Sermon for the Christ Mass
Isaiah 7:10-14 + Hebrews 1:1-12 + John 1:1-14
Christ is born. Today we celebrate His birthday. It may actually be His birthday. The early Church did some investigating into the records in Rome of the census that was taken in those days. But whether the Church got the date right or not, Christ’s birth happened at a real place in time. Practically no one disputes that a baby boy named Jesus was born in Bethlehem to some descendents of King David named Mary and Joseph about 2018 years ago, and was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. This is He who, as Paul says to the Romans, “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” That’s the easy part, or the relatively easy part. The truth of Jesus’ humanity is undeniable.
But in order to see the other part of the truth, the truth of His virgin birth, the truth of His divine identity, the truth that this Child is the promised Christ who came to save the world from sin and condemnation—well, our eyes won’t do us any good. Roman records and all the investigation in the world won’t do us any good, and you can bet that God had a very good reason for having His Son born at a time before any paternity test could be performed. To see the truth of the divinity of that Child born in Bethlehem requires the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart, and He does that work as we listen and pay attention to the Word of God. This is the part that most of the world still denies, but it’s the part that makes Christians Christians and that makes Christmas worth celebrating.
According to His human nature, Jesus had a beginning, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He was born in time. But according to His divine nature, Jesus had no beginning. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. The Word that was in the beginning is identified as the same Jesus who was born in time. He is the only Person who is both without a beginning and with a beginning. The Mormons have this unscriptural doctrine that every human soul was already begotten by God the Father before the world was made. But according to the Scriptures, human beings don’t exist at all before their conception, nor are they begotten by God the Father. But then there’s Jesus, who, as a human being, didn’t exist before His conception, but as God, did exist since…always, the Only-begotten of the Father, begotten of His Father before all worlds.
Between the Apostle John and the writer to the Hebrews, there is no possible way to be faithful to the Bible and deny Jesus’ divinity. Listen again to what the writer to the Hebrews says about Jesus:
He is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His (that is, God the Father’s) person… Christ is as intricately joined to God the Father as light is joined to the burning light bulb that produces it, or as the picture on the screen is joined to the projector that projects it.
Again, it says in Hebrews Let all the angels of God worship Him. But God absolutely prohibits in His Word the worship of any creature. Therefore, Jesus is God, together with the Father.
And maybe the clearest example of all: But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.” The Father Himself, speaking to Jesus, calls Him “God” and “LORD,” which in Hebrew is the very name Jehovah or Yahweh.
Now there’s plenty more for us to consider in the Christmas Day Gospel from John 1, but for this morning, let’s just focus on this one truth revealed in Holy Scripture, that the One born in Bethlehem was and remains true God, through whom all things were created, through whom all things in the universe are still sustained. You and I and the entire sinful human race were so completely and utterly lost because of our sins that we could only be saved by God becoming flesh.
And that was His purpose in being born. Not to give us a cute holiday story to remember once a year, or a reason for families to gather. But to save us from sin. To save all people from sin by growing up and telling us the truth about Himself, about God, about sin and grace, and by giving His life on the cross. To save all people by faith in God, the Son of God, who became flesh and dwelt among us. John the Baptist came to testify about God, the Son of God, so that, as it says, all through him might believe. Christ was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. Christ came into the world with human DNA so that everyone with human DNA might believe in Him as his or her Savior from sin. He shared in our human DNA so that he might bear the sins of everyone with human DNA.
God, the Son of God, came to call everyone out of the darkness of sin to repentance and faith in His name. But “the world,” as John says, did not receive Him. “The world” has preferred for the last 2,000 years to remain in darkness, to revel in its sin, to trust in its own works and its own gods, or to pretend that there is no God who needs to be appeased.
But some, who were once part of the world, have received the Light of God, the Son of God. You have received Him by hearing His Word and believing in His name, and so John’s words apply to you, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And so we sing, Oh, come, all ye faithful. We don’t sing, Oh, come, all ye hard-working, good and decent people. We don’t sing, Oh, come, all ye sinless people. We don’t sing, Oh, come, all ye white people or black people or Hispanic people. We sing, Oh, come, all ye faithful—full of faith—all you sinners from every nation, tribe, language and people, from every economic class and educational background, all who have heard the Christmas Gospel and believed in God, the Son of God, as your Savior from sin. Christ came for all people. But you are the ones whom God has blessed beyond measure by causing you to know Him rightly, in His humanity and in His divinity. You are the ones who have received Him, by the grace of His Holy Spirit working in the Gospel. And that means that you have been made children of God and coheirs with Christ of all things. Your sin is washed away in your divine Brother’s blood. Your death has been vanquished in your divine Brother’s resurrection. God’s life and forgiveness were given to you in your Baptism and are given to you again today in the body and blood of God, the Son of God. Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. Amen.