Christmas Day – 2014 LSB #374
Text – John 1:14
And the Word became flesh & dwelt among us, & we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace & truth.
For me, & perhaps you too, worship on Christmas Day reaches a depth of meaning that’s hard to come by on Christmas Eve. To be sure, Christmas Eve is an emotional time with an impact on people no one wants to give up – the anticipation, the lights, the gifts, the tree, the childhood memories, the family togetherness.
When we reach Christmas Day, however, most of that is over. Here we are, fewer in number (for which reason some churches don’t have Christmas Day services). The hype is gone, the Christmas tree looks different in the daylight, & the world around us has shut down. I believe we’ll find that to be an advantage for us this morning.
We are no longer caught up in the hectic countdown that began weeks ago. We’re no longer distracted by the secular approach to Christmas. We are able, this morning, to focus on something we perhaps could not have focused on last evening.
We are better prepared today to deal with the central affirmation of the Christian faith, which probably is also the central offense of the faith, namely, that “the Word became flesh & made His dwelling among us.” (v. 14)
In some ways this is almost the reverse of what we were about last night. Christmas can very easily become an escape from the world as we know it – a flight into unreality. By means of all the traditions & symbols & activity we can translate ourselves into a world that is beautiful & fanciful, a world of dreams & emotions; a happy, harmonious world, even if it lasts for only a few hours. We are, then, in the world of fantasy, while the truest meaning of Christmas has to do with the world of the flesh. Christians – & other people for that matter – have always had a problem with the flesh, in this case with the human nature of Jesus. Notice how quick we are to defend the divinity of our Lord, often at the expense of His humanity. The creedal statement, “Jesus is Lord,” forms on our lips easier than the assertion, “Jesus is our Brother.”
The truth is we are more comfortable with a Jesus who promises everlasting life, a heavenly home, an escape from a world that is filled with sin & pain – a Jesus, & a world, which are not really part of our blood, sweat & tears. We could define the original sin described in the story of Adam & Eve as a refusal to be human, as a desire to be like God.
To be human means to be in this world, to live in dependence upon God, to be humane to one another – in other words, to be servants rather than lords. To be human is to be content in being a creature. To be human in this now fallen world means to be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ, & to be willing to suffer for others in order to share Christ’s love.
Yes, I believe we have a problem with being human. It is a gift often unaffirmed, if not outright despised. To truly affirm our humanity is to profess that we have been made & redeemed by God, & He is among us: “The Word became flesh & dwelt among us.”
Those who had a problem with Jesus opposed Him because He said that God was at work in & through Him. That was offensive to those who wanted to keep God at arm’s length, preferably up in heaven. Let God rule from the heavens with judgments against the wicked & blessings for the good.
It’d be a scandal for God to come among us as a weak human being, to associate even with the worst of sinners, for then we’d be compelled to affirm our humanity, to recognize all people equally as God’s creatures & objects of His love. It’d mean that we worship a God of grace & forgiveness right here in the midst of men & women called to be the body of Christ, right here in a common meal shared by those in Christ. That’s what Christmas really is about – God among us, even in the midst of the chaos & misery of sin. That is what informs the meaning of Jesus’ death & resurrection – that He is God manifest in the brokenness of human flesh.
Without the incarnation, there’s no Gospel to hear or tell. But John begins his gospel by immediately affirming that the Logos, the God who created all things in the beginning, now joins His creation by means of flesh & blood, by the human nature of Jesus. The implications of that are mind-blowing as well as life-changing.
Hear it clearly: the love of our heavenly Father is an incarnate love; a love our God lived out in flesh & blood. It is among us; it is here, a reality. Love is not an emotion floating around in the air. Love is physically present in Jesus, who reached out to people – even unlovable people. He drew near to sinners. He touched people who were broken, bitter & hurting.
God in the flesh touched them & brought them the forgiveness of our almighty Creator. That love of God has touched us. It’s in you & in me. As the Church, as God’s redeemed & re-claimed humanity, we bring to the darkness around us an acceptance & an affirmation that is the very presence of our Lord.
Make no mistake about it: the Word is working in us flesh-and-blood people so that others will know God is with us. As the Roman centurion said at Jesus’ death, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
God is with us – in the world as it really is, with all its greed & pride, the vanity & ambition, the racial hatred & inhumanity in whatever respect. Jesus is with us despite the world’s strife, ruthless violence & senseless death. Our Savior came to this world where the innocent are crushed, & where the weak are tossed aside.
Christ was with us on the cross, where He intimately knew, & suffered for, each one of
our sins. In fact, from before the foundation of the world, Jesus’ human life was directed toward saving us from our sins. Our Savior is with us out of the tomb; turned loose in the world to show His love to the broken people we meet. He is with us – the Word made flesh in real people like you & me, among us for all time & then for all eternity.
Isn’t this the Word that we, our nation & our world need today, at a time when people are losing their humanity & their souls in the process? Wouldn’t you agree there’d be no hope for us unless God had become a human being, uniting God’s Spirit with ours, & destining us to have God’s life in our physical body?
The anticipation, the lights, the gifts, the tree, the childhood memories, the family togetherness, each of them is certainly a blessing from our Father in heaven, yet none of them is the meaning of Christmas. The foremost meaning of Christ’s birth as a human child is that all of our lives are worth living, & the world in which we live is worth saving.
On Christmas day we find grace & truth in the lowly One who is born of Mary, who identifies with sinners, who blesses ordinary & common things, who calls us to be His servants. Not to see that glory of God is to miss out on Christmas, no matter what we do on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.
To see, with John & all God’s people through the centuries, the true glory of Christmas is to recognize that God is with us in the person of Jesus, both now & forever. Amen.
Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger; there He lay, the Undefiled, to the world a stranger. Such a babe in such a place, can He be the Savior? Ask the saved of all the race who have found His favor. Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger; He is still the Undefiled but no more a stranger. Son of God of humble birth, beautiful the story; praise His name in all the earth; Hail the King of glory! Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet