mythology, and how it should be thought of.

C.S. Lewis had always loved myths – and one of his favorites was the Norse myth of the dying god Balder. Lewis was delighted by these myths. But he didn’t, of course, believe in those myths. “Beautiful and moving though such stories might be, they were (he said) ultimately untrue. As he expressed it to Tolkien, myths are ‘lies, and therefore worthless even though breathed through silver.’”

“No, said Tolkien [in response]. They are not lies.” Because a human being, at root, Tolkien argued, “is not ultimately a liar. He may pervert his thoughts into lies, but he comes from God, and it is from God that he draws his ultimate ideals. […] Therefore, Tolkien continued, not merely the abstract thoughts of man but also his imaginative inventions must originate with God, and must in consequence reflect something of eternal truth.”

“In making a myth,” Tolkien continued, “[…] and peopling the world with elves and dragons and goblins, a storyteller […] is actually fulfilling God’s purpose, and reflecting a splintered fragment of the true light. Pagan myths are therefore,” Tolkien argued, “never just ‘lies’: there is always something of the truth in them.” [Carpenter, 43]

The men continued to walk and talk, but as the evening was getting late, they went inside. There the conversation turned to Christianity.

Lewis explained that as he looked back at the historic accounts of Christ’s birth and life and death and resurrection, he was close to accepting them as historic events – he was close to accepting their historic reality – but he was unsure why they mattered to him or to anyone else. Maybe they were historic events, but “What was the point of it all?” he asked.

Tolkien answered him immediately by going back to what they had talked about earlier. If the pagan myths were “splintered fragments” of God’s light and truth, then the story of Christianity is the full light and truth of God, with, Tolkien said, the enormous difference that Christianity was not just a story composed of words, but God, the author of Christianity, had played out his story in actual history, with real men and women.

“Do you mean, asked Lewis, that the death and resurrection of Christ is the old ‘dying god’ story [of the Norse myths] all over again?”

“Yes, Tolkien answered, except that here [in Christianity] is a real Dying God, with a precise location in history and definite historical consequences.” [Carpenter, 44]

The conversation continued to 3 a.m., at which point Tolkien said he had to go home. Twelve days later, Lewis wrote to a friend to say that he had moved from being a theist to being a Christian. And he noted that his talk with Dyson and Tolkien that night had had a good deal to do with that change. [Carpenter, 45]

Now…what does all of that have to do with Christmas?

At Christmas it seems we cannot help but tell stories of magic. Even the most secular of people seem to delight in such stories. And Tolkien says there are reasons for that.

The first, as he said to Lewis, is that as human beings we come from God – and we all retain some innate sense of the reality and the magic of God’s being and presence. And though we may twist that knowledge and pervert it, those truths still come out – if not in our abstract beliefs, then often in our stories. And so, by our creation, we delight in hearing and in telling stories of magic and wonder.

But second, Tolkien’s later writing on the same topic would point us back to what humanity has been told [Tolkien, 87-90]. The beginning of the Bible tells us that God made humanity, and placed our first parents in the Garden of Eden. But then they rebelled against him. And when they did, they were cast out of the Garden. But they were not left without hope. God gave them a promise – a promise we heard last night in the Christmas Eve service. In the hearing of Adam and Eve, God said to the serpent – to Satan – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And with that, the Lord inscribed onto our hearts the story of a Deliverer to come – One who would rescue us from sin, and death, and Satan. And from that moment, human beings have been unable to stop telling stories of such a hero. To be sure, each story we invented was marred with sin and falsehood – and some stories were much more corrupted than others. But a core truth of what Adam and Even had heard from God often remained in each story. And so we delight in hearing and in telling stories of a powerful, even magical hero, who will rescue his people from danger.

And so it often is with the secular stories of Christmas. Each may be twisted or marred. But each also usually contains some element – some truth – of the character of God and the salvation he has promised.

The birth of Christ the Messiah – the Son of God who has come to rescue all who trust in him – the Biblical story of Christmas is not just one more feel-good story among others. But it’s also not disconnected from the other stories many tell at this time. Rather, the birth of Christ is the true fulfillment of the hope that other stories point to.

