St. John 1:1-14
December 25, 2018
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Bible assigns many names to the eternal Son of God. Being eternal, He was there in the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is without beginning and is without end. There was never a time when He was not with the Father and the Holy Spirit. So it shouldn’t surprise us that the Second Person of the Trinity is referred to throughout the Old Testament. Last night from Isaiah 9 we heard the names Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). There is also Seed (as in Seed of Abraham. Gen. 12:7), Ruler of Israel (Micah 5:2), Right Hand, Holy Arm (Ps. 98:1), Wisdom (Prov. 8:22-23). Listen to what Wisdom says in Proverbs, “The LORD possessed Me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.” We recognize some of these names right away thanks to the prophets whom God sent to give them and the New Testament writers who recorded their connection to Jesus. But more familiar names to us from the Old Testament are: Emmanuel (Is 7:14), Redeemer (Job 19; Is. 59:20), Lord (Psalm 110:1). There are many other names given to the only-begotten Son of God in the Old and New Testaments. The one we know the most intimately is the one we heard last night in Luke 2—Jesus—but we’ll get to that in a moment. The one before us this morning, the one the Church has assigned to Christmas Day is—Word.
This is an eternal Word. Ho Logos [in greek letters] as the front of your bulletin says in Greek. The Second Person of the Trinity is known to us in John’s Gospel as the Word. And John immediately assigns a work to this Word in creation, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” The Second person of the Trinity was with God the Father from eternity, and then, in time, He participated in the creation of the World—the things visible and invisible, the heavens and earth. And so we confess the eternity and divinity of the Second Person of the Trinity in the Nicene Creed: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Here we confess the eternity of the Son, and then a work very much like John 1—creation. Grammatically, it might seem like “by whom all things were made” modifies the antecedent “Father”, but we know from John 1 and also from our reading from Hebrews today, that the Second Person of the Trinity, is Creator of heaven and earth along with the Father.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery to us and must be taken on faith. It is more complicated than our earthly minds can handle and can’t be argued by reason, but by divine revelation alone. We know that God is three persons and yet one God, but we don’t know how that can be. When Luther breaks up the Apostles’ Creed into Articles and assigns works to each of the three persons, he does so for our finite minds; but we ought not divide the works of the Trinity in such a way as to exclude participation of the other persons of the Trinity in those works. I know as a youth, and even as a young adult, I was tempted to only see the Father as Creator of heaven and earth because of the Apostles’ Creed and Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism. Therefore, when I confessed in the Nicene Creed “by whom all things were made” I was led to believe it modified “Father.” But the Father and the Son were working in Creation together in a mysterious way creating and even still today sustaining it. (Let’s not exclude the Holy Spirit, either, but that’s for another day).
Flowing from the mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of our God as a Man. The eternal God, the only begotten Son, enters into His creation by joining himself to our flesh by the Virgin Mary. This was not the beginning of the only begotten Son of God, but rather the beginning of His life as a man. This mystery of mysteries is worshipped by Christians in faith because, again, reason cannot comprehend it. The one true God is 1. eternal (without beginning and without end), 2. immutable (unchanging), 3. immortal, 4. infinite, 5. omnipresent, 6. omnipotent, 7. omniscient. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But in a way that does not divide the divinity, the Son of God then became Man, in time—at the right time, taking up flesh and blood from Mary never more to lay it aside. This is the foundation of our faith. It is the foundation of our hope in things to come. As we confess in the Proper Preface for today: “[F]or in the mystery of the Word made flesh You have given us a new revelation of Your glory that, seeing You in the person of Your Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen.” (proper preface)
So when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,” this angel was announcing that the Almighty God was going to become flesh in her womb, so that it is right to call her Son, “the Son of the Most High.” He would be the eternal God and thus be able to rule on the throne of his father David and reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:31ff). This was not a new revelation, as if these things had never before been known. But it is a more complete prophecy, more specific than had been given before. The prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament had waited for this day. They were given glimpses of this fulfillment in Words from the Holy Spirit, but now these things were finally taking place.
The prophets and patriarchs of old had known from God’s revelation that God was Trinity and that He would come in the flesh, born of a woman, in the line of Abraham, and in the line of Jesse and King David. This birth would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. They believed this and it was counted to them as Righteousness. And now these things have taken place in time through Mary. Just like the Trinity was working creation, now the Trinity was working redemption. For the Second Person of the Trinity came into the World, in the Flesh, and became our Savior. Now, forevermore, Jesus, will be God-with-us, our Emmanuel—true God and true man.
So now, we worship the God/man, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God. He has done something no other made-up god had ever done. He gave up His rightful glory in heaven to become one of us. The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. Not to rule over us as a tyrant, but to redeem us as a suffering servant. He laid aside and denied himself the powers that belong essentially to God, so that, as a man, He could join us in this sinful world, take on our sin, suffer, and die with it, removing it from us. In the Word becoming flesh, we see the beginning of the end of God’s plan for redemption—The cross and resurrection. For God, Christmas is always connected to Good Friday and Easter. This is what the angels announced, what the shepherds, and the wisemen worshiped, and what we confess and believe.
This is the awe and mystery of Christmas. Our God loved us so much He became a man to rescue us. His name is Jesus. He is the gift on which all other gifts rest. Glory to God in the highest, for there is now peace for man in God’s good will toward us.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Creation was God’s work, the creation of man was the capstone of creation, and the Lord had pleasure in all His works (Ps. 104:31, Ecc. 11:25) From this it follows that He also bears a special pleasure in the work of becoming man, which is the greatest work of love by God. For even though only the Son of God in the unity of His Person assumed the human nature, yet in a manner of speaking, the incarnation is thus a work of the entire Holy Trinity, especially since the Holy Spirit came over Mary, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, so that she might bring the Son of God into the world. Gerhard Postilla p. 84.
 Theological Common Places: Exegesis IV. Johann Gerhard. On Christ p. 24ff..
 Theological Common Places: Exegesis IV. Johann Gerhard. On Christ p. 50-51.