Monday, December 24, 2012

Sermon: Christmas Eve – 2012

24 December 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 1:1-14 (Isa 7:10-14, Mic 5:2-4, Isa 9:2-7, Matt 1:18-25, Matt 2:1-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“In the beginning was the Word….  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  On this day, the entire world celebrates the Word becoming flesh.  History was never to be the same.  Eternity itself is what it is because of what God did “in the beginning.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  And at that time, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”  There was only darkness, because the Word had not yet commanded light into being.  But when the Word spoke the words: “Let there be light,” there was light.

And the universe has never been the same.  For darkness is a lack of light.  One tiny flickering candle, one small spark, just a few streaming microscopic electrons serve to remind us that darkness – though at times scary and intimidating – is nothing.  It is literally nothing, for the substance of light eliminates the non-substance of darkness – even the small candles held by Christians on Christmas Eve serve to eliminate the cold of darkness by replacing the void with substance of warmth and brightness. 

Before human history, one of God’s creatures, an angel of light, decided that he would rather live in darkness than in the light created by God through the Word.  This creature preferred his own ugliness to the Creator’s beauty, seeking his own chaos rather than the Creator’s order.  And since this time, he has been trying to undo the work of creation – including us, the handiwork of God, creatures made in the divine image.  For mankind is repugnant to the devil, we creatures who remind him of His True Master.

As a result of this war between darkness and light, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God, was sent here to earth to bring light to us who, as a result of Satan’s tyranny, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

At the fullness of time, the ancient prophecy was to be fulfilled, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel.”

When the time had come for the Light to finally dispatch the darkness, the ancient prophecy was to be fulfilled: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth to me one who is to be ruler in Israel.”

Indeed, as the prophet spoke: “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone….  For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given.”

The fulfillment of these prophecies, the beating back against the darkness of sin and death by the light of righteousness and life took place when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  To manifest this reality that the Lord Jesus Christ had been born, the wise men followed the star, whose light led them to the True Light, as we sing in the Evening Prayer liturgy: “Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.”  The light of the star led them to the Christ Child, the Word made flesh, the light shining in the darkness, the one born into our world to save our world, the King of kings and Lord of lords!

And as the testimony of St. John in Holy Scripture confesses and reveals about this Christ Child: “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….  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.”

This Uncreated Light shining in the darkness of our corrupted world came as a humble child, He by whom all things were made, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,” born with the forces of darkness trying to extinguish the young flame of His fleshly existence, “came to His own,” taking flesh and blood in a world populated by the very people created in His image and through Him.

And even though “His own people did not receive Him,” we know this: “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 the will of man, but of God.”

Dear friends, this is the true significance of Christmas: in Christ, the light has dispelled the darkness.  Good has come to extinguish evil.  The gift of the Christ Child is offered to each of us, making us also children of God, forgiven of our sins, given the gift of eternal life, blessed to be a blessing in this world.  For we Christians, we followers of this Christ Child, are to let the light of our good works shine before the world that the Father may be glorified.  We are to leave the darkness and walk in the light of Christ.  For darkness is the absence of light.  Light is a positive reality that causes darkness to flee.

“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.” 

Think and meditate on this reality, dear brothers and sisters, even as we see the flames dancing at the altar in celebration of our Lord’s birth, even as we close out this Christ’s Mass in singing Christ’s glory while we hold small candles in our  hands.  Think and meditate on this reality, dear friends, when you see the colored lights of the season adorning our trees and our homes, as we see light, great and small, joyfully set the darkness and all of its dark forces fleeing from the True Light of Christ! 

And let us pray with the entire Church on earth the words of the ancient prayer:

“Enlighten our darkness by the light of Your Christ; may His Word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path….  Let Your light scatter the darkness, and illumine Your Church….  Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome!”

A blessed and joyful Christmas to each of you, to our community, to the Church in every place, and to our entire world!  May the light of Christ shine on all of you!  Amen.

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