Keller explains it like this. He writes: “The great fairy tales and legends […] did not really happen, of course. They are not factually true. And yet they seem to fulfill a set of longings in the human heart that realistic fiction can never touch or satisfy. That is because deep in the human heart there are these desires – to experience the supernatural, to escape death, to know love that we can never lose, […] to triumph over evil. If the fantasy stories are well told, we find them incredibly moving and satisfying. Why? It is because, even though we know that factually the stories didn’t happen, our hearts long for these things, and a well-told story momentarily satisfies these desires, scratching the terrible itch.” [Keller, 25-26]

“Then,” Keller continues, “we come to the Christmas story. And at first glance it looks like the other legends. Here is a story about someone from a different world who breaks into ours and has miraculous powers, and can calm the storm and heal people and raise people from the dead. Then his enemies turn on him, and he is put to death, and it seems like all hope is over, but finally he rises from the dead and saves everyone. We read that and we think, Another great fairy tale! Indeed, it looks like the Christmas story is one more story pointing to these underlying realities.

“But,” Keller goes on, “Matthew’s Gospel refutes that by grounding Jesus in history, not ‘once upon a time.’ He says this is no fairy tale. Jesus Christ is not one more lovely story pointing to these underlying realities – Jesus is the underlying reality to which all the stories point.

“Jesus Christ has come from that eternal, supernatural world that we sense is there, that our hearts know is there even though our heads say no. At Christmas he punched a hole between the ideal and the real, the eternal and the temporal, and came into our world.” [Keller, 26-27]

Recognizing this truth leads to what Keller has referred to as “realistic idealism” … or, if you prefer, “idealistic realism.” [I believe I’ve heard Keller use these phrases in a sermon, though I was not able to locate it.] It leads to a way of viewing the world that is anchored in reality – in real life, and real history – but that also reaches to the ideals and the hopes and aspirations of heaven itself. What we so often pull asunder, Jesus, in his incarnation, brings together. And so Matthew here calls us to embrace both the realism and the idealism of the coming of Christ.

That is the first thing our text calls us to when we consider the story of Christmas.

Idealism & Realism in the People of Christ

The second thing it calls us to is to embrace realism and idealism when it comes to the people of Christ. And this emerges as we look at the genealogy Matthew provides us with in a bit more detail.

The genealogy of Jesus is historic … but it’s also stylized. And the fact that it’s stylized doesn’t mean it’s not historically or factually accurate, but it was an accepted convention at the time, when giving a genealogy, to skip over some individuals, so long as the overall family line you were identifying remained accurate. In line with that convention, Matthew likely skipped some generations, even as he gave an overall accurate line of Jesus’s genealogy. [France, 29, 35]

But that also means that there is an intentionality in whom Matthew chose to include.

Now a selective genealogy, in the ancient world, was kind of like a resume. It was something you used to present a certain kind of picture of yourself to others. So it mattered who you highlighted, because those were the people you were telling others you wanted to be associated with. [Keller, 28-29]

And if that is the case, then the genealogy Matthew chose to provide is especially odd. And we see that especially in the women Matthew chose to include.

There are four of them: Tamar in verse four, Rahab and Ruth in verse five, and Bathsheba in verse six.

And the inclusion of these four women is significant in a few ways.

For one thing, all four were women. Including a woman in one’s genealogy was not unprecedented [France, 36], but in a culture that especially valued men, and in which men had more power, Matthew, by including so many women, seems to intentionally associate Jesus with those who have less power and are valued less by society. [Keller, 29]

For another thing, all four women were probably non-Israelites: Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites, Ruth was a Moabite, and Bathsheba was at least the wife of a Hittite. [France, 36-37] In Israel, non-Israelite women could be seen as having questionable backgrounds. [Keller, 30]

But third, and most striking, three of these women had morally troubling pasts – and often in ways that not only implicated them, but others in the genealogy as well.

Consider Tamar, mentioned in verse three. Judah’s eldest son, Er, had married Tamar. But, the Bible says, Er was so wicked that God killed him. Then Onan, Judah’s second son married Tamar. But God killed Onan for his wickedness too. After that Judah, who was called on to care for Tamar and provide for her as a widow in his household, unjustly shirked his duty. In response, Tamar posed as a prostitute, whom Judah then sought services from, and it was that union that led to the conception of Perez and Zerah. That is part of Jesus’s genealogy. There’s a lot of brokenness there. But what’s striking is that Matthew doesn’t skip over it or run by it, but he seems to draw our attention to it, by mentioning both Tamar and Zerah when he didn’t have to.

Then there’s Rahab, listed in verse five, who had been a prostitute in Jericho before becoming a believer.

And finally, there is Bathsheba. But, almost as if to make his point clearer, in case we missed it with Rahab and Tamar, Matthew doesn’t mention Bathsheba by name – but refers to her as “the wife of Uriah,” highlighting the events surrounding David and Bathsheba’s relationship, which began with adultery and proceeded to murder.

