Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Word Became Flesh

John 1:1-18 “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.”  That is the amazing, wonderful, saving story that we hear at Christmas.  Matthew and Luke tell that story with all of the historical particulars:  real people and places and political leaders. 
But John tells us that story is not LIMITED to a particular place and time—it is not just a footnote of history because the story of the Word who becomes flesh in Jesus of Nazareth stretches back into eternity for he is the eternal Second Person of the Holy Trinity-- and it stretches forward into eternity for he lives and reigns forever at the Father’s right hand. 
Matthew and Luke reveal the historical particulars about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth-- but it is John who reveals the eternal significance of who it is that is born this day.  St. John the Apostle writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
            Many thousands of years before this moment in history when the Word takes on flesh in Jesus of Nazareth--Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote about the beginning of time. 
He said that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, speaking them into existence by his Almighty, powerful word.  Light and life where before there was only darkness and emptiness—brought forth in the beginning, not by an impersonal force—but by a person—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who with the Father and the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning—always existing together as one true God.
            And not only was he the One who brought life and light into being—he himself IS light and life—and everything in all of creation finds its existence and meaning and purpose in him.  PAUSE
            Joseph was told by the angel of heaven that God’s Son would be:  Immanuel.  But it is John who reveals what that means:  that Jesus is physically “God with us”—not some disengaged, impersonal force who merely set things into motion in the beginning—but at his birth:  God in the flesh of a newborn baby. 
That is the cosmic reality behind Jesus’ identity—but the question that must now be answered is:  Why?  Why was it necessary for God himself to enter into human history—why was it necessary for the Creator to become a part of the fabric of creation?
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.  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.
            Here we have the great tragedy of our human existence:  a world that was created by the Word of God—a universe that was enlightened and enlivened by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—a human race that owes its existence moment by moment to the eternal Word—no longer, by nature knows him.
The very purpose of our lives—our existence—our presence in this world—has been ruined by sin.  We were created by the Word to live with God forever—to bask in his glorious light—to have fellowship with him as his children.  We were called into being by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity for that purpose eternally.
But when Adam and Eve sinned, creation rebelled against her Creator.  It was no longer light in which they lived-- but they tried to hide in darkness.  It was no longer everlasting life they possessed-- but now they would die.  
The light and life that they had been granted by the One who is light and life was lost to them-- and not only was it lost to them but it was lost to all their children—lost to us-- along with the relationship that we were created to have with God.
That is why it was necessary that the Word—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—God’s own Son who is Light and Life --entered into the world.  Because these gifts had originally come from him—he was the only one who could restore them. 
But because the world no longer recognized him—it was necessary for him to be revealed to the world.
That is why John the Baptist came preaching repentance of sins—that is why he pointed to Jesus and proclaimed him to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world and re-unite God and man. 
That is what Jesus had come to do—to restore that which he had originally created:  a relationship between us and God which is that of a father with his children.  St. John promises us that:
All who receive him, who believe in his name, Jesus gives the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
            Later on in his ministry Jesus would explain to Nicodemus what he had come to do.  Jesus told him:  Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he see cannot the kingdom of God.  Flesh gives birth to flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit. 
We must be born again by God to be his children and the new birth that makes us God’s children comes in only one way:  and that is by the power of God working in those who receive Jesus in faith and believe in his name and recognize him as the God who is with us and the God who saves us.  This new birth cannot come to us in any other way but by our heavenly Father’s life-giving Word.
He is the One who claims us for himself in Holy Baptism—uniting us in his Son’s death and resurrection.  It is the powerful voice of the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts every time the Good News about Jesus is preached.  It is Jesus who makes himself present in the Sacrament of the Altar, applying the saving benefits of the cross to us personally and individually by giving us his body and blood to eat and drink.
What Jesus created us to be in the beginning (God’s sons and daughters) he has recreated us to be-- so that now, through faith in him, we are restored to the family of God.  St. John writes:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
            In our sermon hymn, we asked the question that is the question of the ages—the question that must be asked and answered if we are to be saved:  What Child is this?  Who is surrounded by livestock?  Who is this worshipped by king and commoner alike?  Who nurses at his mother’s breast?
            It is in these first verses from John’s Gospel that the Holy Spirit gives us the answer to that eternally important question:  he is the Word which was from the beginning—he is the Son of the Father—he is Jesus, the Lord who saves—he is Christ the promised Messiah—he is God.
The Bible tells us that in the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve—he knew them face-to-face and had perfect fellowship with him.  But sin destroyed that relationship and from that moment on sinful man could not bear to look upon the glorious, holy face of God—and in fact, that sight would bring death—for that is the penalty for sin.  Even a man as close to God as Moses could only look upon God from behind as he passed by.
The chasm that lies between our sin and God’s holiness remained an insurmountable barrier until that night two thousands years ago when Jesus was born.  There in Bethlehem, God’s grace reached out across that barrier and made a way for us back to our heavenly Father.  And the glorious face of God that sinful man cannot bear to look upon, was clothed in the precious face of a child that can be loved and cherished and adored.
That is why Jesus came as he did—so that once more we can draw near to God unafraid and unashamed.  God’s unveiled glory that is too much for us to bear-- is now clothed in the flesh of a child who beckons us to come and bask in his presence.
Only one person can reveal God to us in this way—in the way that he desires to be known (as the God of grace and truth and love who wants to be reconciled to his wayward children) and that person is God himself in the person of his Son Jesus who now lives and reigns at the Father’s right hand. 

To know Jesus is to know God-- and to believe in him is to possess all of the gifts and blessings we were created to receive and retain forever:  gifts of life and salvation and forgiveness and fellowship with God.  These are the gifts that the Christ-Child gives and I pray they would be yours in abundance now and forever.  Amen.  

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