I meant to post this on Epiphany, but was away from the internet and missed the opportunity. In any case, here is my pastor’s Christmas day sermon.
It was quite memorable for me, and held forth “infant theology” in its most pregnant form. When I started this blog I wanted to talk about faith like a child – simply receiving and believing God’s word, particularly the promises of God. But this beautiful sermon is about the child that leads us to faith – the Promise of God.
Pardon the formatting (the capitol letters and strange punctuation) that occur throughout). My pastor breaks up his sermon manuscript so it is easy for him to read – I simply put the phrases he had broken up back together again so they form complete sentences.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, when the shepherds, Went to Bethlehem, And found things, Exactly as described for them, By the angel (The babe Wrapped in swaddling clothes And lying in the manger) What the shepherds beheld there, Was the very Creator of the World.
So one of the stanzas Of Luther’s Christmas hymn, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come:
Though You created all,
How weak you are
So poor and small,
That You should choose,
To lay Your head
Where lowly cattle
In other words, If you want to know where God is, Go to the manger, Go to the baby, Go to Jesus.
It really is simple Isn’t it? If you want to find God, Find Jesus, Because in Jesus, We have the very Creator of the world.
That really is The wonder of Christmas!
But more and more, Man has come To reject, To deny, To run away from this Fact. That Jesus is God. Muslims, of course, Reject it out right.
How could God, The Maker of Heaven and earth become man?
Jesus a good man?
Hindus, Even if they accepted the divinity of Jesus, Would simply include Him, In their pantheon Of thousands of gods.
Mormons? For them, Jesus is godlike But not the Creator Of Heaven and earth.
Man in general? I don’t think That man in general Has a problem with Jesus.
From what man in general Knows about Jesus, He is an okay guy, A guy who did good things, A guy who took on the establishment, A guy, Unfortunately, Who lost in that endeavor. But God? (The Creator of the World?) He through whom all things were made? No.
And sadly, Even for some Christians, They don’t realize That this is so, That the Gospel of John, Begins With this wondrous description, Of the Word, And that Word, Through Whom the world was made, Becoming flesh, In the little baby, Jesus Christ.
So they look elsewhere for God.
And perhaps we are tempted To do the same.
Where do we look? Where do we look for God?
Perhaps This time of year, In its sites, And sounds.
For most, That would seem to be the case, That Christmas Is Christmas, is really Christmas When a specific carol is sung, A specific cookie baked, Or a specific ornament Is hung on the tree.
One of the traditions, At Christmas time At Concordia College Ann Arbor, where I went to school, Was for the faculty of the school, One evening, To serve the students Their dinner.
It was an old tradition there, And I was somewhat surprised When told about it, And amazed when I experienced it, My old Greek professor serving us roast beef, And I really looked forward to it, The next year, Only to learn, That that long-standing Christmas tradition Had been canceled.
It took something away from the season.
We have all had Similar experiences,
We have all, Identified, Certain sights Sounds, Aromas And tastes With Christmas, And when such things Were no longer to be seen, Heard, Smelled, Or tasted, What became of our Christmas?
Did we not think, That somehow, We had lost something?
That it was not right?
But what were we doing By attaching such importance To these sensual experiences?
Were we not Trying, Somehow, To find a uniqueness to Christmas, To find a specialness to Christmas, To somehow, Find God, Working in a unique way, At this time through such things?
But we need not look for God.
Not in the experiences of Christmas, Or any other place, Where He is, But has not deigned to be found.
On the contrary, Christmas is all about the fact, That God has been found, That the very Creator of the world, Is found In the little baby Jesus.
But why? Why there?
Why is God found In the little baby Jesus? Why not in a sensual experience, In a stunning star-filled winter’s sky? In a fresh layer of perfect snow? In the massive power of a blizzard, That strands everyone Where they are at, For days?
The answer really, Is simple: God is found In the little baby Jesus, So that He does not Frighten us away With His appearance Among us.
