Unto you this day is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. The same One appeared to Moses in the bush that burned yet was not consumed. On Christmas we have a new appearance, a new burning bush. For in Christ the fiery flame of the divine nature burns within the human flesh, yet does not destroy it. The humanity is not obliterated by the divine light of His Godhead. Instead, He is both Man and God in one.
He who is the Word of God incarnate came forth into the world from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The purpose for which He came into the world would surely be fulfilled. For God said through Isaiah about the Word that it would not go forth from His mouth in vain. It would not return to Him empty but would accomplish and prosper in whatever He wished. So Christ, the Word, appeared in the world on Christmas, ready to do His Father’s will. In this purpose He would surely succeed.
The will of the Father was that His Son should die for mankind. The will was to be wrapped again in swaddling clothes on Good Friday, wrapped for burial. He would not have a proper tomb then, just as He was not born in His own house or laid in a proper cradle. No, He must be buried in another man’s grave, as if He was a homeless Man without any importance.
Yet He is the Man of greatest importance. He is God in human flesh. He is the Redeemer of the world. He is the exact image of the glory of the Father, even during His earthly years when He concealed the glory. His majesty did not shine out. The manger was not bathed in heavenly light. Instead, He was wrapped in humility and swaddled in the form of a servant.
Yet His glory shone in the fields where the angels spoke to the shepherds. Christ let His glory be written in the heavens for wise men to follow. Here is a hint that the glory is not gone. Christ did not cease to be God. The majesty, at any time, could be manifested at His will. But His will is to hide His divine nature. In humility, He does not count equality with God something to be grasped.
In other words, He is the new Adam who does it right. The first Adam in Eden wanted to grasp equality. He wanted to become like God by eating the fruit. That eating was the beginning and seed of humanity’s sinful pride. But Christ, the new Adam, who actually had the right to act like God because He is God, instead chose to act like nothing more than a weak and lowly human. He allowed Himself to be helpless, even though He was never really helpless. He became a feebly kicking infant who could not walk or talk or feed Himself, because He chose not to use His power as the Son of God. It was His will to be lowly, for our sake.
So He hid His glory. This is vital information, because by this we know that He came to save. We cannot endure the glory of the Lord. The fire of the divine majesty would burn us to a crisp. The shepherds were therefore rightly afraid when the glory of the Lord shone round about them. They might have thought, “Here comes the Lord to smite us, because He knows how sinful we are.” But the angel said, “Fear not. This is not a night for smiting. This is the Night of the Birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord.”
The Lord, almighty and eternal, was born. How humiliating yet wonderful! The eternal God submitted to human birth. This is because He wanted to be one of us. His will was to save us. Therefore He came, not in glory, but lowliness. He swaddled His majesty inside the human flesh so that He could cover up our sins with His precious Blood.
Christ cannot bring His glory directly to us. Then He would be a consuming fire. But he comes gently and comfortingly. He came in the message of angels to shepherds. So He comes also in the message of Gospel preachers. The glory is delivered, yet not to destroy, but to redeem and give rebirth. He speaks to save, not destroy.
He also brings His glory in bread and wine. The glory is concealed. The chalice does not shine brightly, nor the wafers burn upon our tongues. What a frightful thing that would be! That would be the Son of God coming to terrify us! So instead He comes in humility, to comfort, even as He came meekly in the manger.
But this humility of the Son of God can be a stumbling block to us. If we do not like the humble ways of Christ, we might convince ourselves that He is not really here, and walk away. It would be the same as if the shepherds had found the Christ Child, took one look, said, “Oh, it’s just an ordinary baby,” and left, unimpressed.
We must not let ourselves walk away, unimpressed by Christ. We may set ourselves up for this fall by the way we celebrate Christmas. Our joy may be captured by the light and decorations, the favorite carols, the warmth of family and friends, and so forth. These are not bad things in themselves. But what will happen when the decorations are gone? What about when the songs are not favorites? What if we do not feel warmth and friendship? What if worship does not happen to move our emotions? What if we wish for more of a show? What if we are bored by the humble way that the Word comes to us?
The humility of Christ means that the joyful trappings of this season are not how He comes. There were no strings of lights over the manger. The glory and the angelic voices were not where Christ was. He was in the boring place, where people were only impressed if they knew by faith what was really going on. That is how the divine service always is. Christ the Lord comes, but without faith to recognize His coming, our sinful flesh will be bored. When Christ comes to us in Word and Sacrament, our spirits that crave emotions may feel disdain, as if to say, “Really? Is this the coming of Christ? Surely not!” Our sinful flesh wants a show, and soaring emotions. But Christ comes in humility.
To help us, God sends messengers to tell us the signs of His coming, so that we can know where Christ is truly found. “Behold, you will find Him lying in the Word of the Gospel, wrapped in bread, and swaddled in wine.”
So do not trust your feelings. Otherwise, you will seek Christ only when and where you feel like it. He is not a showman. He is not an entertainer. He is not a manipulator of emotions. He is not an occasional visitor. He is your Savior. Seek Him eagerly, as the shepherds did. You need Him desperately, as we all do. Joy comes and goes and can be a blessing in its own way. But do not let a craving for joy cause you to avoid the humble Christ. Seek Him. There is salvation in no other.
When you seek the humble Christ, there is sometimes pain, sometimes sorrow. Sometimes there is a cross to carry. Sometimes we must struggle on when we do not want to, even as Christ did not refuse to do what was unpleasant and humiliating. He did not take the easy way out, but the way of suffering. So must we, in this life.
But our deceptive spirits can convince us that we are seeking Christ when we are really not. Seeking Him only in the ways that feel right is not seeking Christ at all. It is seeking a fake Christ that we imagine in our heart, a Christ who only, always, makes us feel what we want to feel.
The real Christ is the King of angels, yet He submitted to a filthy manger. He submitted to dirty diapers and tears. He submitted to the long path of humiliation and pain leading up to Calvary. He The real Christ took your flesh and blood and all that goes with it, out of love for you. He wanted to suffer all you must suffer, and much worse, to rescue you. His humble, shameful path led to your salvation.
Therefore I urge you – do not be offended at the lowly ways of this Christ. He will give you all good things in good time – but wait upon His good will that He generously pours out in this House. He will never fail you.
In His Name, the Son of Mary and the Son of David and the Son of God, the only Savior. Amen.
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