Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Word Remains Flesh

+ The Nativity of Our Lord - Christmass Day, 2010 +
Text: Isaiah 52:7-10; John 1:1-14

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

There’s an apocryphal story that Luther once told:
Once upon a time the devil attended Mass in a church where it was customary in the Creed to sing:  Et homo factus est, that is, “He was made man.”  While they were singing this, the people just remained standing and did not kneel down.  The devil was so incensed, that he slammed his fist into one man’s mouth, saying, “You boorish bum, aren’t you ashamed to just stand there like a post and refuse to kneel for joy?  If God had become our brother, as he did become your brother, our joy would be so great that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.”

“And that,” as Linus would say, “is what Christmass is all about.”  Christ becomes our brother.  Jesus Christ…the only begotten Son of God, by whom all things are made.  Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.  For us, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, Jesus comes to make all things new – a new creation shining forth in holy light from the paradise of Bethlehem’s manger.

He is God Himself, not the God who comes to inspire your fear, but the God who hides and conceals everything you might fear about Him, so that He can destroy everything that makes Him seem so fearsome in the first place – your sin that would damn you from His presence if you were left to die in it.  He wraps Himself  – your sin, your damnation, your death – and puts Himself under the curse of the tree.

For it was by a tree that the curse was extended over all creation.  In the beginning, God was as much at home on earth as He was in heaven.  Genesis 3 changed all that:  Rebellion.  Creation declared war on its Creator.  And Satan set himself up as the ruler of this world –and would not go down alone.  Tempting voice.  Twisted words.  Lies.  Deceit.  Thorns and thistles.  Pain and sorrow.  Suffering and Death.  Welcome to life outside of Eden. Where man rejects God.  Where the world is held captive to sin, death and the devil.  That’s why you’ll never find Christ in Christmass “out there” – He’s not there, at least not for blessing.

For Christmass, you don’t need a god of your own making who’ll satisfy your every wish so long as the level on your naughty-meter is lower than your nice-ometer.  We tried that once in Eden and it didn’t work out so well.  You don’t need a god to fill your burning bosom with Christmas spirit – whatever that means.  No, you do not need the god of myths and legends, but of flesh and blood and history.  Because we need most of all is a new beginning.

And in Jesus, that’s exactly what you have.  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  It’s no coincidence that John 1 and Genesis 1 begin with the same words.  The Father sends His Son, the Word – Jesus – into human flesh to vanquish Satan’s hold on the world and return to Himself the world that had rejected Him. 
God’s Son from all eternity takes a manger for His throne.  And what a glorious throne it is for in it lays a yet more glorious Savior.  The God who formed Adam of dust and built Eve out of his rib is conceived of the Holy Ghost in the Virgin Mary.  The same Spirit who once hovered over the waters…again, hovers – overshadows one particular cell called an ovum, in Mary, and in this way, the Word was made flesh.
Jesus - flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.  A world once captured and ruled by Satan is returned to the Father through His Son.  Our flesh, once at odds with God, is taken up by God in the flesh so that we are reunited to the Father through His death on the cross.  As in Adam we die…so, in Christ, we live.  God no longer finds us repulsive.  Creation reclaimed.  Satan defeated.  Life restored.

So, we travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, from Christmas to Lent and Good Friday.  That’s what His birth is all about.  In Jerusalem, God manifests His glory in Christ Crucified.  And all the ends of the earth shall see His salvation.   
His birth and death have cosmic dimensions: The ancient curse is lifted.  The mountains sing and trees clap their hands at the birth of Jesus.  He restores the word – and - in Heaven and earth.  Reconciled.  Brought back to the Father.  Purchased.  Won.  No more thorns and thistles.  No more death and sorrow.  No more curse.  The former things have passed away.  Heaven and nature sing.

 It is good to marvel at creation, and even better to rejoice in our Creator who for us men and for our salvation returned to His creation as a man.   If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.  For God does not come to us apart from the man Jesus Christ.
Christmass love for you.

The Word became flesh because you are flesh.  Christ became poor and lowly because you are poor and lowly.  Jesus became sin because you are a sinner.  And in Him you see your perfection.  Your brother.  That is why you are able to pray: Our Father, who art in Heaven. 

And if it is good to confess that the Word was made flesh, how much greater, then, to confess that the Word remains flesh.  God takes up permanent residence as man, for man’s sake.  And he will not fore-close on His fleshly dwelling.  No un-becoming man.  He will not evict His humanity and leave us for eternal damnation.

Now, In Christ, God is as much at home with His bride, the Church as He is in Heaven.  The eternal God comes to dwell with man as man, not for His sake, but for ours: merciful, fleshly, blood and guts love.  The Word remains flesh and dwells among us. The Babe of Bethlehem breathes His life giving word from the altar, lectern and pulpit, in water, Word and Absolution. 
    The Incarnate Son of God wades into Jordan’s stream and fills every font with Himself.  Your Baptism day is your Christmass – where you put on Him who put on flesh for us. 
    And the Lord’s Supper is your manger.  There is Immanuel – God with us.  You can’t any get closer to God than eating and drinking with Him at His table – our Lord’s body born of Mary comes to us in His Supper: your Nazaraeth, Bethlehem and Jeruslaem where our Lord is conceived, born died and risen. 

    And though Christmass “out there” winds down today, in Christ’s Church, Christmass is just getting started – 12 days – and an eternity after that.  For God is made man.  The Word remains flesh and we have seen His glory.

    A blessed and joyous Christmass to you all:
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

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