Friday, December 27, 2013

Sermon -- Christmas Day (December 25, 2013)

JOHN 1:1-14
BEHOLD!  YOUR LORD HAS COME!
 In the name + of Jesus.

      The angel had announced it to shepherds out in the field who were keeping watch over their flock by night:  “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8,10-11)  What is lost in translation, what the shepherds would have heard in their native tongue, was more vivid than the Greek or English can convey.  He who was born in Bethlehem, who was lying in a manger was the LORD, that is, Yahweh or Jehovah.  It is the special name which the Lord had given to Israel by which they would know him.  It is the name the Lord revealed to Moses when he was about to act as the Savior and Deliverer of his enslaved, chosen people.  And it is the name proclaimed to the shepherds when he is born to be the Savior and Deliverer of the world.  Behold!  He who is born is the LORD, Yahweh, Jehovah.  Behold!  Your Lord has come!
     What St. Luke proclaims in his Gospel, St. John also wrote in his Gospel.  St. John does not record the words of an angel, but he does proclaim the word of the Lord.  It is the word of God about the Word of God.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14) 
     Jesus Christ is the Word, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, God the Son.  All things were made through him.  In him was life.  He is the light who shines in the darkness.  He is the true light, which enlightens everyone. (John 1:3,4,5,9)  St. John declares that the one born in Bethlehem is God.  Behold!  Your Lord has come!
     But notice now how he comes.  When God came upon the earth, he appeared most unlike God.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  He came in weakness and humility, in frail flesh.  He who is omnipotent came powerless.  He who is omnipresent was confined first to a virgin’s womb and then to a manger.  He who holds all things together had to be held by his mother.  He who dwells in light that no one can approach was harmlessly resting as he was approached by shepherds and Magi.  And ultimately, he who is immortal came to die.
    Behold!  Your Lord has come!  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, (has come) into the world. (John 1:4-5,9)  Jesus has come to rescue you who had dwelt in the darkness of sin.  In darkness, you did not know the way to eternal life.  In darkness, you could not even recognize the distinction between good and evil.  And because your heart is still clouded by a sinful nature, you still do not always recognize this.  You still think there is something to be gained by evil, and so you are still snide to your wife, impatient with your children, jealous of your friends, discontented with God’s blessings, and prone to certain sins.  You are inconvenienced by what is good, and so you don’t want to give any time, effort, or money to causes that are not your own.  You don’t overcome your sin, and you can’t.  There still lurks a very dark side in your heart.  Sometimes you keep it hidden.  Other times it is obvious.  But it is there, and it corrupts you.  This is corruption is the thing that condemns you before God.  You cannot fix it or escape it.  You must be saved from it.  And so, God sent a Savior for you.
     “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8,10-11)  Behold!  Your Lord has come!  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  He became flesh so that he could save you.  For, God has commanded that man must obey his Commandments.  And now, one has come who has obeyed all the Commandments.  He delivers the obedience you have not done.  He has satisfied God’s demands.
     But behold!  Your Lord has come not just to show you what it is to be holy.  He has shown you what it means that he has borne your curse.  He became man to have his flesh pierced for the sins of all men.  He became man to have his blood flow as a sin offering for all mankind.  By his sufferings and death, Jesus has borne the curse for your sins.  He has satisfied God’s wrath.  By his perfect life and sacrificial death, Jesus has given you the right to become children of God.  And if you are God’s children, then you are heirs of the resurrection to everlasting life.  Then you have a seat at the heavenly banquet.
     Behold!  Your Lord has come!  He fills you with the joy that God has been pleased to do all that needs to be done to save you.  Yet, your Christmas may not be as happy as you had dreamed of.  For many people, Christmas is not Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.  And while Christmas may be a nice diversion and distraction for you, your December 25 Fa-la-la may turn into “Woe-is-me” on December 26.  The days following Christmas may have you returning to a life which is still filled with struggles, pain, sorrow, and frustration.  You may feel like you have really been saved from nothing, because sin and sorrow are still there.
     Dear Christian, do not mistake happiness for joy.  Happiness can come and go.  Often, it lasts as long as the excitement of new presents.  And happiness can be shattered as quickly as the new toys.  But this is your joy: Your Lord has come who has saved you from every sorrow.  He has come to win you a better, everlasting future.  He has come to grant forgiveness for all your sins.  He covers your shame with his holy, innocent blood.  So, while you may have people who would shame you and you may even be ashamed of yourself, your Lord speaks a different word.  He says you are children of God Most High.  There is never any shame in that.
     Behold!  Your Lord has come.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, (has come) into the world. (John 1:9)  Jesus enlightens you to see that your God is a merciful God, even merciful to you in your pains, weaknesses, and faults.  He shows you how great God’s love for you is, that he would send his Son to die so that you would have eternal life, and that he would send Jesus to the grave so that you will be delivered from yours.  Jesus enlightens you to see that sin leads to death and hell, that sins do not serve your neighbor, that sins are destructive to your family, and that sins always produce wrath and guilt.  Jesus enlightens you so that you recognize that God has set the standard for what is good and what is evil.  He fills you with a disgust for what is evil and a delight for what is good.
     You will continue to live out your days in weakness and humility.  You will continue to struggle with temptations that are common to all people.  But you have a God who has mercy upon you.  Behold!  Your Lord comes again.  And see how he comes.  He still veils his glory in humble things.  He comes to you today in the bread and the wine, but to these he attaches a promise: “This is my body, given for you.  This is my blood, shed for you.”  Once again, your Lord can be seen and touched.  And once again, he comes to save you through these gifts.  Running to Bethlehem might make for a nice vacation, but you will not find Jesus there.  Today, he comes from this altar, and he comes for the same purpose that he did when he was born and placed in a manger.  Unto you comes a Savior.  He is Christ the Lord.  The Word became flesh, and his flesh is given to you today for your forgiveness. 
     Behold!  Your Lord has come!  He is God Almighty, veiled in flesh.  He is Immanuel, God with us, pleased as man with men to dwell.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us so that we would dwell with him forever in peace, joy, and unending, undisturbed happiness.  That is your comfort today and on December 26 and always.  For, Jesus is always your Savior, and you are always God’s child.  There are no better gifts.

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

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