Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sermon for 12/25/11--The Nativity of Our Lord (LSB 1-year)

The Word Became Flesh

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Where is the Lord? How shall we find Him? Where do we go to receive Him? Many people search for God and go from here to there, from one religion to another, from one dose of “spirituality” to another, looking for whatever they think God is. And they don't find Him because they are not going to the place He Himself has promised He will be. The Lord is always where He promises to be. In the incarnation, the conception and birth of Jesus, God has come to us, and He does so in a way that is not difficult to receive: He has come in the flesh, as one of us.

In the Old Testament, the children of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai and the Lord was upon that mountain in smoke and fire. Yet the children of Israel couldn't stay there forever. They were bound for the land promised years before to their father Abraham. And the Lord would go with them. So Moses was commanded to make a tabernacle, a great big tent that could be put up and taken down. When the cloud of the Lord's glory stopped, the tabernacle was set up and the Lord's glory filled the Tabernacle. Whenever Moses would speak to the Lord and the Lord to Moses, it happened in the Tabernacle. There He was, the Lord, right there where there was no mistaking Him. If you wanted to find the true God who made the heavens and the earth, you went to the Tabernacle, and there the priests would intercede for you. But there was no mistaking that the Lord was there, in that spot. The Lord cannot be contained in one spot, of course. He fills heaven and earth. Yet, by His Word, He promised to be where the Tabernacle was; and the people who worshiped there were His people. But the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, as it was called, was only a shadow of things to come. The fulfillment of what the Tabernacle showed came in Christ.

St. John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” But what he is literally saying is this: “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” There is an important connection here. The same Lord who has come to His people in fire and smoke and cloud in the tabernacle now comes to us as one of us: in the flesh—in a specific place, a particular spot. Born of woman. “No one has seen the Father,” John wrote, “but He who was in the bosom of the Father has made Him known.” It is Jesus who reveals the heart of the Father to us. God, who pours out His judgment upon sinners, shows us in Christ that that judgment will instead fall upon His Son, so that those who are in Christ are now beloved of the Father. So the question is: Where is God? Where do we find the Lord? The answer: In Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, born of the virgin Mary. The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of the Lord Himself coming to us! And in that flesh, Jesus comes to live our life, perfectly obedient to the Father. He comes to die our death, suffering on the cross for our sins.

If all of our salvation is in Jesus, then where do I go to receive Jesus? Many will acknowledge that Jesus is God; but then, as we heard last Sunday, not all those who look for the Christ know how to find Him. So where is He? Many religions and preachers turn it back into something we must do, to figure it out for ourselves. They put Jesus in all kinds of places except the places He has said He would be. But Jesus comes to us. He is present in this place, His church; for He promises to be present where two or three are gathered in His name. He comes to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He continues to come to you in the Word of Holy Absolution and in His own body and blood. His own words tell you. “Go and baptize all nations.” “Whosoever's sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” “Take, eat; this is my body; take, drink; this is my blood.” With these words and promises, the Lord tells us right where He'll be: in His church, where the ministry of the Gospel and Sacraments is carried out faithfully and in accord with His Word. The Word became flesh; and it does not stop being flesh. He has taken on a body for all eternity, and He gives us that very flesh and blood which was born in Bethlehem and nailed to a cross and rose from the dead—that very flesh to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins. That means when someone asks, “Well, where is God?” you can say boldly and with confidence, “God is in the flesh in Jesus, and Jesus is in the church where the font and the altar are full of Jesus and His gifts.”

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us; and He continues to dwell among us. He's physically and eternally present in His church through His Word and Baptism and Supper. No longer do you flail about in the darkness, looking for the Light. He's right where He said He would be: present as He promised in the means of grace. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us—and we know right where He is for our salvation. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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