Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sermon for 12/25/18: The Nativity of Our Lord

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"Grace Upon Grace"

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

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John doesn’t tell us the pretty Christmas story. Neither Mary nor Joseph are named. We don’t hear about angels or shepherds or mangers. We aren’t even told about Bethlehem. Luke’s Gospel gives us that serene, pastoral scene. John’s Gospel gives us a battle. There was war in heaven. This is not a war between God and men. It is war between God and Satan. Creation had been corrupted by our cooperation with Satan’s lies. The Word made the world for life, and we chose death. He had called the world forth in light; we hid in self-made shadows because we loved darkness.
And so the Word, who was in the beginning, who was with God, and who is God, became flesh. He came to take us back from Satan, to give us the right to become the children of God. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” That which was in darkness was the denial of God’s goodness, a turning away from God’s self-giving. The darkness was unbelief, a rejection of the Creator, insistence on darkness and death.
So God sent John, who came to bear witness to the Light. He bore witness to the Light so that men might once again believe in God’s mercy, that they might taste and see His inexhaustible will to be gracious to men. Ushered in by John, the Word came to His own people. They denied Him. They hid from Him in terror. Even so, He remained steadfast. He came unto His own. His own people rejected Him, just as Adam hid in the Garden from the God who created him. They were His people, even if they would not acknowledge that they were His. He endured their hatred. He endured murder at their hands. He never flinched from what had to be done to save them. After all, they were His from the beginning, and He would not give them up.
We have become the children of God because God became a child of woman. He was God, “of the Father’s love begotten.” He was not changed into a Man; He who is God also became Man. He took up the life of man as His own, to live and die as a Man, to reclaim the crown of His creation. “The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory…” And though He was not Man from the beginning, He now is Man and evermore shall be Man. He is God and Man in one Christ; He is the Life and Light of men.
“And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us,” becoming our Life and our Salvation. He has made us His own. We have become the children of God, baptized into the glory of His cross, joined to the mystery of the Father’s eternal Word become Flesh, feasting upon that Flesh in the Sacrament, where He joins us to Himself and overcomes the darkness in us.
This cosmic battle for the bodies and souls of men didn’t begin in Bethlehem. It didn’t begin in the garden either. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Bethlehem was the first strike of the last battle. This struggle, watched eagerly and aided by the holy angels, is not fought between armies striving to see who is mightier or more powerful. It is not a matter of which strategy will prevail. It is a battle for the hearts of men. One seeks to take us to the stockyard and feast upon our flesh; the other, the One who was from the beginning, seeks to make us His Bride, with the right to become the children of God.
That is the grace and truth of the Father that the Son reveals to those who receive Him and believe in His Name. From His fullness we have received grace upon grace through Jesus Christ, the Word become Flesh who dwells among us this very day in His body and blood. 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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