Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday December 25th 2016 - / John 1:1-14 / What is Jesus' Reason For The Season?
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 25th 2016: Christmas Day, / John 1:1-14 "What is Jesus' Reason For The Season?"
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 were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to 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. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, 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.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The Gospel of Saint John begins by saying, "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 were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." It continues to say, that this Word of God, who was and is God, "became flesh and dwelt among us, and" then Saint John who was there with Jesus through His public ministry, John who stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus' mother the Virgin Mary says, "we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
This is the Word of God made flesh, the Christ, the baby Jesus who the angels of Luke's Gospel proclaim to the shepherds. The one the shepherds rushed to see in Bethlehem the city of king David. This was a flesh and blood baby that they saw when they found the place where He was laid, when they looked in the manger. "[Saint] John attests [to] the humanity of the Son [Jesus] as fully and as completely as [to] the divinity and godhead [of this same Jesus, the Christ]. The miracle of the ages is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men." This Christ Jesus is the reason why we Christians celebrate Christmas - that should probably go without saying but there is this sentiment out there that the "reason for the season" is simply to stop and spend time with family and friend ... and then of course when you do you'll be building up your bank of warm and fuzzy holiday family memories. But while a little of that can happen around this time of year - that in and of itself is not Christmas. Certainly not Christmas for the Christian. So yes, a thousand times yes, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ, He and He alone is the reason for the season - but remember His reason for the season is you - Jesus wasn't born for His own good, He was born for you and for your good. The part of the celebration of Christmas where people get together with friends and Family is simply, and hopefully, a happy by-product of the celebration of Jesus' birth for you.
If the World seems to want to put Jesus in a corner and shove him aside, take the advice of our dear sainted Dr. Martin Luther who encourages us to remain focused on Scripture, on What God's Word says about this Jesus and His birth, that which you will find in the Gospels of John and Luke and Matthew. Luther says that we must, "discuss [this Word made flesh, this Jesus and His birth] and preach [His good news] as long as we are able, to the glory of our Lord Christ and to our own welfare, comfort and salvation, without worrying whether the world shows much interest in [this wonderful news]." Luther continues to say, "Nonetheless, there will always be a few who will hear God's precious Word with delight; and for their sakes, too, we must preach it for since God provides people whom He orders to preach, He will surely also supply and send listeners who will take this instruction to heart."
So this morning we can say that all our candles are lit, the count-down is complete, Silent Night has been sung, the clock has struck 'Jesus-O-Clock' and we now celebrate the miracle of the ages that the Word became flesh who dwelt among us. Who is with us now in His Word and Sacraments. This truly is the spectacular thing in the midst of everything we think of when we think of Christmas.
The Virgin Mary looks down at her newborn son, with the shepherds gathering around and the words of the Angel Gabriel must have been echoing in her ears, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Swaddled in her arms is a king, a king laid in a stone feeding trough, a manger with straw for His bed. This is not really the sweet and adorable scene we make it out to be, it is actually the beginning of Jesus' suffering for you. This king has left His eternal throne in heaven at His Father's right hand and is now wreathed in straw, surrounded by smelly shepherds and farm animals, His head uncrowned except for the kiss of his mother's lips.
Joseph and Mary look on unsure about the future, even with Jesus in their arms they have to be faithful and believe the promise, believe that, the promise - the promise that the very Word of God - had taken on flesh, and as they contemplate that promise they had to faithfully believe just as men, women and children had believed God's promises all the way through the Old Testament from Adam and Eve to them that day. They don't know what the future of that promise will look like, what that future holds, they don't know what kind of crown their Jesus will wear or what it means exactly to have the throne of king David. Was their baby Jesus to grow up to replace king Herod the Great? Was Jesus to kick out the Romans? Is that the crown He'd wear? How could they know that Jesus' crown would be a cruel crown of mockery, a twisted crown of thorns, that it would bloom with the precious blood of His sacrifice and become a trophy of love and grace. How could they know that this coming crown of thorns which wicked men had meant for evil would become for us a thing of hope, something that God ultimately meant for good.
When they take Jesus' little hands and feet in theirs and count His little fingers and toes they would not know what those hands would accomplish, where those feet would walk. How, Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, would for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and be in the end seated back at the right hand of the throne of God. How Jesus would take the throne of David in His body and blood into heaven washed clean from every hurt, every suffering, every sin. How in His love for us Jesus would become the Way, not just for king David and the Old Testament people but for us also, so that we with them all would be able to be led on that way and finally be gathered around that same throne (The Throne of God the Father), that Jesus would make Himself the way for us to come to the Father in heaven. Joseph and Mary knew that this baby Jesus would grow up to save them but how and when this would happen exactly was still more than they could grasp even as they held this baby in their arms and rocked Him to sleep. They couldn't fathom that those little hands would grow to one day be nailed to a Roman cross.
