The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord

Readings: Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38 | Titus 3:4-7 | John 1:1-18

Text: Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38

Focus: The difference between the tabernacle erected by men’s hands (even according to God’s command) is far surpassed by the tabernacle not made with hands by which the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.

Function: That my hearers would better appreciate that God showed His work through His Son in types and shadows, but in the fullness of time, He showed us His holy, gracious, and unchanging will by sending His Son in our likeness to restore His image to man.

It’s been a full year since the Exodus. The Lord has done many amazing things—bringing His people across the Red Sea on dry ground, judging Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, bearing with Israel for 40 years of much necessary discipline.

Now on this momentous day, the Tabernacle is erected. It’s the climax of Exodus, that fulfilled the promise made to Moses before it all began: “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exod. 3:13) The tabernacle is erected with all its precise design. The holy items are placed inside—the ark, the table for the show-bread, the lampstands, the golden incense altar, and the altar for the offerings. Finally, the glory cloud descends on it and remains. The Lord personally and magnificently guides the sons of Israel with His visible presence.

Nevertheless, even as incredible as this is, this was only a shadow of what God would ultimately do in order to fulfill His promise not just to Israel, but to all the human race through His Son.

1. Made by human hands:

a. God gave the schematic to Moses on Sinai (Ex. 25:9) It was constructed by skilled craftsmen of the finest materials (Ex. 31:1-11).

b. In His Son, it would not be the work of man’s hands, yet still be in human flesh. Mary, untouched by a man, conceived by the Holy Spirit through the creative Word: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)

c. In His trial, this is the accusation brought against Him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” (Mark 14:58)

II. Hidden by the veil:

a. The levels of nearness to God were hidden behind veils and screens. His glory was hidden: The veil before the ark of the testimony, a screen for the door of the tabernacle, a screen at the gate of the court around the tabernacle itself (vv. 21, 28, 33) It was delineated between the priests making the offering, the high priest, and the high priest once per year.

b. Now that God has come to us:

i. “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9)

ii. He allows men to draw near\

1. crowds to press against Him: “he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him” (Mark 3:9-10)

2. Lepers to approach Him (Mark 1:40-41)

3. disciples to see His glorious face and not perish (Matt. 17:1-9, John 2:11)

III. Fellowship with God through sacrifice, washing, eating:

a. The center of the tabernacle was what brought fellowship and peace between God and His chosen people: sacrifice at the altar, washing of the body, and eating the bread and peace offerings in His presence.

b. Now that God the Son has tabernacled among us, He is the center of fellowship and peace.

i. In Him we have the once-for-all Lamb, the sin-offering for the world.

ii. We have a washing, not just of hands or feet [John 13:3-10], not even of one’s whole body, but “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21)

iii. We have bread with the sacramental presence, the sacrifice brought near: “This is My Body, this is My Blood.” This is the true peace offering to eat in His presence, for by it God says, “Take eat; take drink for the forgiveness of sins. Go in peace.” [Matt. 26:26-28]

IV. The holiness of the Tabernacle/Temple has been surpassed.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23)

a. The temple with its glory has been surpassed by the greater glory of the Word made flesh, in which the Lord tabernacles among us. The shadow has passed away, and the substance has been revealed.

b. This new tabernacle calls for a new way of approaching God, not simply in human precepts, for the Father seeks those who worship Him in Spirit and truth, who approach Him in the holiness and righteousness of His Son. This is bestowed upon you through faith. Although it is necessary to discipline our flesh, it is only by the flesh of God’s Son that we will be saved.

A blessed Christ-mass to you, in the faithful reception of the New Covenant delivered in His Body and Blood at this and every Christian altar.  In the Name + of Jesus.


The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord (Hebrews 1:1-11)

If you don’t want to offend people’s religious tastes, talk about angels.  Everybody loves angels—from your new age chiropractor to your spiritual-but-not-religious cousin.  It’s nice to think about guardian angels, even if you have no other duty to God, to hope you have allies in the spiritual realm.  It’s a nice idea to think that people become angels when they die. Angels are not offensive.

The hymn “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was originally written by a unitarian, Edmund Sears.  Unitarians reject the doctrine of one God in three persons. So, the message that Sears took from the announcement of Christ’s birth is the angels announcing a heavenly desire for world peace.  The angels were sent to give a message that God wants us all to get along.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, don’t accept the Trinity, so they say that Jesus is really the Archangel Michael.  The “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), meaning he is ever so slightly less than Jehovah God.

But angels could talk forever and it would not save one soul.  Certainly they are powerful, and people cower when the meet an angel in its glory.  But power alone can’t save. Angels deliver messages, but we needed more than information to be saved.

“His Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

People have a problem that is too big for us to fix.  You know the symptoms of that problem—they’re broadcast on the news, they are the awkward silences at your holiday gatherings, they’re even in the rock in your chest you feel when your parents or spouse are passed away.  Our problem is sin, and it’s a problem that only God’s Son can address. It had to be “God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” (Nicene Creed).  None other could make purification for sins.

Oh, but it’s been tried.  When we’re betrayed, we long to see justice carried out.  But at what point will “an eye for an eye” really be finished?  When we agonize over our choices that can’t be taken back, what kind of atonement can make up for them or undo the damage?  Shame and fear lay heavy on our shoulders, and we try to compensate with bravado or anger, but it will never heal the root pain.

Only the One who is the “exact imprint of God’s nature” can restore this Creation to what it truly is supposed to be.  Not our ideals, but back to the Creator’s designs. What we think the world ought to be is also clouded by sin.  Our hopes are aimed too low—like hoping an angel could save us.

Long ago, the prophets pointed toward this, on Christmas night, the angels announced and sang it.  When He was raised from the dead, the angel comforted with the words, “He is not here; He has risen.” (Luke 24:6)

God has joined our human race, He has brought our nature into Himself.  Christmas is not a celebration of the appearance of angels, it’s the revealing of the Creator becoming Creature so that He can raise us up.  “He who is fleshless becomes flesh” The Immortal has put on mortality, so that at the last our “mortal bodies must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:53)

Only the true Son of God has the authority to do what He does: “To all who did receive Him, 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.” (John 1:12-13)  The Son raises us up so that we receive the status of sons of God and heirs of God’s renewed creation.  

This is what God the Father is doing in Baptism: He is adopting you as His son, through His only-begotten Son.  When you were baptized, God put His Name on you: The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Name of the Lord, and it becomes your family name through faith. You still have a name from a human family, but that name is mortal; it will pass away.  But the Name you receive from God will abide forever, and you abide in Him.

As sons of God through faith, we are given the privilege to eat the family table.  At this Holy Supper, the Son who became flesh, gives us His flesh and blood to eat and drink, so that our flesh and blood may have life (John 6:51-58)

This December 25, a day in time, we rejoice in the eternal.  Begotten of His Father from eternity, and born of the Virgin Mary, this is Jesus Christ, your Lord.  Who, “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”  So also, in Him, you receive a status and a hope and a future that far surpasses all earthly expectation.  Thanks be to God! Amen.