December 25th 2017 A+D (reworked from 2013)
St. John 1:1-18
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Christmas Eve service is quaint with it’s Luke 2 Gospel text and the carols, and the individual candle light. It’s beautiful and nostalgic. I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Christmas Day, on the other hand is different. It’s theological, it’s mind blowing. It’s doctrinal much like Trinity Sunday is. In fact, they are of the same cloth. The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. We don’t know by human reason how three are one and one is three, but they are. So also we can’t even begin to grasp with our minds how God became man, how Jesus is at the same time true God and true man. It’s also interesting to me that the Church chose John 3 for Trinity Sunday and John 1 for Christmas day. It appears that John is our theological Gospel.
The Word became flesh. God was enfleshed—Incarnate. God took on our skin and bones through Mary’s womb. He left His throne in heaven and made himself a little lower than the angels, yet to which of the Angles did God say, “You are my son, today I have begotten you?” Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” That is mysterious and awe-inspiring. God the Son became man—the second person of the Trinity, the only-begotten Son of God from eternity, begotten of His Father before all worlds, the one who is and was and always will be came in the flesh.
Almost all errors arising in theology, whether in the countless world religions or even among Christian denominations, are errors surrounding the person of Jesus. How can Jesus be true God and true Man? How can God’s presence in the world be from within assumed flesh? How can His flesh be omni-present even here and now after His ascension? The Athanasian Creed, which we typically only recite on Trinity Sunday, says that it is “necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Listen to what we confess:
Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.
He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age:
perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.
Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ:
one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God;
one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
For as a rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ…
This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.
This is what you celebrate on Christmas day. You confess, with all the faithful Church Fathers, and patriarchs, and prophets, that God is with us in a body. The woman’s seed came in time. Thank the Lord that they wrote it down and left it for us to combat errors against it.
The Jewish religion rejects this. Muslims are known for killing people who confess it. Unbelievers think it’s silly at best and poisonous, oppressive, and abusive at worst. Even within the ranks of those who call themselves Christians, there are serious rifts in understanding the person of Christ. Christmas day is a day for theology and confession, not mere quaint nostalgia. The Christian Church is under active attack in our country and around the world. The enemy of the Christian Church is unbelief, and it’s all around us. It either seeks to war directly against us, or it seeks to take us in passive apathy. We can now imagine a time in our country when we will be fined, arrested, or even killed for holding this one, true faith. But what we have missed, is that the enemy of unbelief has been in our ranks from the time of the Fall. It lurks inside each of us by our sinful nature. Although redeemed, we are sinners always prone to false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.
We are war with unbelief whether in us or around us. We are always fighting temptation and the devil. We cannot grow complacent. We need to take up our Bibles and our Creeds on our lips, minds, and hearts. We need to learn them ourselves, study them, and teach them to our children. We take our faith and confession for granted for too much. We have neglected the Scriptures and left it to others to study. We no longer have the luxury (if we ever had it) of relying on our parents’ or pastors’ or denomination’s confession. This IS a war, everyone is in the fight. and we have allowed our weapons to become dusty and unfamiliar.
In the first five verses of John chapter 1, we have the central message of the entire Bible and the Christian faith. Jesus, the Word, is God. In Him is life, because He is the light, who came into the world. Every other verse in the Bible is in support of these words. Every other doctrine in Scripture flows from this. We should use these three words, “Word,” “Life,” “Light,” as hooks on which to hang all the other doctrines and teachings. In the title, “Word,” we can fill in our doctrine of God the Father and the miracle of His speaking creation into being. “I believe that God has made me and all creatures…given me my body and soul, etc… clothing and shoes, food and drink, etc. without any merit or worthiness in me.”
In the title, “Life,” we can see all of God’s redemption from sin, death, and the devil. For “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may live and serve Him eternally.”
In the title, “Light,” we can understand the on-going work of the Holy Spirit working to enlighten our lives by the forgiveness of sins, the preaching of the Gospel, and the administration of the sacraments. “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, daily and richly forgiving me all my sins. In the end He will raise me to eternal life.”
This is a true confession that is written for us in John 1. This is the Gospel. This is why Jesus was born. God the Son becoming man completes all that God set in motion at creation. And continued throughout all of history. Christmas day is that important. It means that God is with you, Emmanuel, in a saving way. By God in the flesh, we have been given the right to become children of God. He has sanctified flesh by assuming it. By His birth, we in the course of events are born into His family. It is truly worthy of a genuflection at the words “and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” May God strengthen and keep you firm in this Word and faith until you die.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.