Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sermon -- Christmas Day (December 25, 2016)

o logos is the Greek for "the Word,"
who is the second person in the Trinity.
JOHN 1:1-14


In the name + of Jesus.

     We are familiar with the Christmas narrative from St. Luke's Gospel.  There is something endearing, perhaps even romantic in our minds, about Mary and Joseph gushing over their newborn boy while shepherds come to them from the fields and tell stories about the angel's message and heavenly choirs.  Luke is the chief historian among the Gospel writers.  He documents the story.
     St. John's Gospel also covers the Christmas narrative, but St. John gives us the spiritual realities behind the physical realities.  If St. Luke records the history, St. John presents the cosmic battle that takes place when Jesus enters into the world.*  The battle lines are drawn up as our hero enters into the fray.  It is a battle of heaven versus hell; light versus darkness; life versus death.  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. (John 3:16)  The Son is given to do battle for us, and he comes knowing that he will be tortured and finally put to death.  The Father loves the world so that he gives his only begotten Son to die.  He gives his Son to sin, death, and the devil so that by his death, the Savior will rescue us from these wretched captors.
     St. Luke records the words of the angel: “For unto is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)  He who is born in Bethlehem is the Lord.  St. John records the same thing this way: “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...” (John 1:1,14)  The Lord is the Maker of heaven and earth.  He loves his creation, and he is not willing that any in it should perish.  The Lord did not merely invest himself in this world by creating it.  He invested himself in this world by becoming a part it.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  God became man in order to redeem mankind.
     The Lord of life entered into a world which is dying.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)  Jesus has come to bestow life and to shine the light of God's grace on a world which is darkened by sin.
     To say that the world dwells in darkness is not to say that people are stupid.  Even though all people are sinners, people have not lost their intelligence, capabilities, or creativity.  We live in an amazing age in which technology has allowed us to travel the world, to send information instantly across the country, and to have machines do our household chores for us.  We get to enjoy symphonies, to see works of art, to read literature, and to send people to space and back by crunching numbers and doing physics.  These are not the works of stupid people.
     When sin entered the world, man's intelligence, creativity, and capabilities were not stripped; they were darkened by sin.  Because of sin darkened hearts and minds, we corrupt the use of God's good gifts.  Intelligence, creativity, and capability are now used in wickedness.  Technology allows gossip to escape a select group and to be published on the world wide web.  Creativity is used to promote perversion.  There are stories we would never tell in good company without blushing, but if they are put to a catchy tune we will belt them out with gusto.  And machines are driven into Christmas markets to kill people.
     We may admit that our sins are stupid, but we do not commit them because we are stupid.  Contrary to the saying, stupid can be fixed.  But we commit sins because we are sinners.  We are darkened in our understanding.  Satan convinces us that our highest goal of life is to be happy which translates into serving, loving, and coddling ourselves at the expense of others.  Sin causes us to despise our loved ones because they are a drain on the time, attention, and money that could be concentrated on ourselves.  Sin causes us to call God's word stupid because its threats curb our appetite for sin and forbids us from taking what God chose not to give us.  This is what Satan sells as happiness, and we in our sinful condition buy it.  Repent.
     But now the light shines in the darkness.  The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.  The Lord enters our world and lives as one of us.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)  That could also be translated “the darkness has not comprehended it.”  Even to believers, Jesus' life is incomprehensible.  Consider how Jesus lives for people who sin against him.  Jesus is God Almighty, but he comes into the world helpless and fully dependent upon sinful parents.  He is the Creator of all things, but now he is at the mercy of his creation—enduring the cold of night, the sorrow of burying loved ones, and the pain of betrayal.  He is the friend of sinners, but he also is the victim of sinners who accuse him, who beat him, and who finally kill him.  He is pure and innocent, and yet he will bear the guilt of all people.  He is the King of the Universe and loves the world, and yet the world by and large does not care for him at all.  Nevertheless, he suffers and dies for the sins of all.  Jesus came to save sinners regardless of how crooked, how violent, how notorious, and how nefarious they are.  Jesus had no reason to be punished for any sins, yet he consumes the full wrath of God for all sinners so that no one should have to perish.  We might think that only a stupid person would do what Jesus did.  The darkness does not comprehend this.
     But the light shines in the darkness, and God's grace is revealed to you.  Jesus does not suffer and die because he is stupid or because of stupid circumstances.  Jesus suffers and dies on purpose because he is gracious.  He gives to you what you do not deserve.  Jesus comes to take from you all of your guilt, your shame, and your death.  In turn, Jesus cleanses you of sin.  He gives you a clean heart and a right spirit which no longer views God in terror or runs from his word.  Even when God's word redirects your life, you acknowledge in penitence: “I was stupid and stubborn and sinful.  God is right and wise, and his word is good.”  The light shines in the darkness to show you that God is merciful, that God loves what he has created, that God has acted to save you from death and damnation, and that God desires to have you spend your eternity with him in joy.
     The light shines in the darkness.  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 1:12-13)  Now, you are children of God.  You have been born again in the image of God.  Though that image has not yet been perfected in you, you get to use your intelligence, capabilities, and creativity in ways that honor God, that follow his word, that seek the good of your fellowman, and that find joy in what is pure and good.  The darkness still will not get it.  Those who still dwell in darkness may think you are stupid for living pure and decent and selfless lives.  But you, having been enlightened by Christ, now recognize that Jesus is full of grace and truth.  This grace saves you, and his truth guides you.
     In the town of Bethlehem, a Savior was born to you.  He is Christ, the Lord.  The facts are recorded by St. Luke.  But St. John sets the stage for the cosmic battle between light and darkness.  Your Savior has come and has won the battle for you.  He released you from your enemies and has made you are children of God.  No matter how hard or dirty the darkness fights to win you back, the light continues to shine in the darkness.  The darkness has not and will not overcome it.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world—the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:9,14)  By that truth, he guides you; and by that grace he saves you.

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

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