And lest we think Matthew’s highlighting these women in this way reflects sexism, we should note that in both the cases of Tamar and Bathsheba, it’s the men who came out looking much worse than the women. Judah admitted that Tamar was more righteous than he was [Genesis 38:26] and David rightly received the brunt of God’s rebuke [2 Samuel 13].

In the ancient Jewish world, including Judah and David in your genealogy would normally have been a prestigious mark of pride. But Matthew very intentionally mentions them in a way that will highlight their greatest moral failings. That is the genealogy that Matthew gives here.

Now…what are we to take from that?

The Bible is ruthlessly realistic about the kind of people Jesus associates with. It is ruthlessly realistic about the shortcomings of God’s people.

Matthew holds up the sin and the brokenness of God’s people, and he places it right beside the events of Christmas.

But we often treat those things as incompatible.

We might do this when it comes to our own shortcomings. We see this if, when our own failures come into view at this time of year, we feel tempted to either hide our sin and brokenness, or to think as if our sin and brokenness disqualifies us from really engaging with the celebration of the season.

Or we might do this when we are confronted with the brokenness or the troubled past of our family or our friends … if we are tempted to treat those troubles as a threat to experiencing the goodness of Christmas.

Or we might do this when we face difficult circumstances in life, and we are tempted to either ignore those realities or assume that they undo the true sentiment of the season.

But Matthew, by including what he does in Jesus’s genealogy, by highlighting what he does in Jesus’s genealogy, tells us, right off the bat, that the coming of Jesus is a story not just for those who have it together, but also for those whose lives seem to be falling apart.

Right from the beginning he made it clear that Jesus associated with those who have troubled pasts. Right from the beginning he made it clear that Jesus associated with those who had done great moral wrongs. And in doing that, he called us to embrace a realism about ourselves, and others, and the world we live in.

We are sinners. Those closest to us are sinners. And the world we live in is affected by sin and brokenness. And those realities deeply affect our lives.

The miracle of Christmas is not that we have successfully overcome those realities or hidden them. The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus has entered into our lives with full knowledge of those realities. In fact, it is because of those realities that he has drawn close as he has. And so how silly would it be for us to deny or try to whitewash the very sin and brokenness we most need his help with – the very sin and brokenness that led him to come to us as he did?

And so we need to be realists. We need to acknowledge the sin and the brokenness in us and around us. Things are not the way they are supposed to be. Nothing in our lives or in our celebrations today will be perfect. That’s the reality. And yet, even so, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has drawn close to us. And that is reason for celebration. Matthew’s opening words here call us to realism about the people of Christ: about ourselves, our loved ones, and our circumstances.

Matthew calls us to realism … but he doesn’t leave us with only realism. Because even as the gospel calls us to realism, it also lifts us to hope in a renewed idealism. It’s not an idealism of our own making. It’s not an idealism that can be bought or manufactured with enough money or effort. It’s instead a true idealism that is much more powerful than that.

Because while Matthew’s gospel and the Biblical Christmas story are reminders that Christ has drawn close to broken and sinful people, even in the midst of all their brokenness and sinfulness, it is also a story that proclaims that he does not intend to leave us in that sin or brokenness. He has come to change us. He has come to transform us.

And that promise comes just a few verses later in Matthew’s first chapter. It comes in the words we heard earlier this morning, in the declaration of pardon. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, and speaking of Mary he said: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

“He will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus came not just to be with us in the midst of our sin and brokenness – but to save us from our sin and brokenness. He came to save us from the judgment due to us for our sin, and the consequences of our sin, and even the influence of our sin. Some of that salvation we experience now – even now, as we trust in Christ, we have forgiveness and freedom from the judgment we deserve. Some of that salvation we will experience more of as time goes on – as God progressively frees us more and more from the influence of sin. But the fulness of that salvation we will not experience until Christ returns: when he will make all things new, and death and sin and the devil will be no more.

And so even as we are realists about our sin and the sin of others, we can also be idealists about all who are in Christ. Because we know what Christ has planned for them. We know he will bring to completion the work he has begun in them. We know his rescue of sinners who belong to him will, in the end, be total and complete. That is why he came.

Christmas, rightly understood, should make us idealistic realists: people rooted in this world, acknowledging the sin and the brokenness in us and around us, but at the same time overflowing with idealistic hope: hope because the King of heaven has broken into this world. He has been born in Bethlehem. And he will make all things new – even us.

And that is good reason for celebration.

Amen.

This sermon draws on material from:

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1978 (1979 Edition)

France, R.T. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Keller, Timothy. Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. New York, NY: Penguin, 2016.

Tolkien, J.R.R. “On Fairy-Stories” in “Tree and Leaf” in The Tolkien Reader. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1966.