Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Sermon

The Feast of the Nativity – 2007 – John 1:1-14

In the Name of Christ the Newborn King +

Consider the manger in Bethlehem. Think on it for a moment. Last night we heard the familiar tale from Luke, the Inn with no room, the Shepherds, the Angels singing – and the highlight – the Child in the manger. Who is this Child, what does it truly mean that this child is there? Luke tells us the story of Jesus' birth, Matthew tells us of how Joseph, how the Wise Men, how Herod all reacted to Jesus' birth – but John, John with the elegance and bluntness that is so common to His Gospel, John tells us what this story means, tells us who this Child is. That is why this morning, Christmas day, the feast of the Nativity, we pause and ponder the introduction to John's Gospel. We know the story, now what does it mean?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. Who is it lying in the manger? It is God Himself – the Creator of all things, God almighty. Ponder the simple wonder of this – what is weaker than a newborn child, who has not even the strength to hold up His head, and yet this is God, God Almighty, who takes on the flesh of a newborn infant, the weakest of all ages of mankind. A new born is a tiny thing – we marvel when one weighs 9 pounds – and yet this is God, the Omnipresent God who is everywhere, covers all things, who takes as His own such a tiny body. We speak of a new born, and yet this new born is the Eternal God – who was before time, before creation. When you see this child, you see God. We can't comprehend God in His abstract description. We can't fathom what it means to be all-powerful, or eternal, or omnipresent, or all knowing – we can't grasp what it must be like to be God – and yet, look there in the manger, and what do you see? You see God become Man, God in the flesh, God in a way that we can see and understand and comprehend. God comes to us in a way that we can understand, He comes as one of us.

That is who comes – but what does this mean, what does this mystery of God made flesh entail? In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This Child in the manger – this is the Creator of all things, the very source of life, the source of the life that we know. And there He is, lying in a manger. Why? Think on this, dear friends, ponder this. Adam and Eve were created alive – then God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. A living creature – a creature who has life as his own possession, a creature who has received from God the gift of life as his own, as something intrinsic to him, something that cannot be taken away.

Yet man does not hold on to life – man doesn't view this life as precious, the most precious gift he is given. He tosses it away. He is warned that if he should eat of the tree of the knowledge of God and Evil, in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. And even with this warning, even knowing that they are putting this gift of life at risk, Adam and Eve eat of the tree – and they die. Well, wait, pastor, they don't die right there. True, God in mercy gives them some days – but they lost life and garnered death. Life was our own, life was what we had. Now that is gone. Think on how hard we must struggle to maintain life – have you seen how frantically the doctors will rush to save a life? All an effect of sin. The wages of sin is death. By sinning, we traded death for life, that was our lot. It's not surprising that right after the fall we hear of Cain murdering Able. Sometimes we think, “Wow, things got really bad quickly” - but all sin, all sin is murder, all sin is choosing death and it's kingdom over life – all sin is murder and death to us, to our neighbor – it is darkness and doom.

But what does John remind us of? In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Man's sin was devastating, and it ruined a lot of things. Wrecked Adam and Eve themselves. Wrecked creation – the whole of creation groans. And yet – even with this – God is not defeated. Man loses life – God doesn't. In Him was life – and life remained with Him – what the Lord had given to man the Lord of Life still had – and man's darkness and wickedness didn't triumph over it, didn't conquer God. Even as Adam and Eve fell, God was still the living God – the God of life – and Adam and Eve couldn't overturn that, couldn't change that fact. Now behold the new born Child in the manger. There is life – and not just in some sentimental, oh look, a new life has come into the world sort of way – but there is Life, the One who is Life, the One who gives Life. There He is, in a way that we can see and understand. What man had lost in the garden, what Satan had convinced us to carelessly toss away, there it lies – once again a living Man, a Man who has life as His own, a Man who is truly alive. That is what you see when you see Jesus – Man as Man was meant to be. What does the birth of Christ mean – The true Light, which enlightens the world, was coming into the world. When you see that Christ Child, you see life, you see light return, you see God in His fullness, there in a manger, in a food trough.

But why all this – we see Who this is in the manger – but why is He, why is God there? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His Glory. We in our sin had lost life, we had lost what it meant to be human, to be the living creature we were made to be. We had lost our union, our connection with God – the walks with God in the cool of the day there in Paradise were gone – we had tossed them away. And we were powerless to restore them, powerless to fix them. What man threw away, sinful man could not fix. We could not raise ourselves up to God, for we were lost, diminished, less than what we were. Dead men don't raise themselves, don't give themselves back the life they lost. We were lost, unable to help ourselves, unable to return to God of our own strength and power – and so – God comes to us. The Word became flesh and DWELT among us- came to us to be with us, to dwell, to live with us. Whereas we could not go to God, we could not of our own accord be what we were – God comes to us, God becomes Man, a Living Man, what Mankind was created like – and He comes to us to give us life.

That is the wonder of this day – that God enters the fallen world in flesh in order to restore sinful, fallen man to life. Jesus Christ takes up our flesh, a human body, to redeem and win us creatures of sinful flesh, to restore our own Bodies with His own life. - to make us again what we were in the garden – But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name (that is by His Power, by His authority, in His Name) He gave the power to become children of God (that is, to be restored, to be what we were made, to be like Jesus Christ Himself, human beings with life of their own, human beings who though they might die, yet shall they live eternally), who were born not of blood or of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God. What we could not do – what our watered down, weakened blood couldn't accomplish, what our sinful flesh couldn't do, what our wills had not the strength to accomplish – God does. Through Christ Jesus, man is given life. Christ Jesus lives perfectly, and with complete innocence takes up man's sins, takes up man's punishment – even goes to the cross and tastes of our death, the death that we deserve – and then, He rises, He lives – His Body gives us life.

That is what you see when you see the Christ child – God become Man to make Man live with God eternally through Christ's death and resurrection. This is what God does – for since in our sin we could not go to Him, He takes on Human Flesh and comes to us, and by His own power and strength, He makes us to be children of God. And dear friends, does God not still to this day come to you? We are frail sinners, and yet, God comes to us. God came to you at your Baptism. We hear in John the phrase “believed in His Name” - I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost – His Name, given and applied to you, and you are now a child of God. And on this day, the Feast of the Nativity, we especially recognize and remember yet another way in which God continues to come to us.

In a few moments, we will celebrate the highest mystery of Christianity, our greatest gift – our own Christmas that we have all the time. God came in Human flesh on Christmas day – that is the specific celebration of this day. Behold Christ's own Supper, where He comes to us – how? With His Body and Blood. Dear friends, marvel at the mystery you receive this day – the mystery which you participate in. The blessings of Christmas day are yours – for this Child who is God, who is life incarnate gives Himself, gives His own Life giving Body to you for the forgiveness of your sins – to do away with your death, to give you immortality and eternity with Him in heaven. A wonder as great as any – that God comes to us. And we in no way deserve this gift, we cannot earn it, we can in no way say that we ought to have it – and yet God in His mercy says “Take and Eat, this is My Body” - indeed, the very Body born of Mary, the very Body lying in the manger – the Body that is “given for you.” Christ Jesus says to us, “Take and Drink, this is My Blood which is shed for you for the remission of all your sins.” This is the mystery of this day, this is the feast to which we all are invited, this is the wonder and miracle by which God makes us to be alive again and returns us to union – to communion with Him and with each other.

What do you see when you see the manger? You see God Himself, the author and creator of life, who takes up Human Flesh to restore us Humans to the life we had lost – who gives His Holy, prefect Body to us to make our sinful, lowly Bodies into Holy, forgiven, and righteous bodies fit for eternity in heaven. You see Christ entering the world as one of us, dwelling among us, so that we might enter into heaven with Him and there dwell with Him for ever and ever. This is what Christmas means – this is why we rejoice and sing, this is why we gladly come and receive and confess to the World the Body of Christ in His Supper. May the Lord keep us with Him always and forever, Amen.

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