Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Nativity of Our Lord + December 25, 2017
Text: John 1:1-14
This morning, we complete our series on the pivotal point in the Nicene Creed (which we just confessed). “For us men, and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made Man.”
As 21st century Christians, we take these words for granted. That the Son of God became man was the scandal of the first five centuries of the Christian Church. It was already brewing in the days of John the Evangelist, when he warned believers, “2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.” (1 John 4:2–3) But it continued through the councils where one after another teacher tried to skirt the Scriptural truth: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “He was made man.” “Homo factus est.” (Latin for the same) was the rallying point for the true Christian faith. How could the Word become flesh? How could God become man? Perhaps it’s better to answer with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
All those who have been led astray have gone that way because they compared God’s ability to human understanding. If we cannot let go of our own limited understanding and philosophical rules, we miss out on tremendous truth that God became man.
In the truth of this, there is astounding comfort! Because God became flesh, we have a high priest who sympathizes with our weakness, as the Scripture says, “15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16) Our God shares our flesh. He is not aloof from our bodily pain, but He shares it. Whenever you are assaulted by Satan, He has been there too—and overcome for you. In the depth of despair when we want to cry out to someone who can both understand and help, cry out to Jesus who shares your flesh!
Because God became man, we have a God who is not aloof from us, but is intimately connected with our lives. “3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) Consider your griefs–pains of body, family discord, facing poverty, or losing your spouse or a child. You know your own experience of that pain. But, now consider what these verses say: Your God, your Savior Jesus, is so well-acquainted with grief and sorrow that He feels it personally. His coming in the flesh means that He is not a God who stands far off from your anguish and simply sends a sympathy card. He sympathizes by becoming one with you and the whole race so that He can uphold you and bring you out of this valley of sorrow to eternity!
Because God became man, He is able to give us strength with His Body and Blood to eat and drink. “54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54) We feel the pangs of death, and see the effects of its approach. But Jesus, our God in the flesh, has made atonement for sin by the cross, entered the grave and risen. Now, He gives us, who live under the shadow of death, His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. Though His flesh and blood, our weak flesh and blood has eternal life. In this Sacrament, He preserves you through every temptation, disease, and even your own passing away.
Even though human wisdom may not comprehend how this can be, believe His holy Word:
“12To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the [only-begotten] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:12–14)
These words proclaim to you salvation, comfort, strength, and eternal hope.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.