December 25, 2020 Christmas, as John writes it
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
As we gathered last night, the Lord’s Word thru St.Luke fed & nourished us; it was the ‘feast’ of good news of Jesus’ Nativity. Between the gospel’s of Luke & Matthew, we hear of the real humanity of Jesus’ arrival. There were real people, such as Joseph, Mary, Herod & Quirinius; / with real emotions – like joy, fear & relief; / and real places in the world, such as: Syria, Nazareth, Bethlehem.
This morning the gospel word is still nourishing, but different; as we are fed by the words of St. John. He provides less humanity and more divinity. He does not write about /the trip to Bethlehem, /the swaddling cloths, /or the shepherds who were ‘sore afraid’.
John’s words are just as accurate and important, but different. His focus is on the divine glory, on a dark & condemned world, and on the ancient promise of God’s Word kept and made flesh. Once again, we have a feast of good news for the hungry soul.
To the fallen world, John’s account is not as interesting; it has no human appeal.
This is part of man’s basic problem: humans appeal to humans, & not to God. The world loves the Christmas story, but *how many know what the story really means? The world is warmed by a human-interest-story with /the lowly maiden, /the ‘homeless’ couple, /the frightened shepherds, /the sky filled with angels. I mean, the Lord really knows how to strum our heart-strings thru Luke & Matthew. The retelling of that story warms our hearts, whether it’s told by our old family pastor, or told by Linus – holding his blanket in the TV movie A Charlie Brown Christmas. Even Jews & unbelievers can become a little sentimental with Luke’s Christmas story; but Christmas according to John doesn’t bring-out those same feelings.
However, among God’s people, John brings out something else; something more. John declares that it is not the humanity that makes that night stand-out in all human history, but the divinity. God-in-the-flesh makes that event a blessing to ALL generations who came before it as well as ALL generations that have come after. Many ‘smart’ people =historians, scientists, politicians & theologians= will miss John’s point; BUT God’s child-like & faithful people don’t miss it. Salvation was made flesh; ‘carne’ is Latin for flesh. God himself became ‘incarnate’, and the 2nd person of the Trinity became the real Life of men.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . ….and the Word became flesh.” (v. 1,14)
That’s Christmas truth according to John. Now, that’s not ‘truth’ according to /the University of MN, /the faculty of M.I.T, /Harvard Law School, /the New York Times, /or the editors of Psychology Today. They would say that ‘in the beginning’ there were molecules, or gasses, or ‘we’re not sure.’ But John is certain! In truth, he says, it is far better to be ‘born of God’ than born just of the ‘will of man.’ So John takes Christmas back to before creation, and before Mary & Joseph name The Child – Jesus. John begins with the pre-incarnate Christ –the Word. He was in the beginning, with God; He was God, & thru Him all things were made. Without this Jesus, a person doesn’t know Jesus; and just feeling good about the Christmas story will mean nothing = in the end, when it counts for everything.
TRUTH is John’s claim & proposal, and the difference between faith & no faith, between eternal life & eternal death. This should be of interest to all humans. So, *does a person have to believe what John says in order to believe that Jesus was a cuddly baby, who was laid in a manger? *Isn’t it possible to believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem without believing that Jesus also created all the heavens & the earth? The real answer is ‘no.’
In order to use the word ‘believe’, then a person cannot divide the baby-Jesus born in Bethlehem from the Son-of-God who existed long-before there was a Bethlehem.
The world will try to divide His humanity from His divinity, but the one truth cannot be cut off from the other truth. Before the Bible was written, believers had to answer the question of whether the God who physically created the world was also the God who would spiritually redeem the world. It had to be the same God. Believers like /Adam & Eve, / Noah & … mrs.Noah, /and Abraham & Sarah, they were not able to say ‘the bible tells me so.’ But they knew they couldn’t divide God from God & still have the truth & hope of their salvation.
