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Christmas Day 2015. “The Word Made Flesh”


Christmas Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 1:1-18

December 25, 2015

“The Word Made Flesh”

Iesu Iuva

God is never far away from any one of us. But there are moments when He seems nearer than others. Usually those are times when we are not distracted by ourselves, our worries and desires, but are able for a moment to step outside ourselves and pay attention to the order and beauty in the creation. Like when I was fifteen and a cousin took me and my sister and my dad to a cottage in the highlands of Zimbabwe in Africa. I can still remember looking at the stars, which were amazing because there were so few lights around, and noticing with wonder that they had different constellations than we do in Illinois because there we were south of the Equator. But it wasn’t just that. It was that the stars were so beautiful, old and vast, and we were so small. People throughout the history of the world from every nation have had experiences like this and said to themselves, “How can all this exist unless there is a God?”

 

The same feeling and thoughts come at other times. Sometimes we hear music that moves us so powerfully that we seem to participate in a beauty that is greater than our own existence. Or we fall in love, and everything we come into contact with reminds us of that person we love. Or we give birth to a child, and suddenly instead of living only for ourselves we experience what it is to want to live for someone else.

 

But even when we do not have such experiences, the creation goes on with a purpose and an order that is not ours. We can discover it, recognize it, but we don’t create the order. The sun rises and sets, the days grow long and short according to the seasons each year. Our brains, without our conscious thought, regulate our breathing, digestion, heartbeat.

 

That’s the reason that throughout human history people have always stubbornly believed in a God or gods. We can recognize from creation’s order and from its sublimity that there must be a powerful and wise Being who brought it about. And the ancient Greeks, looking at creation and using their reason, concluded that God must have used this ordering principle to create and sustain the world. They called this ordering principle “The Word.”

 

The Greeks got about as far as human reason will take you in coming to a knowledge of God. Which is to say they had some right ideas about God, but they were a long way from knowing Him. God does have a Word through Whom He created, ordered, and sustains the universe. The Word is the Son, the only-begotten Son of the Father. He was with God in the beginning. He is God. And through Him everything that is came into being. All the beauty, order, and wisdom in the world are the prints of His fingers. It came into being through Him and continues to exist through Him. His life is what upholds the world and what gives it meaning and order. Music works and is not just a cacophony of noise because of the Word. Mathematics and science work because there is order in the world that comes from the Word. “From His fullness we have all received,” says St. John. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Everything that gives us life, sustains our lives, and gives them meaning and purpose comes from the Word of God who was in the beginning with God and who is God.

 

You would think, then, that it would be everyone in the world’s goal to draw near to that Word of God. If everything beautiful and lovely and good comes from the Word, surely the Word would be the best of all, just like water at its source is clearer and better than what is downstream. But that is not what people do. They love the gifts of the Word and ignore the source of the gifts. They set their love and trust on created things rather than the Creator. Instead of the beauty of the stars causing them to glorify the God who made them, they bowed down to the stars as gods. Instead of knowing the Divine Love of which all human love is but a shadow, they set their hearts on the love of their spouse or children. And we are no different. By nature we know there is a God, and yet we have loved and trusted and become attached to the things He made instead of loving and trusting in Him above all things.

 

That leaves us cut off from the Father’s Word, alienated from His life, without the life that gives light to every man. The Word continues to uphold us, but we reject Him. And everywhere you can see and experience the sadness and the dying that comes from being alienated from the source of all life, truth, and goodness.

 

We are restless and dissatisfied. We are vain and selfish. We cannot step outside of ourselves and marvel at the wonderful works of the Word and be led by Him into the glory of God the Father. We are preoccupied with glorifying ourselves.

 

We make a god of our own happiness, seeking it even at the expense of others. Yet we never arrive at contentment or rest.

 

This is death. It is the beginning of the never-ending death that is the result of separation from the eternal Word. In hell there will be no rest, but only the eternal despair of ever being happy, the eternal regret of knowing that we once enjoyed the gifts of the eternal Good but rejected the One who gave them.

