Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sermon: Christmas Day – 2011

25 December 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:1-18

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“In the beginning…”

The Word of God begins with these words. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” On Christmas Eve, 43 years ago, the crew of Apollo 8 read the opening words of Moses from the Book of Genesis, the Book of the Beginning, as they were orbiting the moon and looking back at the reflected light of the sun on planet earth.

On Christmas Day it is traditional to read and reflect on the words “In the beginning” as well. But these words and this beginning are a new beginning, new words from a new Book of the Beginning – the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as given to us by the Apostle John at the beginning of the Gospel that bears his name.

It was no accident that John begins with Moses and gives us Jesus. It’s no coincidence that Moses begins with the Word of God, and points us to Jesus.

For indeed, dear friends, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word of God is not a what, not merely spoken words. Rather the Word is a who: God Himself. “All things were made through Him.”

And so we must be clear in our confession. We are not randomly evolved bits of protein and protoplasm. We did not come from a mindless big bang. We are not the haphazard offspring of earthworms and primates. We are not cosmic junk that accidentally developed a consciousness. Rather, we are, as the Word reveals to us, creatures created by the Word, and we are created in the image of God the Father, our Creator. And the true image of the Father is the Son – the Word through whom we were made.

This is good news, dear brothers and sisters! For we need not look at the stars and ponder how insignificant we are. Instead, we can look at the stars, the planets, the galaxies, and the vastness of space knowing that none of these great celestial objects has consciousness. None of these celestial objects will ever ask: “Where did we come from.” None of these celestial objects will ever receive a revelation from their Creator.

But we do ask, and we did receive an answer!

And what’s more, dear friends, the Creator who made us loves us. He answers our question “Where did we come from?” The crew of Apollo 8 read the answer from space. He also answers why He made us. “God is love.” And He also explains why things are so messed up, why we feel so insignificant when we look to the sky, why we seem so distant from God, why we hurt, why we struggle, why we have sickness and problems of every kind, even why we die.

Because we have chosen to rebel against our Creator. We wanted to do what was forbidden to us. We have sinned, and we have continued to sin. We deny God’s existence. We send a rocket into space and think we are gods. We live our lives as if there were no God. We turn created objects into gods. We sin and act as if there is no such thing as sin.

And yet, God loves us. God rescues us. God has always had a “Plan B.” And He had this plan “in the beginning.”

For God does not take a rocket into space to see what He can see, rather He takes human form in space and time to save what He can save.

And so, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Word became flesh! This is the Christmas miracle, the beating heart of flesh of the Christian faith. God, the Creator, the one by whom all things were created, stepped into time and history, broke into matter and the cosmos, taking the form of a Child born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem under the reign of Caesar Augustus. He “dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory.” The Word became flesh!

Jesus did not come out of curiosity. He is not an explorer. He already knows everything about our universe down to the last electron. And He already knows everything about us. Rather, He came on a mission of mercy. He came to save us from ourselves. He came to rescue us from our sins. He came to redeem us from death itself! He came to wrench us from the grasp of the darkness of Satan. For “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” In our darkness, we tried to overcome the light. We continued to begrudge our God His rightful place of worship. We denied, betrayed, and even crucified our Savior. We “did not receive Him.”

But by a miracle, dear friends, some on our planet did receive Him. The twelve received Him. Those to whom the twelve preached received Him. Those who were baptized into His name received Him. Those who repent of their sins receive Him. And “to all who did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

And this all goes back to “in the beginning.” For before the foundation of the world, before the moon was set in its orbit, before the sun was placed in its own gravitational track in our galaxy, before the first man was placed in the first garden, before the first woman and the first man committed the first sin, indeed, “in the beginning was the Word.”

Blessed Moses teaches us where we came from. St. John teaches us where we are going. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Dear brothers and sisters, “In the beginning” you were created and hand-crafted by a Creator who loves you. “In the beginning” you were redeemed by a Savior who would not abandon you. “In the beginning” you were called out of darkness and into the life-giving light by the Holy Spirit who makes you holy and sets you apart as “children of God.”

And in this reality – the reality that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the world, that He came to sinners to save sinners, He came to you to save you – now you have yet another new beginning. Right now, we begin another day in the Lord, another week in the Lord, another year in the Lord. We have another opportunity to begin anew in the Lord, to repent, to look to Jesus, the Child born of Mary, the Son of God, the One who lives among us to this day in Word and Sacrament, the One who remains with His Church until He comes again, the One who was “in the beginning.”

It is in this beginning that He invites you to come back into His orbit – again and again. He invites you to hear anew the Good News that the Creator loves us and calls us back to Himself. He invites you to another year of grace and truth in His Word and at His altar.

We are not on a tiny space capsule named after a non-existent Greek god, rather we are on our earthly home created for us by the One True God. And in spite of how we have corrupted our world, the Lord has come into our world to save us from sin, death, and the devil. He has come to bring us to a new heaven and a new earth – through His blood, through His grace and truth, through His mercy – all offered again this Christmas Day to you, my dear brother or sister in Christ, offered to you right here and right now, even as it ever was, for “In the beginning was the Word.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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