The Babe-of-Bethlehem needed to be God-the-Lord who made all things.
The world tries to divide Jesus’ humanity from divinity; that’s a deadly error that goes back to Satan = that rebellious & fallen angel. So we will hear the world say /that Jesus was human, but not God; /that Jesus was influential, very spiritual, showing the way of kindness and peace on earth; /He was such a good example, a real stand-up guy; ….>
/He was anti-violence, anti-establishment, anti-materialism. Those all sound like praises,
but they’re not; they’re just ‘atta-boys’, like any good human gets.
Because, if the world says that Jesus is just a really fine human being, at the same time they are saying ‘Jesus doesn’t need to be your God & Lord.’ Then your god can be anything from which you get /help, /comfort, /pleasure, /guidance, /or reassurances. But the truth is, man’s sin means total darkness to the truth, & blindness to the underlying problem and its solution. The proof of that is this: God himself came into this dark world, and shined as The Light; and the darkness has not understood it. The world did not receive the very One who created it. That’s the very deep darkness which you & I were born into.
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the truth that the Spirit writes thru John. Some have been brought out of that darkness. These are the ones who have received The Word and believe that Jesus is God. They did not give this new & spiritual birth to themselves, but The Word has brought to them a gift & they have been born of God. When Jesus explained this to Nicodemus, He called it being born ‘from above.’ Being reborn of the Spirit-of-God thru water.
Your Lord has given you this gift in & thru your holy baptism. As the Spirit later says in the letter to Titus: God “saved us . . . by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly thru Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5–6). In baptism, you were clothed with Jesus, who is the Lord of heaven & earth, who was once a baby.
Your baptism has given you new ears. That’s why John’s words have such an appeal to you, even more than the human story, with the people, & places & emotions of that Christmas night. +Just another baby born half-way across the world, 2,000 years ago, is not enough to give you the courage you need to live in this fallen world of wicked people, and unfair troubles.
+It’s not enough to chase away those doubts that the God of this universe is angry over your misbehaviors. +Some baby born in Bethlehem is not sufficient to make you strong enough to look at your own approaching death and say something like: ‘go ahead – do your worst.’
A baby in a manger, with shepherds & angels, isn’t enough.
But The-Word-made-Flesh IS more than enough! He =with His cross & empty tomb= means your forgiveness, and complete victory.
So, this is the language that nourishes your soul: “The Word was God.” / “All things were made through Him.” / “The Word became flesh . . . and we have seen his glory.” “Glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace & truth.” The Light has come to walk us thru this dark world. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You cannot believe in the Jesus of Bethlehem without also believing in the Son of God who was before the creation of the world. There isn’t the one without the other, because He is just one Savior, one Lord, & one God.
Creation is united with redemption; just as: you can’t have winter without the cold; you can’t have sunshine without light. He had to be man – in order to bleed & die in man’s place on the cross; He had to be God – in order to be the holy sacrifice for all, and raise himself from the dead. The truth is, there are just some things that go together & can never be separate. Jesus is two natures in one savior.
Later in his gospel, John tells us WHY he serves up this feast of divine truth-food.
He says that these things were “written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:31). Every year about this time, at least one of the newsstand magazines run another story about that first Christmas, or about what ‘experts’ & scholars say about the question ‘who is Jesus ~ really’. Outside of the Bible, don’t expect the world to shed any new light on Him.
However, you can expect the truth to be talked about here from this pulpit, and among God’s believing people thru the liturgy & hymns. You can expect that the Holy Spirit will bring light to your darkness, forgiveness to cover all your sin, & guidance to live your life.
Just as in an ordinary 6-day period, the Lord created all the heavens & the earth, so also that same Lord became an ordinary male child, born in Bethlehem & laid in a manger. And when you are here, you can expect Him to receive your thanks & praise; for He is the Word-of-God who made the world, and the Word-of-God made flesh.
That’s how St.John says to you “Merry Christmas!” Amen.