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Sermon for Christmas Day
Hebrews 1:1-12 + John 1:1-14
Everyone can understand a baby. Everyone can accept that a baby was born in the small Judean town of Bethlehem, a baby named Jesus, to a mother named Mary. It’s rather harmless, unintimidating. And in part, that’s the point, and that’s why, sometimes, even unbelievers are willing to hear the Christmas Eve Gospel from Luke 2, because the story of God’s salvation begins, in a sense, with this baby, who doesn’t threaten anyone. The unbeliever can even tolerate, for a night, at least, the notion of angels. Because it’s all good tidings of great joy for all people. It’s a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. It’s peace on earth, goodwill to men!
But we’re careful to explain, even on Christmas Eve, that the good tidings of the birth of an unintimidating baby can only be understood properly through the lens of the sin and darkness into which that baby was born—sin and darkness that permeated even Israel, not to mention the even greater darkness that covered the non-Jewish world, that this Jesus was born because of mankind’s idolatry, because of mankind’s rebellion against God’s Word, because of mankind’s disobedience toward God’s commandments, that He was born to suffer and die for the sins of the world, and that His peace on earth has nothing to do with the absence of war or the end of violence. That’s a little harder for the unbeliever to hear, and yet it’s the only way an unbeliever will ever become a believer, by hearing the whole truth about Christmas and about Christ.
Then we come to the Christmas Day Gospel, and suddenly the unbeliever is confronted with the truth head on, with things that human reason can’t even begin to grasp, with things that sound like foolishness to the modern “scientific” ear. That there was a time when time didn’t exist. That there was a time when there was no matter, no energy, just God who brought all things into being, not with a big bang, but by His almighty Word. And most incomprehensible of all, is that that Word was with God, and that the Word was God, and that this Word that was with God and that was God eventually became flesh. That this Word who existed already in the beginning, outside of time and space and matter and energy, is the very Person through whom all things were brought into existence, including the flesh that He one day became.
But again, if anyone is going to believe in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, it will only be through hearing this truth proclaimed. You can’t argue anyone into the faith. It’s all about the simple proclamation of the Word.
Already in v. 5 of our Gospel, St. John the Evangelist is referring to the Word coming into the world as a man, as “light.” Not some SyFy “being” made of light, but as Jesus Himself once declared, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life…As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. The very One who is true God also became true Man, the light which gives light to every man, just as the sun gives light to every man, except that He was already there before the sun was, and the sun was created through Him. St. Paul once wrote that God alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. So the only way we poor, sinful mortals could truly see the light of God, is if it’s veiled in flesh, if God makes Himself approachable to us. And that’s exactly what He did in the Person of the Word made flesh.
John the Baptist bore witness to Him. This is the light who gives light to every man! Not that every man sees by this light. But He is the only light by which any man may see, and He offers His light to all. What is His light? It is the knowledge of who God is and of how God gave His eternal Son to be born as a man, not to show us how to work our way up to heaven, but to earn heaven for all men, to suffer hell for all men, and to show us that it is by believing in Him who did all this for us that all men might have everlasting life.
That brings us to the tragedy of Christmas. The tragedy of Christmas is not that Jesus had to lie in a manger for a while. The tragedy of Christmas is that He came to save all men from their sins, to give life to all men, and yet most men didn’t and don’t want Him for a Savior, and so most men remain dead in their trespasses and sins. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. Doesn’t it just amaze you that God knew this would happen, and still sent His Son into the world, still holding out salvation to all, knowing that most would never receive Him and be saved?
But, John writes, 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. This is the glorious victory of Christmas, not that God’s Son was born as a human child, but that He was born as a child in order to give us the right to become children of God.
Because we weren’t. By nature, no one is. Creatures of God? Yes. But children of God? No. As sinners, we had no right to call Him Father, and no expectation of living in His house or of inheriting anything from Him. But now we do. Because we have a Brother who is God’s child. Because we have a Savior who paid for our sins and offers us a place in God’s family through Holy Baptism and through faith in Him. Because He sends His own Holy Spirit to give us that new birth of faith, since we couldn’t come to faith by our own power or will.
Yes, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. He became Immanuel, God with us, so that we might follow Him in faith, be safe on the Day of Judgment, and live with Him forever.
The angels worshiped the Person of the Word since the moment they were created. But now God has taken on human flesh, and all God’s angels worship Him also as a Man. If the angels worship Him for taking on human flesh to save sinful human beings, will you human beings fail to worship Him? May it never be. On this Christmas Day, may the truth of the God-Man in the manger fill your hearts with wonder and with joy. And let your worship of Him today change the way you live your life tomorrow, so that you who have received Him and been given the right to become children of God may live as children of God in the world, that your life may be a song of joy and thanksgiving. Amen.