Sermon for the Nativity - John 1:1-14
It is hard to try and preach on Christmas, because everyone knows the story. Everyone likes the Nativity scenes, and has either been part of the Luke 2 narrative in a Christmas program at church, or they read it as a family every year. Caesar, census, fields, shepherds, angels, Gloria, baby, manger, Mary, and Joseph.
At least with Christmas Day we get the rest of the story. We get John explaining to us the whole story in a theological way. In a way we might try and understand the idea of incarnation. God-con-carne. God, the creator of all things, putting on flesh. God who has no form necessarily, becoming a human being, taking on a form. Giving flesh and blood to his voice. Needing his voice, his sermon to become physically present among a people who would rather have him be silent.
When God speaks, creation happens. It did in Genesis 1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then it tells us that he said – Let there be light, and it was so. Now God sends his Word in light to a darkened world that all which he pronounces over it, every promise, every mercy, all of his grace, might be so.
John begins the story of recreation and rebirth with his very first words - In the beginning. He tells us that God’s Word was there, that God’s Word is Jesus, and he was there at the very beginning. We can’t divorce Jesus from God anymore than I can divorce the sound of your voice from you. It is as much you as you are. So God is the one present in his Word, and just as he spoke light into being at the beginning, so now the light and life come into the world anew. In God’s word. In Jesus, the Creator made flesh, the Life taking on life for you, because what we think we have of this world is darkness and death in comparison to Christ. That is the danger of a speaking God. Life comes with him. Creation. It was easier before this. Back in the days of the prophets when men came speaking and shouting the old word of “Thus saith the Lord.” But now in Christ, God speaks. Not some dude whom we can cast aside and tell him, “O, that is just your opinion man.” If God is made known in Christ, taking on flesh, having that voice, and speaking, then we must listen. Because God would not speak unless there was some creation work to be doing. Some reconciliation or salvation. God’s voice being the work of rescue out darkness, out of drought, out of sin, out of idolatry and hypocrisy. God’s voice not being some abstract principle that we have heard from God without any proof. God coming to us as Jesus with no excuse. No way to say I heard wrong. We have God made flesh and bone in order that his voice might have meat to back it up.
This is why sermons matter. Why the Word of God matters. Why the Sacraments matter. Why prayer matters.
Our sermons aren’t supposed to be these self-help messages. We aren’t here to make you feel better about the status of things. We are here to interrupt that status. To interrupt the norms of all you know. To allow God’s word to have free reign in you, but then to hear the Jesus of the text applied, the true Word of God. Not just to make some nice oratory, or good arguments, but to take this Jesus, this Word made flesh, flesh that was crucified and raised for your sake, and apply it to you. That God’s coming into the world was for a reason. His life in Jesus was for a reason. His death on the cross had a reason. His resurrection has a reason behind it. To look at God’s message of that moment and find Jesus there for you that you might place trust in him, that there as One necessary for you. Necessary for the sins that try to silence God. For the death that tries to take your life.
God’s Word is what makes that for you. Luther was one who said that the Bible is the cradle which holds the Christ. That when we read it we look for Jesus. We look for mercy and grace. We look for the Light shining in the darkness, and the forgiveness of God made manifest. If we get hung up on all the trivialities or the laws and history, we lose the voice of God speaking to us of Christ there.
The Sacraments then extend that Word to you. In your baptism it is God speaking to you. The same God who on the day of Christ’s baptism opened up the heavens and declared – I am pleased with you. So too in your baptism. Every time you touch the water, hear those words. Pleased not with your sin as much as he is pleased to take it. Pleased not with your obedience as much as he was obedient for you. Pleased not as much for your life now, but for the death you died in your baptism and the life you now live in Jesus. Words being the bedrock of the Table. Where the bread and wine become truly Christ’s Body and Blood for you, but we must be told that. Believing those words, or all we see is bread and wine. Even more to receive those benefits, the forgiveness of all your sins, life and salvation.
Prayer then becomes our response. Prayer as we come into church that we might be open to hear this Word. Prayer as we open the Scriptures that our ears might be attuned to listening to the Christ speak to us. Prayer as we feast at the Table that we might be nourished by God’s Word, the Word, Jesus Christ, present there. That we would take God at his Word there that he tells us we have sins that need forgiving and a Savior that needs to save us. Prayer that this faith we have in God becomes the driving force of our life we live in him.
With all of this Word, we get drowned in it. We then have no excuse to not have received Christ. Given him in some way. So Christmas Day becomes the Day of this Word. The day we remember that God’s word took legs and arms, hands and feet, eyes and ears and nose and heart, and broke into your world to speak to you. It began with his first cry of “Light”, continuing in his first cry from that birth, culminating in that cry from the cross – “It is finished.” From Genesis to Revelation, God speaking of new creation to come. Completing it when he spoke those words of finished victory. When he breathes upon us and gives us life by his Spirit. When he sends forth his Word to break our bonds of sin and shame. That is this Day for you. So Merry Christmas. May this Word be yours. Thanks be to God. Amen