The Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity A.D. 2018 (John 1:1-14)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

The Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity A.D. 2018

Text: John 1:1-14

The theory of evolution would have us believe that everything which exists is the product of natural forces—genetic mutation, chance, and death.  Before you have a visceral reaction against even the word “evolution,” take a minute to consider this naturalistic view of the world in light of what the Evangelist is saying here.

            This is an especially appropriate topic to consider on Christmas, because of our Savior’s birth into the human world.  There are many Christian fellowships that see no problem with the theory of evolution or even promote its cause.  May we be strengthened in our faith to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ!

            St. John 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 through Him were made, and of what exists, nothing was made apart from Him” (vv. 1-3).

            The human wisdom of evolution tells us, In the beginning was something that already existed.  We’re not sure where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that’s how things were 13,798,000,000 years ago.[1]  Then, that pre-existing matter exploded and set off the biggest exothermic reaction to ever happen.  So many billions of years later, you have the world as we know it.  “Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery that all started with a big bang.”[2]  This is quite a different story from St. John, claiming unprecedented insight 14 billion years after the fact.

            The problem isn’t the numbers, because Christian squabbles over how many thousands of years is just as trivial as evolutionists’ how many billions of years.  God doesn’t tell us, because it’s not important.  It comes down to Who was there when it happened.  Was it an impassionate, mindless glob of energy that governed itself by laws of physics?  Or was it a God Who is the originator of everything, and creates by His Word?

            Now, certainly it would be an impressive achievement for this God to create all that exists—the Milky Way, stars, galaxies; earth with its oceans, mountains, deserts, and clouds; immense varieties of land, sea, and flying animals.  All of this is remarkable, but what are we to be considering it?  How did we become self-aware, intelligent, adaptable, and able to communicate?  St. John continues, “In [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome it” (vv. 4-5).

            If everything were a result of natural forces, what is man?  An animal amid a great company of different species.  Man is certainly a noble animal, but who’s to define what is noble or valuable?  Man must be filled with hubris to think of himself as superior to any animal or plant or rock.  It’s all matter, and all of us came from the same atoms.

            On the other hand, if we believe St. John, we see that the same God who created all things out of nothing, also gave mankind a very special place among “all things that exist” (v. 3).  Everything that exists was made through the Word of God, but “in Him was life and the life was the light of men.”  What gives man his nobility and his value?  God does, the very Author of Life does.  And among all creatures that have the breath of life, He gave His Light to man.  Therefore, in the words of Genesis, man is created in the image and likeness of God[3]—thinking, self-conscious, emotional, relational, creative, and able to communicate.  Communicate with whom?  With God and with one another.  God created through the Word, expresses Himself by words, and reveals Himself to man through the Word.  God created language just for mankind.

            And God does more than simply communicate with man.  According to who He is, He relates with man.  This relationship with man is deeply damaged on man’s side: “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.”  Later, John will explain, “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”[4] The people God created to know him and know one another, used another of their God-created attributes—a will of their own—to refuse Him.  In so doing, they became so darkened, that even when God the Word came into the world in the flesh, man knew nothing of Him.

            Naturalism can account for none of the unique blessings and unique curses belonging to humanity.  According to evolution, death is a natural part of the system, a recycling of matter.  If man behaves like an animal, it’s because he is one.  The evils which we hate are taught to us and are simply our desire to propagate our own genes.[5]  But these theories offer no answer to pain, loss, grief, or pangs of conscience.  All they can do is point you toward death as an escape into oblivion.

            But St. John tells us of so much more for humanity.  We have more than a futile, animal existence.  And when we experience pain, loss, grief, and guilt, it is not simply up to us to bear that burden and think our ourselves out of it.  We are creatures of God, beloved by Him.  He never casts us off as refuse.  He shares His own likeness with us!  And where does He show that in more brilliant clarity than in the Incarnation?

The God who created heaven and earth, who personally formed each of us in our mother’s womb, bound Himself forever to His creation.  The Word became creature of this creation through the womb of the Virgin.  And now there is nothing that can wrench us from His hands.  In former times, God said, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”[6]  But when the Word became flesh, He moved in with us permanently.  The Word was made flesh, and He is now forever human, just as much as from “the beginning He was with God and was God.”

In the words of the Nicene Creed, for us men and for our salvation, He became man.  The Word became flesh to purify it—to purify us from all ungodliness, which shows itself in idolatry, rebellion, murder, sexual immorality, and greed.  The Incarnate Word purifies us by taking all these things into Himself.  He takes dying people of the flesh, and raises us up to be children of God, sharing in His life.

This is the universe we exist in—not a chaotic, heartless mass of energy and matter.  We exist in a creation that is tended and cared for by an Almighty Creator.  But even more than that, though we are corrupt and dying, our Creator also took it upon Himself to save us.  In the Word made flesh, we have a God who takes a dying humanity into Himself that through Him we may have life eternally.  Amen.

[1] Give or take 37 million years.

[2] Theme song to the TV show Big Bang Theory

[3] Genesis 1:-26-27

[4] John 3:19

[5] A rationale espoused by Richard Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” (Oxford, 1976)

[6] Isaiah 49:16

Nativity of Our Lord (John 1:1-14)

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.

No One Can Name Themself a Child of God (John 1:1-14)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
The Nativity of Our Lord + December 25, 2016
Text: John 1:1-14

Who has the authority to make someone a child of God?
Who is a child of God, a Christian?  Who makes that declaration?
Not what family you come from, whether a Christian home or not.  This is difficult for Christian parents to accept when their children seem to lose their faith.
Not what our flesh desires.  Our sinful nature wants all the benefits of being a child of God with none of the repentance and dying with Christ.  Old Adam wants carte blanche to live his own self-defined life and go to heaven when he’s done.
Not the will of man.  That is, nobody decides to be a Christian.  Nobody can make themselves a believer.  “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”  Don’t believe it because Luther’s catechism says it.  Believe it because God’s Word said it first.
All of you who are gathered here to worship the Incarnate Lord and celebrate Christmas, rejoice!  Your being a child of God is God’s handiwork, called by the Gospel, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, sanctified, and kept in this true faith to life everlasting.