Christmas Day – 2020 LSB #’s 380, 370, 384
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.”
Praying COME, LORD JESUS to Him Who Brings the Enlightening Word
The sublime glow of candlelight at an evening service conveys to many a feeling of peace. The sparkling lights of a Christmas tree can radiate joy & happiness. Shining lights this time of year symbolize an important aspect of the Christmas message – enlightenment!
The good news we celebrate is that Jesus Christ brings true enlightenment – & with it peace & joy. God’s incarnate Word dispels the darkness of sin while bringing the light of grace & saving truth. This connection between word & light is brought out in St. John’s Christmas gospel message. He writes:
“In the beginning was the Word... All things were made through Him... In Him was life & the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it... 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” (John 1:1, 4, 5, 14).
Jesus brought true light into this sin-darkened world. Jesus gives God’s true enlightenment as the Word of God in the flesh. This morning, we gather to hear God’s word &, like Mary, ponder its enlightening impact in our hearts. The goal of this sermon is that you may learn to believe that God’s word in Jesus Christ brings into your life true enlightenment.
But, do we really have a problem with darkness today? Not in the realm of physical light. In fact, the people of Jesus’ day would not be able to fathom the lighting technology we have. Look at the Christmas lighting options on display this year. But the darkness in John’s Gospel has to do with knowledge. We have long used the term “enlightenment” to refer to knowledge & understanding. In many ways, our modern world is more enlightened than ever. There’s nearly unlimited & virtually instantaneous access to information – not just in written forms but audio & video, as well.
If you need to contact someone who isn’t here, what do you do? Call or text them; or you FaceTime. You need to know something, a piece of information, what do you do? Google it. You need to learn where a place is located or what’s the best restaurant, what do you use? You search with an app. You need to find a certain Christmas recipe? There’s Pinterest.
You need to share Christmas memories? There’s Facebook. You need to figure out how to assemble the new electric scooter you got for Christmas? Go to YouTube. Someone has a video for you to watch. With all of today’s technology, do we need more enlightenment?
Many people would say no. Science has become their god & if all of us would just follow it, everyone would live happily ever after. But in terms of what Jesus came to bring, the people of our nation absolutely need true & godly enlightenment as much as ever!
The basic problem of darkness in the heart & soul of human beings has never been solved by technology in any period of history. The discoveries & devices that humankind has been developing through the ages, have in once sense improved the physical standard of living. But they’ve given us new ways to be selfish, more efficient ways to rob & steal & hurt each other.
Consider all the cybercrime going on. Technology has provided much greater capacity for good, but also for destruction. Why? The problem is sin. It makes us ignorant of God’s true nature, of His will, & of His grace. Sin is rebellion, & the evil foe, Satan himself, is always one step ahead of human beings.
Like a computer hacker, Satan seems to know more about technology’s use for destruction than we do about its capacity for good. The words of St. John reveal the depth of this darkness: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, & the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, & His own people did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11)
It is incredible to think about! The creation cannot or will not recognize its own Creator. God’s chosen people cannot identify their promised Messiah. The very prophesies of God which He fulfills are not recognized by so-called enlightened, religious experts. That is the problem of darkness. You cannot see, & you don’t even know what you don’t know.
The prince of darkness takes full advantage in playing on the spiritual ignorance of mankind in order to covertly steal, kill & destroy. To counter this, & to rescue us, enter the true light who has come into the world, the word of God made flesh, our Messiah & Savior. As was announced to Joseph when he was in the dark about Mary’s pregnancy, the angel said:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, & you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20–21).
And John reports: “In Him was life, & the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, & the darkness has not overcome it... To all who did receive Him, 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” (John 1:4, 5, 12, 13).
And, in what do the enlightened, those who are born of God, believe? They believe that in the hour of darkness, on Good Friday, the light of the world, defeated the forces of evil as Jesus died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of all mankind. There, when darkness fell, He died for your sins. Every sin of yours & mine were paid for by His death.
When He rose in the glorious light of Easter, God revealed this enlightening truth – in
Jesus Christ God has brought to us the light of eternal life. That is the enlightenment of the word made flesh that we rejoice in today, & we rejoice with confidence in the power of God’s word to overcome all darkness.
As we’ve been reflecting on His word in our Advent & Christmas services this year, we have acknowledged the powerful enemies who want to keep out the enlightening word of God & keep us in sinful ignorance. The unholy trinity of the devil, the sinful nature & the fallen world, work to keep God’s word out of people’s hearts.
Thanks be to Yahweh, the Holy Spirit is also always working through the Word to create faith that bears the fruit of life & salvation. As Jesus says in His parable about hearing the Word of God, the parable of the Sower, “The one who hears the word & understands it... he indeed bears fruit” (Matthew 13:23).
As we confess regarding the Holy Spirit, He uses that word as He “calls, gathers, enlightens & sanctifies us & keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” That is the enlightenment of Christ that we receive in the ministry of word & sacrament at Christmas.
It is also the enlightenment we can receive in meditation on the word of God & prayer in our daily lives. For that purpose, we can receive the blessing of modern information technology to bring us the enlightening word of God. In our own church heritage, we have an example.
Martin Luther’s use of the printing press brought to the people of his day the word of God in accessible & understandable ways. That was the new information technology that came to the fore during the Reformation 500 years ago. We still benefit from that today as we open our Bibles & read them in homes & work places.
Today, we also have access to the word of God through the various media of digital technology & the internet. You can listen to the word of God while you commute to work or walk on a treadmill. On the Internet, you can look up sermons & Bible studies, or play hymns during family devotions. Various apps & other communication resources can be used to connect with those separated by time & distance, to be together in devotion to God’s word.
The important matter is that we remain focused on God’s word no matter the resources we use, from memorized Bible verses, to reading a printed Bible or a digital one, to hearing a recording of someone sharing God’s word, or being in God’s house in person.
Through the word of God comes true enlightenment revealing the darkness of sin & leading to repentance. Through God’s Word shines forth the gospel that gives faith & guides life in God’s kingdom to bear witness to His saving grace & truth in a world that does not know what it doesn’t know.
As this happens, the body of Christ, His church, continues to bring the light of life & salvation, at Christmas time & throughout the year, until Christ comes again in glory. Amen.
What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard & angels sing; haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the son of Mary! Amen. LSB 370:1.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet