Monday, December 25, 2017

Sermon: Christmas Day - 2017

25 December 2017

Text: John 1:1-18 (Ex 40:17-21, 34-38; Titus 3:4-7)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The last word of the last line of the last stanza of the last hymn that we will sing this Christmas morning is the word “appearing.”  It’s from this line: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”

Of course, the reference to the Word is from our Gospel of John’s introduction of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  But the reference to “appearing” is from our epistle reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.”

And notice that “God our Savior” is exactly how the pregnant virgin Mary described the baby Jesus in her womb – as we will sing in the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Dear friends, there is something magnificent and beautiful here that cries out for our attention this happy morning.  For Jesus is truly the Word of God.  By Him all things were made.  When God created the universe, He spoke, and it came into being.  And this Word “was with God” and this Word “was God.”  This Word in the original Greek of the New Testament is Logos, where we get the word “logic.”  By speaking it into being, God created an orderly and logical universe, set into motion according to the laws of physics, bodies of matter that interact with one another perfectly like a great precise clock in space and time. 

But the Logos is more than just a cosmic brain that makes the galaxies whirl with cold logical precision.  There is something personal and loving about this God our Creator, for by means of His Word, He is also God our Savior.

To save us means that He cares about us, and it also means that we are in trouble.  We were created in His image, given a mind and a soul and a heart, and the ability to think and to love, to study the universe, and to discern the Creator from the created order.  But we chose to rebel against our Creator.  We chose sin over the goodly order that God placed us into.  We vainly imagined ourselves to be superior to the Word, uttering our own word instead: “No.”  We refuse to serve.  We refuse to submit.  We refuse to obey.

And we are in grave peril, as if the galaxies of the universe were to suddenly rebel against the laws of physics.  Dear friends, in our sin, we have placed ourselves on a path to destruction.

But God is determined that He will not allow this to happen to us.  For “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.”

“He saved us,” dear brothers and sisters, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  And so when we needed a Savior, He appeared: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”

The Almighty Mind, the Logic, the Word that created the universe now appears in time and in matter, appearing in flesh, appearing to us not mightily but mildly, in goodness and loving kindness and mercy, making His appearance to us as one of us, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” “God our Savior appeared.”  “Now in flesh appearing.”

The Greek word for this appearing is where we get the word “epiphany.”  The appearance of the Word of God in the flesh as our Savior is a startling and universe-changing epiphany, a shining forth of light into a vast darkness.  God has not revealed Himself only in words, but in His being, not merely by enforcing the laws of the universe, but by graciously bending those laws by His will, out of love for us.  He wills to appear in flesh and to reduce Himself to a microscopic speck in time and space, to imbed Himself in the womb of a virgin in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and to suffer, to be crucified, and to die for us – all in order to save us, to rescue us.

He does this out of mercy, dear friends, out of love.  Not only the love for His creation, but love for you as His beloved creature.  He became one of us, and dwelt among us, to save each one of us, and to join Himself to each one of us out of love.  We are renewed and regenerated, by the Holy Spirit, washed in baptismal water “poured out on us richly,” calling to mind that “in the beginning… the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” just before the Word spoke, “Let there be light.” 

He continues to appear in flesh, dear friends, in His flesh and blood given to us in the Sacrament of the Altar.  He uses His Word to appear to us in space and time, appearing in the form of bread and wine so that He might continue to save us out of “goodness and loving kindness.”

Of course, we give gifts at Christmas.  Part of the reason is because the magi bore gifts to the baby Jesus.  But there is another reason: our gifts call to mind the original Gift: the Word made flesh.  Our giving calls to mind His giving, that is, His appearing.  Our gifts are small acts of love in time and space, calling to mind His infinite love in robing Himself with time and space in order to be our Savior, to love us by making Himself the ultimate gift at the cross, and giving us the gift of resurrection to eternal life, even as the Word took up His flesh again on Easter morning.

The gift of the “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing is given to us for the following reason: “so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

So come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant.  Come ye to Bethlehem (Hebrew for the “house of bread”), come to the altar, come to where the Word of God, your Savior, is proclaimed and present for you year after year, and week after week.  Come and behold Him, behold His goodness and loving kindness, behold the “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”  Behold the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world!

“O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”  Amen.

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

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