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The Nativity of Our Lord – John 1:1-18

by pastorjuhl ~ December 23rd, 2008

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Perhaps the reason why we love the secular holiday song “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is because of when it was written. Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1943 during the height of World War Two. The song quickly became the most requested song among GIs during the USO Christmas shows. A military magazine wrote that Bing Crosby did more for military morale than anyone else in that era. All Bing Crosby did was sing “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”.

When we think of Christmas, we think of home. It might be our childhood home among mom, dad, and siblings, opening presents and being together. It might be our home now among our spouse, our children, and other family members. Pastors are nomadic types. My home is the church and parsonage where the Lord calls me to serve. Many of us do not have the luxury of going home for Christmas. We have to work. Our families may live thousands of miles away. Yet we pastors are near to our families through the communion of the saints; the holy Church not seen by the eyes.

Jesus was not home for Christmas either. The prologue of John’s Gospel, those eighteen verses we heard sung a few moments ago, tells us why Jesus wasn’t home for Christmas. There is no more mind boggling passage of Holy Scripture than those eighteen verses. The Greek is very easy to translate into English. The sentences are easy to understand. There are no multi-syllable theological words that make us scratch our head. It all looks so simple. Yet these eighteen verses continue to amaze even the most brilliant Biblical scholar much like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” continues to stir emotions of Christmases of yesteryear.

Eternally speaking, Jesus doesn’t have a birthday. Before there was a created world, Jesus is. Before man was created from the dust of the earth, Jesus is. The Word brings all things into being. Jesus is the Word. There isn’t one thing in this world that draws breath, grows, or exists, that was given life through the Son of God.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. It’s so simple, yet so profound. It’s a mystery that the world can never solve using sinful reason. It’s a mystery that is believed. Many people who celebrate Christmas no longer believe those eighteen verses mean anything to them. Christmas becomes a holiday strictly for children. Adults who have grown world wise push aside childish notions of a baby lying in a manger being the Son of God.

Worse yet are those who think they are like the toys nobody wants on the Island of Misfit Toys. They sit there unwanted and forgotten. They think God wouldn’t send His Son into the flesh to save a wretched misfit like me. So they pray December 25th passes quickly and quietly as they spend Christmas alone.

Pastors can get caught up as misfits too. We spend hours preparing services and sermons for congregations. But when the big day arrives, we are so exhausted from last minute shut-in visits, bulletin preparations, and sermon writing that seemingly never ends that we have little time or energy to celebrate Christmas. We pastors would like nothing better than a cold drink and a warm bed to sleep Christmas Day away.

Today’s Epistle sets all Christmas misfits straight: the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. God’s grace has flesh and blood. God’s grace looks like you and me in every way except one: God’s grace is sinless. God’s undeserved love for you and me is perfect and holy. What we are not, Jesus is, not to shame us into being like Him, but to make us like Him in our heavenly Father’s eyes through Christ’s innocent suffering and death.

In the shadow of Bethlehem’s manger is Calvary’s cross. Mary’s boy child will grow in stature and wisdom to die on a cross for our sins and rise from the dead for our justification. As Saint John writes: In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This is why Jesus left His heavenly home for Christmas for an earthly home made of wood and straw. He comes to us as our heavenly Father’s most precious gift to His creation. When we receive Him as He is, He receives us as we are. Whether we wear our finest clothes or the simplest of rags, He receives our sins and gives us His life. When we receive Christ’s life, we receive sonship because we are born of God through water and the Word poured over us at our baptism. When we receive Christ, we receive the whole Christ, not just pieces of Him. We eat His Body and drink His Blood under bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins. Where there is forgiveness, there is life.

The word “Christmas” is actually a compound word, joining together “Christ” and “Mass”. We Lutherans shrivel when we hear that word “Mass”. But our confessional writings tell us that we Lutherans have the Mass more than those who claim the word “Mass”. When we understand what that word means, especially when that word is put next to Christ, shrivels of discomfort turn to tidings of comfort and joy.

The word “Christmas” literally means “Christ’s Service”. Today is all about Christ serving us when He is born according to the flesh. Every time God’s people gather to hear His Word and receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus serves us with forgiveness, life, and salvation. The light no darkness can overcome delivers everything He accomplished for us in His 33 years of life with us in this world. Before we were, He is. We who have no life outside of Christ gives us life when He gives up His life on the cross and takes His life up again in the resurrection. Eighteen simple verses, one profound message: the Son of God, Jesus Christ, makes His home among us so that we might have an eternal Home with Him. We are Home for Christmas when we are in God’s Home receiving His gifts. Soon there will be an eternal Christmas where we will be Home, but not merely in our dreams. We will be Home with Jesus, our heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, seated at the Christmas dinner table for all eternity.

See, my soul, thy Savior chooses

Weakness here and poverty;

In such love He comes to thee.

Neither crib nor cross refuses;

All He suffers for thy good

To redeem thee by His blood.

Joy, O joy, beyond all gladness,

Christ has done away with sadness!

Hence, all sorrow and repining,

For the Sun of Grace is shining!

(Lutheran Service Book 897:2)

Welcome home! Merry Christmas!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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