Christmas Eve – 2022 LSB #’s 367, 370, 384:1-3, In This Precious Baby Boy, 365, 363
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.
THIS IS MY SON: JESUS
A father’s relationship with his children is incredibly important to their emotional & social well-being. The negative effects of a child growing up without a father can be seen in countless studies & reports. The statistics reveal the importance of an absent father figure in the majority of children’s lives.
The United States Department of Justice funded a study titled, “What Can the Federal Government Do to Decrease Crime & Revitalize Communities?” According to the study children from fatherless homes account for:
63 percent of youth suicide
90 percent of all homeless & runaway youth
85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
71 percent of all high school dropouts
75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
Children do best when they know & are raised by a father & a mother. But even when dad is present, it doesn’t mean everything will go well. Authors & screenwriters have recognized the complex relationship that can exist between fathers & sons. They have used those tensions to create powerful stories.
In The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker while they are fighting that he is fact, Luke’s father, it was a most shocking father-son moment. How many other movies can you think of that revolve around the relationship between father & son? How about The Godfather, a story of sons trying to not disappoint fathers; Finding Nemo, is about an overprotective father & a wayward son; The Tree of Life, explores the generational effect of how fathers raise their sons; & The Lion King, about another son who feels like he cannot live up to his father’s expectations.
Based on our own storytelling, we humans know both how important fathers are & how difficult our relationships with them can be. In the Advent series this month, we have explored three different father – son relationships found in the OT, all of which ended in disappointment or tragedy.
Cain, the son of Adam, was not the promised Savior that Adam & Eve hoped he would be. Rather, he continued in his father’s sin, becoming the first man among many who would strike out & commit murder.
Neither was Ishmael, the son of Abraham, the promised son. Abram & Sarai thought they had to take matters into their own hands in order to produce an heir. They soon learned the folly of not trusting in God by trying to accomplish what only God could do.
Absalom, a son of David, despite his father’s great love for him, ended up disappointing his father, rebelling against him & losing his life in the process.
All these stories, biblical & modern, point to the most complicated father – son relationship of all time. It’s the story of God the Father, Creator of heaven & earth, & the children He created, the sons of men. And it is our story.
Though we desperately need the presence of our loving heavenly Father for our wellbeing, we have rejected Him time & time again through our sinful & foolish ways. Like Cain, we have become murderers through our sinful thoughts, words & actions. Like the story of Ishmael, we have tried to take matters into our own hands, thinking that our plans can bypass the plans of God. But our efforts are doomed to fall short & drive us further away from our Creator. Like Absalom, we have rebelled against our heavenly Father & King, wanting to rule our own lives. But this always leads in the direction of death & condemnation.
Rather than trust in our heavenly Father’s guidance, which is always wise & good, we prefer to place our trust in political figures, or retirement plans, or in our efforts to find salvation in this life. Rather than listen to the truth that our heavenly Father speaks to us, we prefer to listen to & place our confidence in the opinions of sinful human beings.
Our story is one of wayward & stubborn children with a Father who is even more stubbornly pursuing us out of His great love. It is the story captured by Jesus in His parable of the prodigal son. I hope you know this story well.
The younger son of a wealthy & generous father demanded his share of the inheritance. He said, in effect, “I wish you were already dead so I can have your stuff!” With his words, he murdered like Cain. With his actions, he rebelled like Absalom. Even more shockingly, the father gives his son what he wants. He allows him to walk away & out of his life.
Yet the father never stops looking for his son, hoping & praying that he will return. Though he had every reason to be, he was not angry at his son. He simply wanted another opportunity to show him how much he loved him.
When the son had wasted all of his father’s money & found himself at the end of his rope, his father finally got the chance to demonstrate how great was his love for his son.
The prodigal knew he did not deserve his father’s love nor even a place in the family. He merely wanted to return as a servant. Perhaps he could work his way back in. With his focus on his own works, he became like Abraham & Sarah. But his father would have none of it. Before he can even speak, the son is embraced tightly, clothed in the finest robe & sandals, & given the family ring, a symbol of his status as a son of the father. A celebration is planned, a fattened calf is sacrificed. The son who once was lost has been found. The son who once was dead is alive.
The story begs the question: how could the father love his son like this? How could he just receive him back as if he had done nothing wrong? Would God do the same for us? These are questions that are answered by the events of Christmas. The birth of Jesus tells of the only perfect Father – Son relationship that has ever existed.
This relationship has existed since before time began. It will continue to exist throughout eternity. It is a relationship proclaimed in many of the Christmas songs we sing. “Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha & Omega, He the source, the ending He.” (LSB 384:1)
Or, “Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light.” (LSB 363:3) “Son of the Father now in flesh appearing!” is from O Come, All Ye Faithful. (LSB 379:2) “Now through His Son doth shine the Father’s grace divine.” It’s from, Now Sing We, Now Rejoice, (LSB 386:3) That Father – Son relationship also appears in the 1st chapter of John’s Gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... 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... No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” (John 1:1–2, 14, 18)
God the Father knows how much we need Him, & despite our rejection of Him, we need to know our Father. It is the only way to find true joy, peace, hope & life. In order to make us children of God, Yahweh sent His only-begotten Son into the world – the Son of Man & Son of God – to be the perfect Son that none of us could be. “When the fullness of time had come,” Paul explains, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5) Jesus is the true Son of Adam, the promised Seed foretold in Genesis 3, who committed no murder with His thoughts, words or actions. Rather, He was murdered that you & I might live.
Jesus is the true Son of Abraham, the One who would bless all nations, by taking our sin into Himself & giving to us His righteousness. Jesus is the true Son of David, the King of kings, who remained perfectly obedient to His Father, yet became a curse for us by hanging from a tree. Psalm 146 reminds us:
“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3–4) But Jesus is both the Son of Man & the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. When His breath departed, God’s plan of salvation was complete. God & sinners were reconciled.
Because of the gift of His Son, God reveals to us, in a shocking twist, that He is, in fact, our Father, who loves & forgives you & me. He grants us the right to become children of God. He adopts you & makes you part of His eternal family through your Baptism into Jesus. What Yahweh said to Messiah at His Baptism, He now says to you through yours:
“This is My son. This is My daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” You are not a fatherless child. You do not have an absentee Father. Though you don’t deserve it, you have a perfect relationship with your heavenly Father who has given up His only-begotten Son for you.
He will always love you, care for you & shield you with His presence, just like a good Father should do. “All this for us our God has done granting love through His own Son. Therefore, all Christendom, rejoice. And sing His praise with endless voice. Alleluia!” We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth, (LSB 382:7) Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet