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Nativity of Our Lord

John 1:1–18

James T. Batchelor

Christmas Day
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Thu, Dec 25, 2014 

This morning we just heard the inspired words of the Gospel according to John.  The Holy Spirit gave John a very clear goal when he wrote this Gospel account.  He gives that goal to us near the end of this book. [John 20:3031] Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are 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.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John wanted his hearers to know that Jesus is not just a mere man, but that He is also God.  Specifically, He wanted his hearers to know that Jesus is God the Son.  He also wanted his hearers to understand that this Jesus who is both God and man is the very source of our eternal life.

The Holy Spirit inspired John to begin by revealing the eternal nature of a Divine Person called the Word.  The Gospel account begins in the same way that Genesis begins: In the beginning These words take us back to the creation account of Genesis in order to teach us that this Divine Person is eternal with the Father.  This Word was with God and was God and was in the beginning with God.  He then tells us that creation happened through this Eternal Word.  The Word itself was NOT created.  Instead, God the Father Almighty created all things through the Word.

The Holy Spirit then inspired John to proclaim that the Divine Person known as the Word did not simply act as an agent of our creation, but He continued His involvement with us.  He is our life and our light.  His light outshines the darkness.

God did not create the world to stand far away from it, but to interact with it.  It is His desire to come to His creation and dwell with it.

Sadly, even though He created all things, His creation did not know Him.  His own creation did not receive Him.

That is when this Divine Person entered the world in an amazing way.  He took on the flesh of His creation.  That is what John is saying when he proclaims, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He is saying that the little baby in the manger that we heard about last night is this very Divine Being through whom the world was created.

We heard a similar proclamation in the Epistle for this day.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  The little baby in the manger is the one who upholds the universe.  When we say that Jesus lies in the manger, we are saying that God lies in the manger.  When Mary nursed her baby, she was providing nourishment to her creator.  The Almighty creator participated fully in His creation.

The Divine Word condescended to assume my flesh and blood, my body and soul.  He did not become an angel or another magnificent creature.  He became man.  This is Gods mercy to wretched human beings.  The human heart cannot grasp or understand, let alone express it.  However, we Christians can at least learn to prize and esteem these words: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Martin Luther illustrated the amazing nature of these words by retelling a fable.  He said:

The following tale is told about a coarse and brutal lout. While the words And was made man were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod. All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly. Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He cursed him gruesomely and said: May hell consume you, you boorish ass! If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: God was made an angel, I would bend not only my knees but my whole body to the ground! Yes, I would crawl ten ells down into the ground. And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood! Whether this story is true or not, it is nevertheless in accordance with the faith (Rom. 12:6). With this illustrative story the holy fathers wished to admonish the youth to revere the indescribably great miracle of the incarnation; they wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words well.

Why is it so important to Martin Luther and John that Jesus be both one hundred per cent God and one hundred per cent human?  Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the writers of Holy Scripture to make such a big deal out of this? 

The answer lies in two very sad sentences in the middle of todays Gospel.  John wrote, The true light, which enlightens 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.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. How sad.  His own people the people that He created did not receive Him.

His own people did not receive Him because they were in rebellion against Him.  They didnt want a Messiah who took them back to Moses.  They didnt want a Messiah who fulfilled the prophets.  No, they wanted a Messiah who would soon make them rich, great, and mighty lords holding dominion over all the nations of the world.  They wanted a Messiah who fulfilled their expectations instead of a Messiah who fulfilled the prophecies of God.

We arent all that different today.  Jesus comes to give forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  These are the gifts we need, but they are not what we want.  We want a Messiah who will make us popular, rich, and powerful.  We want a therapist instead of a savior.  We want someone who can help us feel better about ourselves.  We reject His message and prefer our own message instead.  Too often, He comes to us and we too do not receive Him.

Jesus came into this world to be our savior.  Our savior had to live a life in submission to the Law.  God is not subject to the Law.  Humans are.  Our savior also had to endure the punishment that we earn with our sins every day.  God doesnt suffer and die.  Humans do.  On the other hand, our saviors life and sacrifice had to be sufficient for the sins of the entire world.  Even if there were such a thing as a perfect human being, that perfect human could only offer himself in the place of one other human.  Only God can ransom the entire race.  Our savior also had to do battle with death and the devil.  Humans are too weak, but God is Almighty.  Our savior must be both God and man in one person.  That is why it is so important to know that Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary. 

The Divine and human natures in the person of the one Christ echo in the distribution of His gifts to us.  For, while Jesus earned forgiveness in history, the effect of that forgiveness is eternal.  It is as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write, [Ephesians 1:4] [The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  The Divine Word took on our human flesh and hung on a particular cross on a particular Friday at the command of a particular Roman governor named Pontius Pilate.  While He hung there in history, He earned forgiveness for the sins of the entire world.  Yet that one and same forgiveness earned in history is valid and effective from before the foundation of the world and will continue into eternity even after this world has come to an end.

The great comfort of Christmas flows from the great mystery of a helpless baby lying in a manger who is at the same time the Lord and Master of all things.  For in that mystery lies Gods plan to rescue us from the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  This little baby grew up to earn the forgiveness of sins at that time in history so that we can receive the benefit of forgiveness for all eternity.  Those who place their trust in that God-man will lose their guilt and gain everlasting life.  Amen

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