Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Day

Christmas Day – 2019 – John 1

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +
Let’s start where John starts His Gospel, the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It’s a good place to start, the beginning. . . but the Word is there before that – for the Word was God. Yes, the Word was of the Father’s Love Begotten, ere the worlds began to be. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life.” Pretty impressive – it is as we confess in the Nicene Creed – the Word is the Maker of all things, by whom all things were made – God Almighty, God Himself, the 2nd Person of the Trinity – this is the Word that John Speaks of this Christmas morning.

And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.” And here our jaw should drop – our surprise should be greater at this than at anything we saw under our tree this morning. The Word, God Almighty Himself, became Flesh, became Man, and dwelt among us, lived among us. Think on that. God became Man – God looks down from heaven and sees us sinful folks mucking it up, making a mess of our lives. He sees us earning nothing but His wrath and Damnation. . . and what does He do? Does He blot us from existence? Does He run away and leave us alone, deciding to just let us rot in our own mess that we have made? No. He becomes Man. God sees us in our sinful state and says, “You know what, I will fix that. . . I’ll become one of them, I will live the perfect life, and win for them salvation by my own death.” God sees our sin, and how does He respond? By becoming Man, by being born, by being a helpless infant. God, in order to win our salvation, hungers until His mother decides to suckle Him, lies in dirty diapers until His mother changes Him, stays where He is put until He can learn to crawl, then to walk. We often get this sweet, neat picture of Christmas – but that sort of misses the point. Christmas is messy, babies are messy. Christmas means God becomes Man and dwells among us – He comes down to us because we can’t go up to Him. God chooses to participate in our lives, share in what we have. And He comes to share in all of it – not just the highs, but also the lows, the hardship, the weakness, the frailty. We see God tasting in all that we taste in our days. We see God for our salvation lying in a food trough.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Indeed, God came down to earth, down to the world to be among men, and by in large men reject Him. Wicked King Herod sought to kill Him, sent our Lord’s Adoptive father Joseph and His Virgin mother scurrying into flight into Egypt in order to protect their infant Child. Yes, a few wise men from afar would come and bow down, but those who were accounted wise among His own people – the Pharisees, the scribes, the priests – they mocked Him. They said He was possessed, they called him a Drunkard. They plotted His death. The crowds on Good Friday finished the job that Herod started as they shouted for His death. But we shouldn’t think it was only people way back then who reject Christ. Look at the very Holy-day of Christmas even in our own land. By in large, we’re more apt to be thinking about Santa than Jesus for most of December. If you tell people that Christmas is coming, they tend to be more worried about getting their shopping done than they are about giving thanks to Christ Jesus for His deigning to come to us. Or maybe we should say Happy Holidays instead. Of course, we’ve even taken the holy out of the holy days. Christmas day has become simply a day for eagerly opening presents and feasting – many Churches don't even have service today, so people can be at home with their families, instead of worshiping together with their real family, the Body of Christ, instead of gathering together for the great and true Christmas Feast – the Lord’s Supper.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. The presence of the Lord, God’s presence, is a scary thing when you are a sinner. It terrified the people of the Old Testament – Adam and Eve hid in the garden, the children of Israel demanded God keep His distance, Isaiah thought He was going to die when He saw God in the temple. Sinful man is reminded of the wages of his sin when He beholds God’s holiness. It’s no surprise that the people of Christ’s day or the world today reject Christ. God with us reminds us that we need God to be with us, that we are not self-sufficient, that we of ourselves are condemned need rescuing from our sin. Instead we often crave better ways to delight in sin. And often enough, even we who know better cave and give into sin, we are tempted to want nothing to do with Christ. When we sin, we shout at the Christ child “Be away from me, I want no part of you. Let me live my life how I want to.” But God does come to us, in His great and wondrous mercy our Lord comes to us again and again – but He doesn’t come as we would expect. He doesn’t come yet as an angry judge to damn us for our sin – that’s what we feared. He doesn’t come yet as a mighty King to defeat and destroy. In His mercy, God has held off that judgment of the last day, and instead He devised a different coming, a coming that would give us hope to be able to stand on that last day. He comes to us simply as one of us.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Boy born in the stable at Bethlehem would grow, He would run and play, He would learn His letters and how to work a saw, a hammer. He would learn from Joseph and Mary to go the temple and pray. They taught Him His prayers which He said at night before He went to bed. God dwelt among us – He lived a life with all the things that we see. Jesus got picked on growing up by the neighborhood bully and caught the colds the kids passed around. He grew into a young Man and had to work – He had friends who disappointed Him and abandoned Him when He needed them. He went hungry and suffered. He wept and mourned. He laughed and rejoiced and celebrated. He heard people complain about Him. Everything you can think of in your life, all the range of experiences, He too shared in them – all except sin, for this Christ Jesus is the spotless lamb, the One without Blemish. He lived how Adam would have lived had he not sinned, Christ lived how we would live if we didn’t sin. This is way in which Christ comes to us, dear friends. Jesus comes to us to share in our lives. Know that Christ Jesus knows our struggles in life well, personally. He too has shared them. Your ups and downs, He knows them. Your joys and sorrows, our Lord knows them. Even your temptations, our Lord knows them, why they would appeal, although He did not give in. Christ has dwelt among us, He has shared fully in your lives. He understands the trials you face, and as such in Compassion He is determined to win you salvation from them. That is the miracle of Christmas Day – that God would lower Himself to our level, simply to be with us, all in order that by His life and death and resurrection He might raise us up to the life everlasting.

Christ Jesus our Lord continues to come to us this day. Jesus still dwells with us, He is still here for our Salvation. Jesus still has the Body that was born in that manger, it is His. Satan tried to wrest it from Him, put Him to death upon the Cross, but on Good Friday Satan overstepped His bounds, and so the Father restored Jesus; the Father was pleased, saw all that His Son had done, and returned Him to life – and now Christ Jesus has risen and lives to die no more. Right now the Man Jesus, born of Mary, Jesus our Brother who shares in all that we are, rules all of Creation from heaven. And Right now, Christ our Brother comes to us, comes to dwell with us here in His Supper. This is Christmas. . . Christ Mass. . . the service of Holy Communion where we celebrate the fact that God became Man for us, that He gives Himself to us, even His own Body and Blood in His supper. It is the feast of His incarnation. As the manger held the infant Christ on the first Christmas morn, this Christmas morn we hold in our hands the Resurrected, life-giving Body of our Lord. Behold your King comes to you humble and lowly, His Body and Blood under Bread and Wine, and brings with Him your life and Salvation. God Almighty comes down from His throne, Christ Victorious over sin and death comes and gives us His own life! This is why we celebrate Christmas – we in fact celebrate it every time we have the Lord’s Supper. God has come and been our Savior – He has won for us full redemption by His death on the Cross, and He gives us His own life to share.

Dear friends in Christ, a most happy, joyous, and blessed Christmas to each of you. This day we remember and rejoice in a great and mighty wonder. Christmas comes again, as Christ shows us His own Body in His Supper and gives us His life. God has come to be with you, to give you life and salvation, to give you Peace with God and each other. God grant that we might ever more know and realize this, even until the day when we see Him face to face. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Newborn King +

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