December 25th, 2015
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
Today’s Gospel, the first few verses of John, are perhaps the most beautiful depiction of Christmas that we have in scripture. And yes, this is a depiction of Christmas, even though you don’t hear anything about Joseph and Mary, even though there’s no mention of shepherds or angel choirs, no Star and no wise men – none of the people or things we so often associate with Christmas. John knows we know the story, and so He sets out to tell us what all this really means. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. When John begins his gospel which we hear this most joyous day, He lets us know flat out who this Jesus is. When we are talking about Jesus, when we are talking about the Word, we are talking about God. Plain and simple. Jesus is God, Jesus is Lord. This Child, lying in the manger – that is God. Full, true God – All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. This Child is the Word of God – and before His birth, before He became Man, He was there at creation – He was the Word of God Who created all things. And not just things, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This is the Word of God who gives life – the reason we have existence, the reason any of us draw breath, now lies in a manager, breathing Himself. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The most wondrous Light of Christmas wasn’t the star – It was the One who created that star. The most glorious Light of Christmas didn’t shine from the angels – for their light was merely the reflected glory of this Child. And we are directed to this Light – John the Baptist points to Him, instructs us to behold Him. John calls out to us to repent, to believe. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. This is the Baptist’s cry which echoed on the banks of the Jordan, this is the cry which rings forth from every pulpit in Christendom that is rightly called a pulpit – that God Himself, Light of Light, Very God of Very God – has come into the World to enlighten us, to redeem us, to make us not merely glorious like the angels, but to makes us even more glorious and higher than the angels, reflecting His light. And yet – He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. No, when the world thinks of “God” – it doesn’t think of what we see at Christmas. The world thinks of “God” as draped in wealth and splendor – it doesn’t think of a child in a manger in a backwater town in a backwater province. The world thinks of God throwing lighting bolts like Zeus or hammering his foes like Thor – it doesn’t think of a Child weak, waiting for His mother to feed Him, to change His diapers. When the world thinks of God, it things of a being who slays all his enemies – not of a Man who goes to the cross and dies for the very sake of those who hate Him, in the hopes that they might see and hear and believe and be forgiven.
And it wasn’t just the world – the gentiles – the crazy Germans and the money happy Romans who didn’t know Him – He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. Even coming to the Jews, to the people to whom John the Baptist preached – the people who knew what Isaiah had foretold, who knew David and the promise of His Son who would reign, who knew Moses, who knew the Tabernacle and Temple, who thought they knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – they didn’t receive Him. What good is a prince of peace when we want war and bloodshed and freedom from Rome? What good is salvation when we want a better life now?
But you know who this Child is – you know that He is God. And what does that mean for you? But to all who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Do you see what this means, what the manger means, what Mary holding her Child means? Because God became Man, because God became the child of Mary, we have been called to be children of God once again. This Jesus came to fix the fall, to end our rebellion. The Word of God who saw Adam and Eve wreck His Creation is the same Word of God which told them that one day He would come, be born of one of Eve’s daughters, and that He Himself would crush the cursed serpent and restore Adam and Eve, restore God’s wayward children – make us God’s children again.
And again, note how beautifully this happens. Why are you a child of God? It is not of blood – this gift wasn’t limited to one race, one lineage. All races are brought together in Christ; all the languages that were scattered at Babel are reunited in Christ. Nor does this happen because of the will of the flesh – it doesn’t happen because of any act of our body – it does not rely on our own strength to do mighty works to claim our status as sons and daughters – it isn’t based upon our merit. Nor does this happen because of the will of man – it’s not a decision we have to make, a puzzle we have to solve. No – you were made a child of God, you were brought to faith, called to believe in Christ Jesus and given the gift of faith by God. The Word of God, indeed the very Child in the manger came to you – the Father sent His Word to you, poured out His Holy Spirit upon you, called you His own child in by the Word in the Waters of Holy Baptism – and so you are.
This happens, this is possible, only because this Word of God, the One by whom all things were made, beholding sinful man, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Or as John puts it here in the Gospel – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God becomes Man – right now, God is a Man, He has a Body, He is our brother. We do not have to try to find some mystical way to Him – He came to us, came to be with us, to share in our life so that He might restore us to everlasting life. That is the glory and wonder of this day – that God comes to us.
The Word becomes flesh – and He dwells among us. That word dwell is a loaded term – it’s saying that Jesus tabernacled with us – that the presence of the Lord that Moses saw at the tabernacle was made more wondrous and awesome when God came to dwell with us, not in a tent, not in a temple made with human hands, but in His own Body. What hope this gives. This body that you have, with it’s aches and suffering – Christ Jesus has come to you bodily – in His own Body. Do you see what that means? It guarantees that on the last day – when our Lord calls you forth from the grave, you will have your body, but it will no longer be full of aches and pains and things that don’t work right, but it will be perfected, like His Body – because He has come to dwell with you, to be with you, to live eternally with you – to make you like Him, to make you shine to reflect His Glory in a Body like His glorious Body.
That’s why we call this day, this celebration of our Lord’s incarnation, our Lord’s taking up a Body, Christmas – Christ Mass. Because it is there, in the Sacrament of the Altar, in the Lord’s Supper, where you receive your Lord’s Body and Blood to be a promise, a pledge and token that all the things you hear in the Scriptures, all the things which Christ Jesus does, His birth, His fasting, His death, His resurrection – that these all were done for you – that He has chosen to dwell, to tabernacle here with you – to come to you until the day when He calls you to Him for all eternity.
My dear friends in Christ, there is nothing more joyous or wondrous that I could say than the fact that God has become Man, that Jesus has come and by taking His Body born of Mary to the Cross and dying and rising, He has won you salvation, and He gives this Salvation to you richly. He is the Emmanuel, God with us, the source of all life and where we have our completion, the love of God given to us for our everlasting salvation. Rejoice and celebrate this Christmas – I will not wish you a merry one, for it is no mere wish, but it is a reality – because Christ Jesus is born, and you have live and salvation in His Name. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +