Archive for January, 2012

Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord

January 9, 2012 2 comments

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord

Augustana, 2012

Click the link for mp3 audio  11 Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord.mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today we celebrate the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan by John the Baptist.  The Church Year helps to not just organize and regulate our life in Christ but, if we’ll listen, teach us the whole counsel of God.  Today we highlight baptism, of course, but not just our own baptisms.  Today sends us back to the source of our baptisms to find the true meaning and substance of the gift God gives to us in Holy Baptism.  We spoke last week about how in being circumcised Jesus was committed to follow the whole Law of God as revealed by Moses on Sinai including the penalty for sins.  This week the message is clear:  by allowing Himself to be baptized Jesus actually provided Christian baptism with a higher purpose and meaning and set in motion the great reversal that happens at baptism.

To make sense of Jesus’ baptism by John we have to understand a little better what John was doing.  There’s a really nice note here in TLSB that provides some valuable historical context to what John was doing there in the Jordan River valley.  It reads:

Even before John the Baptist appeared, different groups within Judaism likely practiced baptism. Rabbinic literature notably mentions that Gentiles converting to Judaism were expected to undergo circumcision and a proselyte baptism, and to make an offering. These rites marked full acceptance into the community of God’s chosen people. But John insisted that Jews needed to repent and be baptized, implying that they were no better than Gentiles. [1]

John the Baptizer was calling the people of Israel to repentance over sin.  There is a kind of absurdity in this.  These people were by and large as holy as they come.  They were the Saturday go to meetin’ kind of crowd.  But they were attracted to John’s preaching because deep down inside they felt unsure of their standing before God.   They had no assurance of salvation.  And John called them to repentance.  This must have sounded like a thunderbolt to them.

We’ve come to learn that contentment is a personality trait.  That those who are not content with the way things are have a different quality to them that in the best cases can lead to innovation and invention and in the worse cases, can lead to depression and a general dissatisfaction with the world around them.  There are those folks who are blissfully content.  This can have a spiritual dimension as well.  These folks think everything’s fine on the God front and, in fact, they are really turned off by the language of confession in our liturgy like “poor miserable sinner.”  If folks like these had gone out to the wilderness to hear John preach, they would have gone just for the spectacle not because they felt any need to get right with God.  They prayed regularly.  They tithed as they should have.  They went to synagogue.  They even went up to Jerusalem for the great feasts every year.  Life was pretty good.  They did not see themselves as people in need of repentance.  It was really difficult for them to see themselves truly needing the forgiveness of sins.  Just as it may be for us to say that not only is it hard to say we need the forgiveness of our sins, if we are truly honest, of ourselves, we can’t even say for sure what is truly sin, much less stop sinning when the occasion to sins presents itself.  We can see sin easily in others.  In ourselves we find only self-justification for our actions.  From God’s Word we learn, “None of [us] is good. All of [us] are full of unbelief, blindness, and ignorance of God and God’s will.” (SA III, 3:32)   And in case there are any of us who think I’m overstating the case, John was famous for having called those folks a “brood of vipers.”

Into this context stepped Jesus.  Jesus went to John to be baptized with a baptism of repentance.  Jesus did not need a baptism of repentance.  He should have been baptizing John.  John the prophet of God said so himself.  By submitting himself to Johns baptism of repentance Jesus was not repenting of His own sin.  He had no sin to repent of.  Instead, Jesus, fully God and perfect man, by being baptized, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of all those who were baptized.  It is significant that Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His ministry.  He was baptized as the one who would carry the sins of the people to the cross and die for them in their place.  Jesus is our substitute.  He is the one who stands in our place before God and received the full punishment for our sins.  Jesus is like the older brother who is constantly getting in trouble for things His younger brothers and sisters do but He does so willingly.  In fact, this is why He came.  If we have no concept of Jesus as our substitute, Jesus’ baptism, His circumcision, even His crucifixion and resurrection have very little meaning to us.  In this way Jesus provides the ultimate meaning for baptism.  When anyone receives baptism in His name, they receive what He earned on the cross for them.  It’s that simple.

Paul sorts all this out for us this morning.  “…all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Jesus death and resurrection happened a long time ago in a land far away from here.  How do you get any benefit from that?  Dear Christian, you have baptism.  By being baptized into Christ Jesus you are connected to Jesus and His cross and resurrection.  You participate in it.  You receive the benefits from it.  “Receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.”  This is what we say.  Baptism links us inseparably with the Christ’s cross.

I think for many years we have looked at baptism as a mere ritual.  We do it because Jesus said to do it.  We have a vague sense that everyone needs to be born again, “So here we are, Lord, like you said.”  That’s an over-characterization to make a point but it rings true.  What we truly need to recover is a deep sense of what it means that God has called us to be His own children in Holy Baptism.  That the Holy Spirit was poured out over us with the water at the font.  That in Holy Baptism, as we confess it in the flood prayer in the new hymnal, just as God washed drowned the sinful world in the Flood, and God drowned Pharaoh and his chariots in the Red Sea, all sin in us has been drowned and dies.  That’s truly profound.  What a comforting promise then to know what God has worked in someone at Holy Baptism when standing at their open grave.  Notice how much baptismal imagery there is in the funeral service.  We bring them in to the font.  Light the paschal candle.  Cover their casket in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness given to them first at holy baptism.  The funeral is but the continuation of the baptismal service.  And on the Last Day, our loved ones who have died in Christ, will rise again and the baptismal service will be completed.  “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”

What a full throated Christian confession of Holy Baptism!  And the source of all this is Jesus allowing Himself to be baptized.  He whom God made to have no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of  God.  Jesus our substitute, He swapped places with us, that we might swap places with Him and receive all of the glorious treasure of heaven, that we might hear from God the Father, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Dear Christian, you are beloved of God.  He is well pleased with you on account of Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 1655.

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Sermon for the Epiphany of our Lord

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Sermon for Epiphany

Augustana 2012

10 Sermon for the Epiphany of our Lord

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I think the facts of the Epiphany are fairly well known by most folks.  The events get conflated with the Christmas story but it’s pretty clear.  God used a star, the Scriptures, and a dream to guide magi from the east to Bethlehem and to get past the treachery of Herod.  They are the first of many Gentiles to worship Jesus and this is a good thing because it reveals the will of God to include the Gentiles in God’s plan of redeeming the world and restoring His rulership on earth.  But the Epiphany is not so much about story telling as much as it about gathering around the Word of God to hear again how God the Father guides all kinds of people to Christ and to be thankful that we have been so called and gathered and like the magi.

It was always the plan of God to bring in the rest of the people.  Look at the reading from Isaiah for tonight.  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.  3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.  Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you;”  Isaiah goes on to say that people from all over will come and not just come but come and bring their wealth into the city of Jerusalem to give thanks to God for what He has done for them in redeeming them.  Paul too, says “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  Paul’s whole purpose for living is “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”  This is God’s plan. He sent His Son to redeem the people to buy them back from slavery to darkness and to bring them into His unapproachable light.

God has not cast us aside.  We are not cast aside like something unimportant to Him but rather, we are of such great value that He sent His Son to die for us.  Contrast then the two kings.  King Herod and God the King sending Jesus to claim His throne.  King Herod has no regard for human life.  He kills the boys of Israel under 2 years old because they might be in the way.  For him human life has only relative value.  He weighs the usefulness of a person with whether that life is of relative use to him or not.  Herod’s claim of sovereignty over life in clear contradiction of the Word of God has an important moral implication for us today.  What we know to be the objective truth of God that human life has value because it is human life is challenged at every front.  Think of the whole range of ethical problems centered on new and emerging medical technologies.  Think about how the law of our land exalts the rights to happiness of the mother over the right to life of her unborn child.  The value of human life must not ever become relative to its usefulness or even its quality.  The value of a human’s life resides in the fact that God created that person in His own image.  To think in any other way is to head down the road of wicked tyrants like Herod and to claim for ourselves the sovereign right over what God himself has created.

Whom does God call to see the Christ and how?  The magi came from the east.  I’ve often wondered why.  Some have speculated that the magi were descendants of those who had learned from the exiled Jews that a messiah was coming.  If so, and it’s probable, then they had learned from the Scriptures.  They knew He was born and were led to Jerusalem by the divine leading of a peculiar star.  They were not led there by their own astrological wisdom or intuition; they were led there miraculously by God.  Whom does God bring today to see what He done for us, for the world, in Christ Jesus?  Just as God brought Gentile magi from the east through His Word and the star, so He, and He alone, calls, gathers, and enlightens people into the lovely light of the Christian Church by the preaching and teaching of His Word and by the leading of the bright morning star, Jesus Christ.

And so we redeemed ones, we who have not been cast aside, we are gathered tonight by the mighty hand of God to give thanks to Him for what He has done for us, that He has called us from out of the darkness and gathered us into the light of His Son Jesus who is the Light of the world.  We surrender our claims on any sovereignty over what God alone has sovereignty.  We are enlightened in the mystery of God that He would do such a thing for anyone, much less we poor sinners and we rejoice and give thanks.  In fact we might rejoice exceedingly with great joy over the knowledge of God’s tremendous saving love for us.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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How about that? 2011 in review

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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New postings and the Epiphany on Friday

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, I’m all caught up on the text versions of the sermons.  I have some audio to edit and upload.  I’ll do that tonight at the library.  Upload speeds are higher than the download speeds!

I was reading last night on Pastor Weedon’s blog about the different Christmas services, Christmas Eve, Christmas Dawn and Christmas Day.  He noted the particular differences of each like a jewel held to the light with different facets shining through.  He’s right and we are the poorer for not having all three Divine Services.  I note this in the wake of the reaction I had from Sunday’s sermon on the circumcision and naming of Jesus.  Several folks said, they’d never quite put it together that way before.  It was the same reaction the first time I preached on the Baptism of Jesus.  One lady in my first congregation accused me of heresy because she had never been taught that took upon Himself our sins in His Baptism.  And I think I have finally figured out why I get these reactions.  These events were not preached because these days were not observed.  The circumcision of Jesus seems esoteric compared with New Year and the self-improvement idea.  And the Baptism of Jesus is never preached because people translate Epiphany to the first Sunday in Epiphany and boot the Baptism of Jesus.

Here’s the thing, if we don’t observe these days, the readings don’t come up anywhere else which means the perfectly substitutionary aspect of Jesus’ coming is thoroughly given its due.

So, we’ll celebrate Epiphany Friday.  It will be one of the lowest attended services of the year, comparable to Ascension because it’s midweek.  And I’ll just have to be thankful that because Christmas was on a Sunday this year many more people than usual heard the Christmas Day readings and message.

In this way we intend to preach the whole counsel of God.

Sermon for The Circumcision and Name of Jesus

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana, 2012

Click the link for mp3 audio 09 Sermon for the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Happy New Year.  Out with the old and in with the new.  I saw recently that the most popular New Year’s resolution this year was save money.  I doubt many people will dispute this in today’s uncertain economy.  Of course every year the gyms are busiest in January too as many people decide to add lose weight to their list of resolutions.  Many Christians too, jump on the band wagon and add particularly religious resolutions to the list.  Pray more.  Read the whole Bible this year.  Maybe you even recently got one of those One Year Bibles or dusted off your copy.  If you’re in this camp of spiritual self-improvers, today’s readings must leave you feeling somewhat unfulfilled.  They’re not longer than normal; they’re much shorter and they speak to nothing of your attempts to take care of number 5 on the average American’s list, “Be more spiritual.”  The message of the Scriptures is not good advice, it is truly Good News.

There are, I guess, at least two major types of Christians: those who look to the Bible as instructions for better living both before God and with their fellow man and those who listen to Bible to hear the Gospel, the truly Good News that God sent His Son to make the world right with Him again.  To the first kind of Christian, those who look at our religion as a self-improvement project, today’s readings are a great disappointment.  They’re too short.  They’re not either from Genesis or Matthew, so nothing has begun that we can easily check off our list and they speak very little of the things we can do to be more spiritual.  They’re not a list of proverbs or instructions in sanctification from the end of one of Paul’s letters.  They don’t even capitalize on the day’s theme of out with old and in with the new.  In fact, they’re on an entirely different theme altogether, the circumcision and naming of Jesus.  When the readings for the Church are at such odds with the prevailing thoughts of the day, we might be best off noting the direction the readings would take us rather than the direction of our perverted religiousity would take us.
The reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians gets us started in the right direction this morning.  “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”  It is amazing to me the number of Christians who still live as though they are held captive under the Law.  Like the Jews of old, they are not content with God’s Law revealed in the Scriptures, they make up more laws to hedge otherwise ne’er-do-well would be Christians from doing things that might break the commandments.  So, don’t drink because that might lead to something else.  Don’t play cards because that might lead to stealing.  Don’t dance because that might lead to something else.  You know these folks, they’re out there.  Their ideas might even be in here.  But this is not the message of the Scriptures.  Paul tells us plainly that the Law was given as a guardian, as a kind of really strict coach so that we might understand how complete the Law is.

But Paul continues, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  This is the essence of the Good News of the Gospel.  You have inherited what your Father gives you.  You are sons.  Just a word here on the translation.  I’m glad our translation left “sons” alone here because this is important.   This is about inheritance and in the ancient world “children” don’t inherit, sons do.  Ladies, for legal purposes here, you’re sons so that you can inherit.  Ladies, Saint Paul knows you’re not male, that’s why he follows this up with what he does.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  You are, all of you, legally sons, inheritors, heirs, whether you are male or female.  So by the way, those who use this passage to support the ordination of women do so at great injustice to the text itself and the immediate and great context surrounding it.  It’s not about ordination, it’s about inheriting the promise God made to Abraham and that’s Jesus.

And the long promised offspring of Abraham was taken to the temple on the eight day and circumcised according to the Law of Moses and was named Jesus.  It’s interesting that we have a reading form Galatians this morning because it was circumcision that divided the church in Galatia.  There were those self-improvement types in Galatia who said that Christians must submit to circumcision and there were others who said circumcision was no longer necessary.  Paul weighed in but he did so in a way that helps us to understand Jesus’ circumcision in a much more profound way.  Further on from our reading this morning, Paul writes in chapter 5, “ I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (Gal 5:3)  What does this mean but that in submitting himself to circumcision Jesus obligates himself to keep the whole Law.  “Well,” you might wonder, “He’s just a baby, how does he do that?”  Jesus is no ordinary baby.  He is the eternal Word of the Father, begotten not made.  In allowing himself to become flesh of the womb of Mary, He allowed himself to be put under the Law of Moses.  I know I have spoken before of the Scriptures as a rich tapestry that coheres into one beautiful portrait of the love of God.  Here is an example of just such a finely woven thread.  Jesus birth is not just some Christianization of a pagan myth of God being born in flesh.  Jesus must be born in the flesh so that He might be circumcised and be obligated under the Law of Moses.  The scale of the unfolding of the Good News of Jesus Christ is truly of epic proportions taking centuries to come to pass.

Surely, the picture has now come into sharper focus for you.  God gave the Law to show us where we fall far short of His plan for us.  But our religion is not a self-improvement project.  The Gospel is not good advice.  God sent His Son to be born in human flesh, under the Law, to bear every unbearable burden of the Law, and to fulfill the Law perfectly even as an eight day old infant.  How weak and insufficient we are that an eight day old Jesus fulfills the Law perfectly where we fall so far short but this is truly Good News.  At eight days old, Jesus took upon his shoulders and began to bear in His newborn flesh the pain and curse and burden of the Law.  Already He bore in His body the wounds that the Law would give Him.  The blood shed at eight days old a foreshadowing of the requirements for sin offering under the Law, the sin offering that He would become.  The few drops of blood shed now in the temple a deposit on what He would bear in His body on the cross for you, full weight and punishment of the Law that all the demands God’s Law might be satisfied and fulfilled.  His is why Mary and Joseph are instructed to call Him Jesus.  It is because He will save His people from their sins.  He has done it.  Behold your Jesus, the one who saves you from your sins.  You have peace with God.  And look there, God has already completed one of your resolutions for you.  This is truly Good News.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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Homily for New Year’s Eve

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana, 2011

Note:  This sermon came out a little different, especially at the end.  With so much going on, I don’t have time to go back and edit the manuscript.  But I think there was more Gospel in the preached version.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We gather tonight not really because of anything in the church year so much as a new calendar year approaches.  Some people make a big deal of the new year coming.  In reality it’s really quite arbitrary.  The Jewish New Year has already begun back at the end of September. The Chinese will start there’s on January 23rd.  And of course, the church already began her new year at the end of November with the first Sunday in Advent.  Calendars are arbitrary.  But like birthdays, they give us a sense of time passing by and maybe more than a little sadness for time wasted and missed opportunities, auld lang syne, and all that.  And of course an expectancy that the coming year might be a source of joy and blessing.  The readings for tonight are kind of an interesting mix and they should give us plenty to ponder this New Year’s Eve.

The reading from Isaiah is a prophecy against a rebellious Israel who refuses to be nothing more than a rebellious people to the Lord.  They refuse His protection and care and prefer instead the protection and care of the Assyrians against the Babylonians.  Their wickedness is so terrible the Lord commands Isaiah not just to speak against them but to record this prophecy against them.  Because they despise the Word of the Lord, their world will come to an end.  They will be left, smashed to pieces like a clay pot.  They will be left like an army gone into battle, but routed by the enemy with just their standard bearer standing high and alone on the hilltop. They will be left ruined because they despised the Word of the Lord.

Like the ancient Israelites, there are a good number of people who come to church to hear prophecies from the Lord about how bad other people are.  The preachers who preach to them are those who talk about how bad society is and how it all the fault of the gays or the rising tide of the Muslim menace.  It’s the fault of the social liberals and their laissez-faire attitudes toward promiscuity and their lack of family values.  Just go back in time, and it was the fault of the communists, and before them, the Nazis, and before them, well, you get the picture.  At Least I hope so.  Instead of focusing on the failures to hear and obey God of the people in their pews, they scapegoat others as if the only thing holding back the good people of God from properly living before Him were the Nazis or the gays or the democrats.  It doesn’t work like that.  As much as we might like to believe it, it doesn’t.  Now please hear also what I did not say.  We have significant disagreements in worldview with every group I just mentioned.  What I am saying is it’s not their fault I’m a sinner before God and therefore it’s not just their fault that our society, our world is sick and needs healing.  It’s partially my fault and yours.  What we need is a Savior, someone who will come and heal this world and set it right.

Many of you know I just got back with the family from Orlando.  The hotel we stayed at was advertising the Disney holiday special.  And the video was of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom all lit up with “Peace on Earth” spelled out on in huge lights.  After all, this is the season for peace on earth, right?  But nowhere in the Disney universe is there the proper naming of peace on earth, nowhere is it acknowledged where this peace on earth come from.  Where does that line, “Peace on earth,” even come from?  It comes from the message of the angels on that Christ mas night.  Because Jesus is now born there is peace on earth.  Not peace between men, that will never come until the end of time.  No there is now peace on earth between God and men.  Jesus comes to end the rebellion of man against God by being the perfectly obedient one under the Law.  God’s Law is fulfilled.  That’s why there’s peace on earth, not because we’ve all decided to visualize world peace, but because God Himself has sent His Son to end the state of antagonism between God and man.  Need further proof that man is now right with God?  Look at how Jesus talks to His disciples tonight.

Stay dressed for action.  Be ready.  Keep your lamps burning.  Be ready, because you don’t know when the Lord will return.  There is not here a sense that, all of you who are ready can slack off a bit and those other folks who aren’t ready need to get ready.  Jesus speaks to us all.  Stand at the ready.  Jesus will return and at a moment you will least expect him.  He will come like a thief.  The difference, of course between the coming o Jesus and a thief coming is that the thief comes to break in an steal whereas Jesus comes to bring blessing.  “He will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”  Be ready, then, not because Jesus comes to punish but rather because He comes to bring blessing.

I don’t know how much of the year in review stuff you watch but I’m thoroughly overwhelmed at the devastation that occurred not just here with the tornados in the US in Missouri and in Alabama and Georgia and even around here this Spring but with all the earthquakes, and volcano eruptions and the terrible tsunami in Japan as well as all the floods and the blizzards and that’s just the natural catastrophes.  Add to that all the violence poured out by man against other men and it was a heartbreaking year.  A message like peace on earth is sure to sound like something that can come only from the Disney universe.  Paul assures us to not be afraid.  “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  Don’t you know that the one who came to end the state of rebellion against God is now ascended to the throne of God and stands there interceding on our behalf?  What could possibly separate you from the love of Jesus Christ?  There is nothing in all of creation that will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   This is true.  A very blessed and prosperous New Year to you all.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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Sermon for Christmas Day

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana, 2011

Click here for mp3 audio 08 Sermon for Christmas Day.mp3

 Note: This sermon was adapted from one in Concordia Pulpit Resources but to me it sounded rather similar to one I preached just a couple, maybe three years ago, before this blog.  Anyway, that’s one argument for using resources from time to time.  They stretch the writer to think beyond where he might otherwise go.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Merry Christmas.

Today is the celebration of the eternal Word of the Father taking human flesh and dwelling with us.  It is day that marks the beginning of God dwelling with man, inhabiting our world in the same way we do.  But today also harkens back to the very beginning.  In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God.  It should be no surprise that we find God there at the beginning doing what He does, creating the beginning.  After all, He is uncreated, eternal.  There was never a time when He was not.  He has always been and He always will be.  He is without beginning.  If it were any other way, God would not be God.  Everything else, whether visible or invisible, like the mysterious Higgs boson particle, all things are part of the creation of God.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  God made it out of nothing, by the Word all things came into being.  He spoke, “Let there be,” and it came to be.  “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Before creation, there was nothing just the Word with God.  The Word is a He, not an it.  He is a person, eternal, with God in the beginning.  The Word is a distinct person, divine, not created, with God in the beginning.  He is uncreated, infinite, and eternal God.  He speaks in Proverbs chapter 8, “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth.”  (Pr 8:22–25)  “When he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always.”  (Pr 8:29–30)  All light and life have their beginning and source in Him.  The Word was there when the sun came to be and He was there “rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Prov. 8:31)  And when God looked out on all that He had made he declared it to be “very good.”  (Gen. 1:31)

Zoom through time from the beginning, through to the first Christmas day and what you find is far different.  There’s darkness, thick darkness and deep gloom over the whole world.  The world in which Jesus entered does not know God.  It is spiritually ignorant and blind.  The creature cannot even recognize its Creator.  It is with this single word, darkness, that John describes the state of the world around us.  The world filled with sin, death and hell is truly dark indeed.  It is confusing.  We misunderstand even the words of the Eternal Word sent to speak to us the truth of God.  The darkness means that we cannot find God, no matter how hard we try, no matter how many times we bump into the stuff God has made.  We carry no spark of light in us.  We are lost, disoriented, alienated and constantly making all the things we bump into in the dark into gods in order to try an manufacture light in this darkness.  We end up serving creation rather than the Creator.

If creation is to be redeemed, saved, rescued from this darkness of sin and death, then God would have to make Himself known, point Himself out, reveal Himself to us.  God must come to the place where we are, descend to earth, enter into His creation so that we lost and condemned creatures might know Him and have communion with Him as we once did, in the beginning.

This is the great surprise and wondrous mystery of Christmas.  God shows us in a place where we certainly don’t expect to find Him:  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)  God the eternal Word, who was there in the beginning and not only participated in the Creation, but was the very means by which all things came into being, He took upon Himself a human nature exactly like yours.  The Uncreated became a creature, the Infinite became limited and bound, the Eternal became subject to time and aged.  The Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, true God and true man in one hypostatically united person.

This is the great Christmas message—because man cannot find the Creator, the Creator became man!

The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  He is the light of the World, the light that shines in the darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.

So do you recognize your Maker now, dear Christian?  O creature, do you know now your Creator?  To see the Creator is to see the one who comes to bring salvation.

The one who formed Man from the dust has come with fingernails and eyebrows and kneecaps to reclaim His sin-darkened creation.  He was born of a woman, Mary His mother, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.  The Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to have His diaper changed.  He was before Abraham, even before Adam, and yet He is laid in a manger in Bethlehem.  O come, let us adore Him.

The one who made the forests and the mountains allowed Himself to be stretched out on a tree on a humble hill.  The Creator of even the Highest heavens suffered and bled for His creation.  The one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) was wrapped in linen and laid to rest in a tomb before He burst the bonds of death and was raised to new life as the firstfruits of a new creation.  O come, let us adore Him.

The One who spoke and created the wheat and wine comes now in bread and wine for you.  His true body and true blood present on this altar given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Eternal life, so near now you can see it and taste it.  God gives it to you, His own flesh and blood, into Your mouth, to be taken into Your body.  He makes Himself known to you, gives Himself to You, ensures He is in you and gives you forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.  Hear the angel voices, “Glory be to God on High, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”  Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

For God the Word who was in the beginning is now and forever enfleshed in the person of Jesus Christ.  That makes Christmas a blessed surprise: the uncreated, eternal and infinite God comes right here among us as our light and our Life.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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