Christmas Day 2016

Christmas Day
John 1:1-18

Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Around the world on this day, Christians hear these words, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We hear and ponder this mystery; that our God is a man, one of us, our brother and our Redeemer. And this joy and hope that we have in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, none can take from us. Therefore, on this holy day, which is rightly called Christmas, we celebrate that our Lord not only came in the flesh to bear our sin and be our savior, but that He continues to dwell among us through His preached Word and His Holy Sacraments. We call this day Christmas, not because we have the Mass or the Lord’s Supper. If that was the case we would call every Sunday Christmas, and in a sense this is true. Just as every Sunday is a little Easter, because the risen Lord comes to us. In same way, every Sunday is also a little Christmas, because we partake in Christ’s Mass. Without the incarnation of our Lord there would be no Mass.

The name Mass which was commonly used for the Lord’s Supper before the Reformation comes from the last words spoken by the pastor, ita missa est, go the dismissal is made. However, this name for the Dive Service fell into disuse among Lutherans due to them wanting to distance themselves from Rome and the sacrifice of the Mass. Instead, we use the German word, Gottesdienst or Divine Service. This German word cuts to the heart of what takes place this day at this altar. Today Christians gather in this place and around the world to receive God’s gifts and be served by Him. And foremost among these many blessings is the Mass of Christ in which our Lord unites Himself to us by giving us His body to eat and His blood to drink for the strengthen of our faith and for the forgiveness of sins.

Christmas is incarnational, yet our text for today makes it clear that it is our Lord’s incarnation that is a stumbling block to His own people. And so amidst our joyous celebration this day, the Light of Christ would seem to be dimmed, by the darkness of sin and unbelief. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. It is this rejection of God’s free-gift of salvation that casts a shadow on the joy of Christmas. The news that the Eternal Word became man to bear mankind’s sin and be mankind’s savior, was to be “glad tidings of great joy that would be for all people.” Yet, Christ was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.  What held true then, also holds true today. Christi eleison.

The rejection of the incarnate Word and His mass is perhaps nowhere more painfully obvious than in the corporate world. Many corporations have a policy that you cannot wish customers a Merry Christmas unless they first wish you one. And what holds true for customers also holds true for co-workers. One must be careful not to wish someone that does not celebrate it a Merry Christmas less they cause offence. Hence the most shallow and wish-washy of phrases was born, “happy holidays.” Which holidays you might ask, doesn’t matter comes the reply, all are equal for all gods are the same in the pantheon of Satan.

The world would have Christ be like their gods. Theirs are gods that are content to dwell in darkness, and better still, to let mankind dwell in darkness, leaving them to sin in peace. Such  gods, even if men in their insolence and pride call them Christ, have no power to save. For without faith in the God made know to us in Holy Scripture, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ there is no salvation. This is He of whom seers sung in ancient times. This is He of whom the prophets foretold. He is very God of very God, the only begotten of the Father and the son of the Virgin Mary. This is the Christ who is our Lord and our Redeemer. Therefore, dear friends, we must firmly cling to what has been revealed to us in Holy Scripture, and arm ourselves with this doctrine, that our God is true God and true Man.

Our Lord’s two-fold nature presents a stumbling block to the world. Indeed, the most spectacular heresies, and by that, I mean the ones that have done the most harm, have been brought about by a confusion of our Lord’s two-fold nature. The Arians believed that Christ, the second person of the Trinity was a created being, rather than very God of very God. On the other hand, the Docetist believed the incarnation was a mere illusion, that Christ didn’t actually become man or die upon the cross, but that He tricked us.  Both heresies lead to a false Christ. If Christ is not true God, His death upon the cross cannot make satisfaction for the sins of all men for all time. If Christ is not true man, He cannot die in our place and we are still in our trespasses. Therefore, our Lord must not only be in the beginning with God, but also God Himself. And He must also be true man born of the Virgin Mary that He might fulfill the Law in our place, suffer upon the cross and die thereby making atonement for our sins. For without His twofold nature, we would not have a Messiah or a Christ, and we certainly would not have a Mass.

These two things also are intricately bound, Christ’s person and Christ’s Supper. To change the nature of one, is to change the nature of the other. If Christ is not true man, there is no bodily eating and drinking. If on the other hand, He is not true God, than this eating and drinking in not possible. Thus, we would do well to recognize this great danger and cling firmly to what has been revealed in Holy Scripture, namely, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Doctrine matters. That our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures matters. And so too does this day being called Christmas. Saying, “Merry Christmas” is a confession of who our God is and what He does for us.

This simple word contains two profound mysteries. First, that we have a savior whom we can call brother. As our text says, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. But 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. You call Christ brother, because you have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That baptism ties you to Christ’s death and resurrection. For He who is the Eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was born of the Virgin in order to die upon the cross to atone for the sins of the world. Yes, even for those who obstinately say, “happy holidays”. Though they reject His gracious invitation, Christ died that men, all men might live, for in Him was life and that life was the light of men. For as the angel declared, this day remains good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came to die, that we might live. That just as He is risen we too might rise. For Christmas always looks forward to Good Friday, and Good Friday to Easter. Yet it is upon the cross that the name of the Lord is glorified and the glory of the Lord is revealed. This Christ makes clear to us in the garden when He says to, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”  Therefore, we preach the God-Man Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

And the second mystery is that He gives us such a wondrous feast. Food that makes the holy angles wonder and rejoice. This day your Lord again invites you to His Mass, to eat and drink His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith. Happily we call this day Christmas. And rejoice loudly before our risen Lord as with joy at the harvest, and as they are glad when they divide the spoil. By God’s grace, we who sat in darkness a glorious light have seen. And we who walked in darkness have seen a great light, Christ our brother, Immanuel. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Christmas gives way to Good Friday. Good Friday to Easter, Easter to the Ascension, and then the final trumpet. Till that happy hour when we are reunited with the saints in heaven to share in the Christmas feast of the Lamb which has no end. A very happy and blessed Christmas. In Jesus Name. Amen

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