 

But Christmas changes all this.

 

Where we once saw glimpses of the eternal Word from far away, we now see Him in His fullness. He has come near to us. He who was in the beginning, in the Father’s bosom from eternity, has entered time.

 

He has become one of us, a human being. And through His coming in our nature He makes us know God. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

 

The Father’s eternal Word who made and upholds the world has come into the world. He who was in the beginning, in the Father’s bosom from eternity, has come to us. He has come to us not merely as a spirit or a force. He has become one of us, a human being. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

 

He has come to us in a form that we understand—as a human person. He has not come to terrify us or to condemn us, but to show Himself to us in a way that we are able to bear. That is why on Christmas we adore the baby Jesus. The mighty God, the eternal Wisdom, the Word, is wrapped up and held close to the breast of His mother. He shows that He loves human beings, even though we have turned away from God to demons and the darkness. If He wanted to destroy us, why would He become one of us? If He wanted to terrify us, why would He become an infant? No one is scared of an infant. So the mighty Word comes near to us in our flesh, to live our life and bear our iniquity.

 

The Word became flesh and lived among us. He did this to reveal Himself to us and to reveal the Father in Himself.

 

He came to restore human beings, so that we not only reason that there is a God, but that we know the true God. Through the Holy Spirit we know the Son as our Savior and Brother. Through the Son we know the Father as our Father in heaven.

 

He came into human flesh to re-create it, so that it is able to dwell in God’s presence again. To see God and not hide in the darkness.

 

And He came not only to bring us back to God as His creatures, but to give us new birth as God’s sons and heirs.

 

In the Old Testament, Moses went up into the presence of God on Mount Sinai. He came back down with God’s Law. The Law contained God’s rules for how people must live to be pleasing to Him. In some ways people already knew this Law, because their consciences witnessed to it. But the Law on tablets of stone made it clear and undeniable what God expected of human beings.

 

But as you know, having the Law of God didn’t make the Israelites right. Just because He told them what to do didn’t mean they were able to do it. And so despite knowing God’s law we see throughout Israel’s history that they continually turned away from Him. Away from the light.

 

St. John preaches to us on Christmas: “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

 

Jesus does not come with a new Law. He comes with grace. Grace means that God loves you and blesses you even though you haven’t deserved it.

 

Jesus is the well of grace. In giving Him, the Word, to become a human, God gives us His pure favor and grace and love. Jesus is the One who fulfills the Law. Grasp Him by faith and you have fulfilled the Law; you enter God’s presence and live.

 

Because Jesus brings us back to God. He lives without ever turning away from God. He dies the death that we have earned by rejecting God. He fulfills the demands of the Law for us. Then He raises our human nature with Him to the right hand of God.

 

Everyone who believes in Jesus receives the power to become a son of God through Him. Through faith in Him God gives us new birth as His sons. We are reborn into Jesus who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father. Through faith in Jesus, the Word made flesh, we no longer merely speculate about God from a distance.

 

We know Him. We see Him in Jesus.

 

And we not only see Him and know Him as outsiders. We know God as sons. Because when God’s only-begotten Son took up human nature, He united human beings to Himself. He adopted our sin and death and made it His own on the cross, taking it out of the way. Then He raised our flesh to reign at God’s right hand.

 

If you believe this, you are reborn. You are given new birth by God. You are created anew by the Word in His image. You share in Jesus’ life by faith. You are born of God and know God. Throughout your life you will experience the cross and suffering and finally death, as did God’s Son. But you will be raised with Jesus and reign with Him. You will know the power of His resurrection and attain to the resurrection of the dead.

 

So we feast and rejoice on Christmas Day. No one has ever seen the Father, but God the Word has revealed Him by coming in the flesh. He has come down to us and raised up our flesh to heaven. He has united us with Himself and made us sons of God.

 

The body and blood that He gave for our sins we eat and drink this Christmas morning. We are forgiven. We are united to the eternal Word. We rejoice in the eternal Word who created us and who now has become what we are through His incarnation.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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