Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sermon -- Christmas Day (December 25, 2014)

The Greek words o logos are
translated "The Word."  It is the
name ascribed to the second person
of the Trinity, God the Son.
JOHN 1:1-14
WE HAVE BEHELD HIS GLORY.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…. (Hebrews 1:1)  When the Lord revealed his will and his word throughout the Old Testament, he spoke through flesh and blood prophets.  Only at Sinai did God appear and speak personally to all Israel, but when he did the Israelites begged Moses to speak to God on their behalf.  They were deathly afraid of the glory of the Lord.  They wanted someone to stand in between him and them.  The Lord was also pleased with this plan.  He spoke through Moses, and later through Samuel, and Elijah, and David, and Isaiah, and so on.
     At the end of the Old Testament era, one prophet remained.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  (John 1:6-9)  St. John the Baptist did not merely point people forward to the Lord.  When John pointed, there was a man at the end of his finger.  John was not the Word, but spoke about the Word.  John was not the Light, but pointed to the Light.  John was not Life, but testified to the Life.  John testified about Jesus and declared: That man is God. 
     St. John the Evangelist testifies of Jesus as well.  He says, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  The word “seen” does not mean that we merely caught a glimpse of God.  Some people say we get a glimpse of God at the birth of a baby or by gazing through the Hubble telescope into deep space.  St. John says that we have received much more than a glimpse.  St. John says that we have observed God’s glory.  We have given our attention to it.  We have gazed upon it.  When you behold Jesus, you see God.
     The Word was God. (John 1:1)  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (John 1:10)  One of the reasons the world did not know him is that the world expects something different when God appears.  We have beheld his glory.  But it is a strange sight to behold.  When Jesus calmed the storm or multiplied the loaves, that is what we expect God to look like.  That is glorious and majestic and awesome.  But that is not how God entered our world. 
     We have beheld his glory.  Just as he did throughout the Old Testament, so he does at Christmas.  When God reveals his glory, he hides himself.  God hid his glory under the cloud at Sinai and in the temple.  God hid his glory in the mouths of fleshly prophets.  And when God comes into the world to be our Immanuel, to be “God with us,” God hides himself again.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  More specifically, he “tabernacled” among us.  God hid his glory in frail flesh and blood.  The Omnipotent became impotent.  He who created heaven and earth submitted himself to its pains and frustrations and tragedies.  The fingers which fashioned the stars and scrawled out the Ten Commandments on stone tablets now reached up to wrap his tiny little fingers around the Virgin Mary’s pinky.  It is not meant to be cute.  God’s glory is that he becomes weak and helpless in order to save you.  He becomes flesh and blood so that he will bleed and die for you.  His tabernacle will be ripped by scourge and nails and spear.  The glory of God will be further revealed by bruising and welts and death.  But this is precisely why he comes.  God becomes man to save fallen mankind.
     We have beheld his glory.  Although his glory is veiled in flesh, we behold his glory nonetheless.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)  Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the world.  That is not merely to say that he lives.  It means that anything and everything that lives is because of him.  It means that true life is found in him.  Through him, it has all been brought into being.  By him, it is all held together.  Apart from Jesus, there is only darkness and death. 
     The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)  The darkness is sin and unbelief.  Sinful mankind does know God.  Sinners do not believe that God is good or fair.  Therefore, sinners invent their own gods—gods which can be manipulated, gods which can be fooled, gods which can be defeated, or gods which are just like the people who create them.  Sinners believe in the gods they invent, but not in the God who is.  Unless God reveals himself, you remain in the dark. 
     But the light shines in the darkness.  God reveals himself in Jesus.  That does not mean sinners like it.  St. John notes, “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)  When the Light of Christ shines in the world, it shows us all for the sinners we are.  We would rather have that god who can be fooled so that we can get away with our sins under the cover of darkness and still be rewarded for being good people.  If God exposes you as a sinner, he is not being cruel, but honest.  It is good for us to be honest as well, and to confess our sin.  Then Jesus’ birth will give you reason to rejoice.
     If you would rejoice in Jesus’ birth, it is because you confess that he is your Savior.  If you would delight in a Savior, it is because you recognize that you need to be saved.  The Light now shines in the darkness—not to blast you for your sins, but to show you God’s love and salvation.  We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
     Jesus demonstrates the love of God in that he wants you to be his children and heirs of heaven.  God wanted it, so Jesus came to do the work to make it happen.  The Word became flesh in order to shed his blood as the payment for your sins.  The Word became flesh in order to give his body into death, only to rise from the grave three days later.  By doing these things, Jesus has taken away all of your sins and even delivers you from death.  And to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)  Your rights as God’s children mean that you get to receive the life that Jesus truly wants you to have.  In him is life, and it is a life without fear or shame or guilt.  It is a life with peace and joy, confident that not even death can separate you from the love of God.  It is a life that does not fear the grave, for you know that your body will rise from the dead since you have a flesh and blood Savior who has conquered death for you.  And it is a life that has the hope of everlasting life in God’s presence without sadness or loneliness, without disaster or dissensions, and without end.  We have beheld God’s glory—that he loves and saves sinners.
     And now you get to behold God’s glory again this morning.  For, the Savior who came as flesh and blood for you now comes in body and blood for you.  The flesh and blood Savior who paid for your sins gives you his body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  The flesh and blood Savior who conquered death for you now gives you his body and blood for your everlasting salvation.  This is your true Christmas feast.  Here, he presents his gifts to us.  Here, the grace of God is administered to you.  Here, we behold his glory again. 


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

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