John’s Gospel is kind of perplexing. He doesn’t record the shepherds or the angels or the inn or even the manger. No swaddling clothes, not even the Virgin Mary. That’s what you heard last night and earlier this week from the other evangelists. John goes all the way back to the beginning, to the creation of the world.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John reveals that Jesus, the Christ, is the everlasting Son, who was with the Father from eternity! Christ the Lord existed before His incarnation – before His being named as Jesus.
This Jesus, the one who lays His head in the hay, the one born in Bethlehem, is the Creator of all things. He is the Word through whom all things were made. All things. The great wonder of space and the stars, the spectacular things we behold and take in at various locations in creation, the one who knit together such wonders as the newborn baby in the womb, is Himself born from the womb and takes on human flesh. The Son of God has always been mightily at work for your good and for you, even from creation.
Take it in. Jesus, the Word from the beginning, takes on human flesh. The shepherds hardly took it all in, Mary had to ponder in heart even with 9 months of preparation, and we barely have time to take it all it in. The Word became flesh.
While the world, and often times us, try to be all spiritual and think of what’s on the inside and our specialness and our potential, the Word from eternity takes on flesh. He comes to us, in the flesh. Not just as a fairy-tale or some feel good story, but at the time of Herod and Quirinius and Augustus, in real time and real history, God becomes man, the Word becomes flesh.
He who was present as Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, the image that was tainted and tarnished in rebellion, comes to restore us and restore His creation. We don’t usually come to Christmas wanting to hear of our sin. We want to hear how God is good and then we are basically good too. But you see, if this were the case, Christ had no need to take on flesh. What happened then is what continues to happen today. He came to his own and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed his name, he gave 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.
Dear Christians you are born of God – by water and the spirit – you are born of God. The true light which enlightens everyone enlightened you at your baptism. The Early Church spoke of those baptized as those enlightened and as bearers of light. According to the mandate of Christ you received the washing of rebirth in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You were gifted with faith in Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh!
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth. That’s God’s gift! That’s Christmas! You have a flesh and blood Savior! He gives Himself to you that you might be whole again, body and soul. He does so out of pure grace! He came to be with us under the Law, the Law that condemns us, that shuts our mouths, that wells up in terror at the judgment of God against our rebel sin. He came to save us, not to take us captive but to set us free, to fulfill the Law of God to overflowing with Himself. He came to save sinners, of whom each of us is chief. He came to seek and save you in your lostness, in your despair, in your sin, in your death. He came to be your Shepherd, to lay down His life for you. The Word became flesh to save you.
Do you see how humanity is honored by God? He tabernacles among us! The tired, old excuse, “I’m only human,” no longer flies, nor does the phrase, “to sin is human – to forgive divine”. Christ is now human and as true man He forgives perfectly. He also commands us to forgive. The Word became flesh. As the second Adam, the new head of the human race forgives sins. Therefore “to forgive” is also human in the new creation He has brought. He is the man God created us to be. In His forgiveness the image of God is being restored in you. Now that is a Christmas gift worth receiving and worth sharing.
The Word became flesh hasn’t stopped dwelling among us just because we can no longer see him. In a sense, every time we gather together to hear the Word and to eat His body and drink His blood, He manifests glory, His dwelling among us full of grace and truth. He comes to us who cannot go to Him.
The Mystery of Christmas, the Mystery of the Word made Flesh comes to bear on us in the Word that rings in our ears, in the Holy Supper on our tongues, in the baptismal water. There the Word made Flesh encounters our flesh, there sins are forgiven, there we die and rise to new life in this Christ Child. The Word became flesh, He comes down to us, yes, even today, to dwell with us.
The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. He dwells among us in Word and Sacrament to save. He dwells among us in the least, the lonely, the unloved, the hungry, the thirsty, in the least of these He dwells among us to serve. We dare not disregard this, for as we have done it to the least, we have done it to Him. As we bend down in service to others, we serve Him who bent down as the suffering servant of all to save.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is what endures of Christmas, long after the gifts are opened, the decorations are gone and packed away, and the holiday joy gives way to the new week of work. God is with us in this Child Jesus born of Mary. He dwells among us that we too might behold His glory, now hidden, soon revealed.
People struggle at Christmas to find the true “reason for the season,” the underlying and enduring meaning of Christmas. Some search in their hearts for peace, love, and joy. Some seek it in “peace on earth” meaning an end of warfare and terror. Some see it in the exchange of presents, festive meals with family and friends, decorated trees and wreaths, colored lights and colorful paper wrapping and bows. Some seek it in acts of kindness toward others, especially the less fortunate, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving toys to poor children. And while these are all worthwhile and noble, they are not the reason for Christmas.
The reason is this: The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. The mystery of Christmas is a great and profound one. The Creator becomes the Creature. The Infinite takes up residence in the Finite. The fulness of the Deity dwells among us bodily. God and Man are reconciled. The image of God is restored to Man.
This is where the true Christmas, the Mass of Christ, is celebrated, where His Word is preached and heard, where His Body and Blood are offered to us and received, where the Word made Flesh comes to us to embrace us, poor, dying sinners that we are.
What glad tidings of great joy Christmas brings each year! “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” To you. Take it personally. God had you in mind when He sent His Son. For you, the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. For you He was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin. For you He was wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger.
Nothing can ruin that. The devil already tried. He could not overcome the Light. Grace and Truth have come through Jesus Christ and you are here because Jesus Himself declares it to you. Here is joy that no one, no thing, can snatch away light in the midst of darkness, life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of despair, God in the midst of men. The Word became Flesh.
Merry Christmas! In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.