Nothing can ruin Christmas.
Not sticks, not stones, not broken bones. Not lies or false names, nor cruel words, nor even divorce. Not war. Not hunger. Not drunkenness, nor neglect. Not old grudges. Not fresh wounds. Not bad news from doctors, teachers, or the stock market. None of that. And if none of that, than certainly not dry turkey or boring presents or disgruntled children and boorish guests. Nothing can ruin Christmas. Not even death. For death has lost is sting, the grave its victory. Death has been put to rest in the manger. It dares not to rear its fallen head. For if the ox and the donkey know their Master how much more so does death know Who has caused his demise? Christmas cannot be ruined anymore than God can be ruined or the birth in Bethlehem undone. The Word became Flesh. That is a fact. We have a Savior. And this fallen realm is not our home.
God as Man, God as a Baby, has laid Himself into the manger to make Himself food for men made beasts by inwardness and selfish lust. He is the Bread of Life and gives Himself to palates dulled by evil words. But He will not be stopped. He will do what He was sent to do despite our greedy sins. He will make men His. He enters in. His light shines. It drives off the darkness and sins dissolve like cobwebs before the sun, like fog melting away on a hot August day. God loves you. He gives Himself to men that men might then give themselves to Him, that men would be whole, be men again as men were meant to be, free and clean and full of praise, zealous for good works and service to neighbor. He has redeemed us. He has rescued us out of death, out of gloom and despair. And though we still mourn, though we still weep and still know some touch of anger and frustration, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We know the Truth. The Word became Flesh. We’ve seen the Light on sacred page and heard it in sacred song. We’ve felt the watery Hand of God and His Name is upon us. We are His.
The Word became Flesh, and our frail flesh will soon leave behind the corruption of this present age and be like the angels in heaven: holy, alive and good, full of pious mirth because the Word became Flesh. Now Flesh endures. God as Man laid once in a manger. He laid once also in a borrowed tomb. But no more. He is not a Baby. He is not dead. That Man Flesh sits at the right hand of the Father. He ushers in all believers, pointing to the blessed marks on His hands and feet and side, advocating, mediating, shepherding men through death and into life. The Word became Flesh, and the Word endures forever, so now the corruptible becomes incorruptible and the mortals becomes immortal.
This is will abide. It will last. No one can snatch the Word made Flesh from us. Long after the glitter and schmaltz and the crowds at the mall are gone, the Word they still shall let remain. They may not care for it. They may hate it. But it matters not. For it is the Word that none can deny nor mistake. He endures forever. He is that blessed Word that came from God to save our race. He is that blessed Word that created all that is. He is that blessed Word sent from God to speak us back into fellowship with Him. He is not done. The Last Word has not yet been said. Still the waters of Baptism wash over His people; still the Word of Grace comes from His ministers and absolves the penitents who seek His grace; still His Word calls bread and wine to be Flesh for food of Life, that Flesh once laid into a manger and nailed to a cross, made alive out of death again, is laid upon the tongues of men and makes them Temples of the Holy Spirit. His Word does what it was sent to do. He calls us back. He speaks us clean. He forgives our sins and gives us faith. He cannot be stopped. Still, He is not done. The Word is cast, the Word made Flesh, He enters into the hearts of men by way of the ear and the mouth and the skin and declares them good. He gives of Himself. He joins Himself to men. He brings them by the Spirit to the Father, as a Bride immaculate and pure, purchased and won with the Blood of God’s Man Flesh out of the Virgin’s womb.
Did His own receive Him not? Was there no room for Him in the inn? It did not stop Him. He still loves men. He took our Flesh. He redeemed our race from this awful, dying place, has laid Himself not only into a manger, surrounded by dung, in the cold winter air, but also onto the rough wood of a cross surrounded by liars and cheats, thieves and terrorists. He has loved us to the very end. No price was to great, not even the life of His Son made Man. There is the glory we have beheld, grace upon grace. He loves us and gives His gifts to us not because we’ve deserved them or earned them or return the favor but because of his love and His gifts! He bestows His grace upon His grace, for the sake of His grace, grace for grace, gift for gift, love for love so that our cups overflow. His Light shines from the cross at the back of the empty tomb and men are born anew. God is with us, is for us, has given Himself to us. Death has no claim. We belong, by grace, to God. He is begotten of the Father from eternity, but at the time of Ceasar Augustus, He began as a Man, as one of us, our great Immanuel in the Flesh.
Nothing can ruin that. The devil already tried. He could not overcome the Light. Grace and Truth have come through Jesus Christ and you are here because Jesus Himself declared it to you. Here is joy that no one, no thing, can snatch away, joy in the midst of sadness, life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of despair, God in the midst of men. The Word became Flesh. Our flesh will receive His reward in due time. In the meantime we wait and we are at peace. I am sorry if your Christmas hasn’t shaped up the way you planned or expected or dreamed. I am sorry if you’re sad or lonely. But that doesn’t change the facts. The Word became Flesh. We have a Savior. Find solace and comfort here. For the Word made Flesh is the only stable things, the only thing that does not age, wither, and die, the only thing that does not disappoint, in all of Creation. And nothing can ruin that, therefore, nothing can ruin Christmas. The Word became Flesh. We have a Savior. Thanks be to God.
Pastor David Petersen