As they feed their little Jesus to make His body strong could they imagine that this same Jesus would feed countless millions, billions, with His very Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins. That when Jesus' "had increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man," that He would be the very fountain of grace, and mercy, and steadfast love to hard hearted, cruel and fickle men. That Jesus would be their only hope for life, that Jesus "was [in fact] life, and [that as the Life, Jesus was, is and ever shall be] the Light of men." Saint John tells us that Jesus, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome [Him]." It doesn't matter how heard hearted, cruel or fickle the darkness may be it cannot overcome this Jesus. The grown Man Jesus, the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh cannot be stopped by whips, or harsh words, He can't be stopped by hate, or mocking crowns of thorns, He cannot be stopped by cold iron nails, or crucifixion, He can't be stopped by the Devil or Sin, Jesus can't be stopped by the World or by Death. He can't be stopped by me or my sin, He can't be stopped by any feeling I might have down in my heart or by any thought I might have up in my head. This precious bundle of Joy in the arms of the Virgin Mary and Joseph that Christmas morning is unstoppable, this impossible baby will grown and come forth mighty to Save and nothing will stop Him from saving you.
Jesus is "the true light, which gives light to everyone." He has come into the world with angels singing of His arrival: And to you, to those shepherds, to Mary and Joseph, to me, to each of us, who have received Him, "He gave the right to become children of God." It is God's will to use the birth of His son Jesus, the miraculous birth of Jesus, to provide a miraculous birth for you - that you would be reborn in Christ Jesus and be made a new creation reconciled to God, that your former sins and troubles would pass away, that on the last day they will pass away for good, forever. The will of men cannot stop this great and wonderful thing, Jesus says that we Christians are not to fear these wicked people for what can they do? The worst they can do is kill you, but Jesus is your life and in love Jesus makes a promise to you saying this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die,” and Jesus adds, "do you believe this?" Jesus has taken a crown of thorns so you will be crowned in glory, He made His first home in a room for livestock so that He could go and prepare a place for you in His Father's House, a house with many rooms. A place where presumably your bed will not be made of straw.
The love of God for you in Christ Jesus is active, your reception of it is passive. It comes to you without work on your part, Jesus is the one who works for you. As saint John says in 1 John, "This is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The atonement for our sin. The reparation for our sin. And now, "We love because [God] first loved us."
Now the Christian life is not entirely a passive one, when John says "We love because [God] first loved us," you can clearly hear in those words a call to a life of active faith, faith with an active nature towards others. Still be careful dear ones and remember that while, "Passive faith is nothing when it comes to serving your neighbour [and] active faith is everything when it comes to serving your neighbour," that it is a passive faith toward God that Saves and the active faith toward neighbour that serves. In Christ you are called to be active toward your neighbour and receptive to God's gifts to you. Christ Jesus actively served you, His neighbour, from the cradle to the grave, to His resurrection on Easter Morning, to the right hand of God, His heavenly Father on high - you on the other hand simply receive the gift and count it as yours, trusting the one who gives the gift to be trustworthy and true.
So then today, on Christmas, we recall, and remember, and trust that the Father loved us by sending His Son, Jesus loved us by living a life of straw so you might have an eternal life of gold; yes He lived a life of suffering and on the Last Day, "He will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This is the baby that the Virgin Mary and Joseph held in their arms on the day of Jesus' birth, a righteous baby without sin, Christ from eternity, who gives you the gift of righteousness and perfection that was His from the beginning for, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God," and it is that Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. And while the angel Gabriel had helped the Virgin Mary and Joseph to expect His coming, while angels on high had given the shepherds this good news and sped them on their way to kneel at Jesus' straw lined crib, they and the whole world couldn't expect just how wonderful Jesus would turn out to be. Saint John, Saint Luke and Saint Matthew for their parts, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have given to you a good news that lays out this wonderful saviour, this Word become flesh, your Jesus who loves you yesterday, today and always. Your Jesus who is your crown and glory, your light in a dark world. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, R.C.H. Lenski, The Lutheran Book Concerns, 1942, pg 25-26.
 Luther's Works, Volume 22, Sermon's on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 1-4, Concordia Publishing House, 1957, pg 5.
 Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."
 Hebrews 12:2, "Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
 Luke 2:52
 John 3:3
 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
 Matthew 10:26-28, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
 John 11:25-26
 John 14:2
 1 John 4:10
 1 John 4:19
 The Fire and the Staff, Lutheran Theology in Practice, Klemet I. Preus, Concordia Publishing House 2004, pgs 75-76.
 Revelation 21:4