You remember What happened, When God appeared On Mt. Sinai, Or when the prophet Isaiah Beheld God in a vision, Or when the other prophets Encountered God In similar fashion: It was a terrifying, Horrifying, A simply awe-filled, Experience in which death Certainly seem imminent. Who would ever turn to, Such an all-powerful God, Who so terrified us, With His very presence?
Who would seek out a God, Whose very holiness, Would cause us to instantly Suffer revulsion at our own sin? Who would attempt to approach A God who seem to be nothing, But death and destruction?
At least no one, Willingly. And God knew that. If Adam and Eve, Hid themselves from Him, As He simply walked Through The garden of Eden, What would man, Generations later, Caught in his sin, Do?
So what was God’s solution?
He takes on human flesh.
He takes on human form, He actually becomes human, So that we will not be frightened of Him.
In fact, He even goes so far, As to become The most helpless Of human beings, And that is A baby.
Now what do we think about, When we see a baby?
Are we struck With fear? No.
Of course we joke about Being fearful of babies, Especially First time parents, But in reality, Babies do not strike fear in us.
Instead, With their form, In its beauty, And innocence, And size, Babies beckon us come to them, And take them Up in our arms, And hold them.
Realize What Christmas teaches us then: This is what God Would have us do. He would have us, Approach His Son, Jesus Christ In faith, Just like we approach A little tiny baby, Not with fear, Not with anguish, Not with trepidation, But with confidence, And boldness, Knowing That we will indeed Be accepted By Jesus,
And being accepted by Jesus, Be accepted By our Father in Heaven.
Easy? Yes. At least on Jesus’ part.
And us? Why can we not see Jesus Our Savior, As a little baby, Who would have each And every one of us, Hold Him, With arms of faith?
Well maybe we want God, To be something else? Maybe we do want God, To appear before us, As an all-consuming fire, As a storm, Or as an earthquake even.
Sure, The seeing the angel, And the angel choir, That would have been something!
But what did the shepherds Think of that experience?
Scripture tells us, That they were “sore afraid”!
But must it be a baby?
I mean, What kind of God Is a Baby!
What kind of power And authority And strength And might Is found in a baby?
Only the power, The authority, The strength And might Of the true, The living, The Only God, Who would so humble Himself, So that He could become like us, Setting aside, Power, Authority, Strength, And Might Just so that He could Do that Which no one else Could do, And that is, Die in our stead, And have His death, Be attributed to us.
Had He not become human, He could not have died.
But Jesus lived among us, To die among us, So that we, No longer would die, But could live.
So what a wonder Christmas is. The Word became flesh And dwelt among us, So that we would live Forever Through faith in Christ, In spite of our flesh.
Believe in this little baby.
Believe in this God made man.
Believe in the Crucified and Resurrected Son of God, And receive, The wondrous gift Which Our Savior Jesus Christ, Is to us: Life, And Salvation!
I suppose I have said this before, But it is hard not to think Of the Baby Jesus, (The incarnate Son of God), Like one of those Christmas presents, Which we receive, And at first, Simply disregard, Ignore, Or even despise.
Because we simply do not understand What they are!
We have all received such a Christmas present, The one Which we open, And stick back under the tree, While we occupy ourselves with all of the other Presents we received. And it is only later, That we learn That the gift, The gift that we set aside Is the one Truly of most value Of most worth, Of most meaning.
If this is what You have done, With the gift of the Savior Jesus ChristTo You, It is not to late.
Pick Him up!
Reach for Him with the arms of faith!
Believe in Him, As Your Lord and Savior From Sin and Death And that is exactly What He will be for You!
Having a hard time doing that?
Fearing what might happen?
He has come to you, Not in a fire, In an earthquake, In a great storm Full of lightning and thunder, But Your Savior Comes to You Simply, And humbly, As a tiny little Baby.
Embrace Him With the arms of faith, Hold the Very Creator of the World In Your Heart And Never Let Him Go!
He is God’s Gift to You!
He is God’s Love expressed for You!
He is God for You! He is Your Life! Your Salvation! Your Eternity!
That being so, How could you have anything less, Than a Merry Christmas!
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.
Picture from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gerard_van_Honthorst_001.jpg, Gerard von Honthorst, The Adoration of Shepherds, 1622