Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sermon -- Christmas Day (December 25, 2018)

o logos is Greek for "The Word,"
which is the name St. John ascribes
to the second person of the Holy Trinity.
JOHN 1:1-14

FOR US MEN, HE BECAME MAN.

In the name + of Jesus.

     In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)  God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)  God loves what he has created, and he poured out his love upon it. 
     The highlight of God's creation are the people he had put into it.  They were to be the chief object of God's affection.  Rather than summoning them into being as he did with all other creatures, the Lord personally invested in himself into the man and the woman by forming them.  He made them unique and distinct from the rest of creation.  God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)  To be created in God's image is not to look like him, but to live for him.  Adam and Eve knew what God wanted.  They desired to do what God wanted.  And they could do what God wanted.  They were in perfect harmony with God's will.  They loved God perfectly, and God loved them perfectly.
     When Satan tempted Adam and Eve to find wisdom, joy, and glory by rebelling against God's will, they did.  They thought that they had to steal what God wanted to give them freely.  Instead, they lost it all.  Instead of wisdom, mankind is now darkened in his knowledge of God.  We often create a god of our own liking, which usually means we believe that God is like us.  He likes what we like and hates what we hate.  Instead of joy, we are dejected, dissatisfied, and even depressed.  Joy and contentment are never found in greed, lust, pride or selfishness.  These always demand more.  They are never satisfied.  Instead of glory, mankind suffers shame and regret.  We are destined for death and hell.  All the world's glory finally ends up in ashes.  Even if we find pleasure for a moment, our shame and death endure forever.
     Even though humanity remained the highlight of God's creation, the image of God in mankind was lost.  Even if man thinks he knows what God wants, he neither wants to do it, nor can he.  Humanity is not what God had created it to be.  We are not obedient to God.  We are not kind to one another.  Often, we do not even like ourselves.  No one is perfect.  No one lives forever.  This is now the nature of mankind, and we cannot fix it.
     And yet, God still loves his creation.  All mankind is destined for death, but God still wants us to live.  Our hearts have become corrupt, discontent, and bitter, but God still wants to bless us with good gifts and great joy.  Even though we turn our backs on God, God has not turned his back on us.  On the contrary, the Lord turns his face toward us, and we see that his face shines upon us.  It shines in this way: God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)  When God sent his Son into the world, he did not come in the appearance of God.  Contrary to many artists' renderings, he did not come with a halo above his head or have any kind of glow.  And contrary to one beloved hymn, it is safe to bet that Jesus made plenty of crying when he grew hungry or soiled his diaper.  The point of Christmas is not the cuteness of baby Jesus; it is the divinity and the humanity of baby Jesus.  God is a man.  This man is God.  For us men, he became man.
     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)  God became man in order to dwell with mankind, and ultimately to save mankind.  God veiled his glory under frail flesh and blood so that we would not be terrified of him.  But it is more than that.
     For us men, he became man.  That means he became flesh and blood, body and soul—not to be like us, but to be one of us.  It means he was conceived, born, grew, and studied and learned.  It means he endured hunger, thirst, weakness, sorrow, pain, and even temptation.  God has become man in every way.  I suppose we might think, “He became man in every way with one exception—he was without sin.”  It is true that Jesus is without sin.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not inherit the sin of Adam.  And he lived his whole life obedient to the Commandments.  But the fact that he was without sin does not mean there was something missing from his humanity.  Adam was a man without sin (although that did not last long), but he did not become more human by sinning.  In the same way, Jesus was a man without sin.  He had a sinless nature and lived a sinless life.  And this did not deprive him in any way of being man.
     For us men, he became man.  God the Son made himself one with with mankind.  And this was done for the sake of restoring mankind to what God has always intended us to be.  In order for God to elevate mankind, God had to humble himself.   God humbled himself by subjecting his divinity to the limits of humanity.  He subjected himself to the laws of nature that bind us—time, space, and matter.  His miracles give a glimpse of his divinity, but the miracles were not the norm.  For the majority of his life, Jesus did not do miraculous signs.  If the goal of Jesus were to dazzle us, he would have chosen a different way than being born in Bethlehem.  But he comes as one of us.  He entered the world as one of us, grew up as one of us, and lived as one of us.  He also submitted to God's Commandments as is required of all mankind.  But unlike Adam, this man did not violate the commands of God.  Unlike us, this man overcame all temptation.  He knew no guilt.  He had no regrets.  There was nothing to hide.  This is what God wants all mankind to be, and this is what Jesus was.
     For us men and for our salvation, he became man.  That's because he also has come to suffer what all men deserve for their sins.  He does not want us to be damned, so he came to die and be damned for all mankind.  The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He went into death for us.  The tender flesh which laid in the manger would later be ripped by a scourge, pierced by nails and thorns, and run through with a spear.  His body would bear our sin, absorb the curse of God, and die our death.  But the flesh and blood, body and soul man could not be contained by his grave.  Jesus rose from the grave, victorious over death, to live forever.  Through Jesus, man conquers death and is free from hell.  Then, he ascended into heaven to show that mankind will dwell in the presence of God forever. 
     For us men and for our salvation, he became man.  For us men, he became man to elevate humanity and restore it to what God had created it to be.  No longer do you have to live with regret, or to hide your shame, or to fear God's wrath, or to dread death or hell or judgment.  For, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)  The wisdom, the joy, and the glory which we crave do not need to be seized through sinful choices.  They do not need to be stolen; they are freely given by our Savior.  Just as this man lives in glory, in everlasting peace and joy, forever free from sorrow, pain, weakness, and death, so shall you.  For us men and for our salvation, he became man.
     God loves what he has created, and he pours out his love upon it.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)  He created mankind to be the focus of his love and blessing.  God loves what he has created, and Jesus proves it.  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)  For us men and for our salvation, God became man.  He redeemed mankind from sin and death in order to give them glory and life.  He restores in you the image of God.  Therefore, you are eager to honor God and do his will.  You know what God wants.  Having been freed from sin, you desire to do what God wants.  Having been made a new creation, you are able to do what God wants, at least in some respect.  You and I are still sinners, so our humanity has not been completely elevated and the image of God has not been perfectly restored.  But once our flesh has been raised from the dead, just as Jesus' was, everything will be perfected.  We will be the glorious creatures God had intended us to be.  And the God who dwelt with man will raise up man to dwell with God forever.
     For us men, he became man.  He is our Immanuel, and we are his people—redeemed from sin, destined for everlasting glory, and truly beloved by God.

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

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