“The Eternal Son, This Precious Gift” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Sermon Dec 25th 2023 - John 1:1–14
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Monday December 25th 2023: Christmas Day / John 1:1–14 “The Eternal Son, This Precious Gift”
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. It wasn’t but a few days ago when the Confirmation kids and I were looking at the first Article of the Creed. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. We were looking also at the explanation to the first article, where after taking note of all the things that the Good Lord provides us in His creation, how it is that “He does [all of this] only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy,[and how He does these things] without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this [the catechism teaches] it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” On a day like Christmas we easily understand giving thanks for the gift of God the Father’s Son Jesus, the greatest gift of all, who is the underlying reason that gifts are given at Christmas at all; we also understand praising God the Father for giving His Son as part and parcel of the Christmas season and verses like John 3:16 easily come to mind, “For God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life;” and we might even out of gratitude feel the desire to serve our heavenly Father and our neighbour—at least in and around Christmas while the chestnuts are roasting on the open fire of the cockles of our heart—but the word obey sort of rubs modern folks the wrong way, and the idea that we would likewise do all these things out of personal duty is very challenging. But then again Saint John, the one who wrote our Gospel this morning by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was a disciple of our Lord Jesus and in the word disciple you find at its root discipline and discipline is about duty and obedience. All of this duty, thanks, praise, service, and obedience are the reflexive response to the gift they are not the reason the gift is given in the first place. They are the Christian response to the gift. Hang on to all of this we’ll come back around to it.
Our Gospel Reading from Saint John isn’t focused on the angel hosts singing the Gloria to shepherds near the little town of Bethlehem, or on Joseph’s difficulty finding a room for the Holy Family to stay in as his betrothed the pregnant Virgin Mary is about to give birth, nor on the Roman census of Augustus Caesar that precipitated their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. John doesn’t talk about Mary’s cousin, old barren Elizabeth pregnant with John the Baptiser, or about the Angel Gabriel bringing Mary the news that she would carry the Christ Child. No, our reading from Saint John’s Gospel sounds more like the Book of Genesis than it does the opening chapters of the Gospel’s of Saint Luke or Saint Matthew. And where the Gospel of Saint Mark starts immediately at the Baptism of Jesus with Him as an grown adult male here John’s Gospel goes back, way back, to the eternal nature of the Christ; the Divine nature of this baby boy we celebrate today: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” It was this passage this morning that we talked about together last Thursday in our conformation class because while Jesus, in the incarnation, in His taking on the physical nature of a man, had a distinct starting point our Lord Jesus as the Word of God has eternally been God the Son just as the Father has eternally been God the Father. This relationship is not one step that comes after another step, a sort of ‘first you have a father than you have a son’ sort of thing; no this relationship within the Holy Trinity is eternal, it’s a walk that has no beginning and no end; it has always been and will always be without end.
So it is natural that in the beginning, our beginning when all things were created, that Jesus would have been with His heavenly Father. This is why Saint John continues to write, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” For those keeping score we likewise confess in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit is the “Lord and giver of life,” and that He was there at the beginning too, at the time of creation; in fact the 2nd verse in the book of Genesis teaches us that while “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep ... the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” So Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, “the glory equal, the majesty coeternal” created all things, both setting in motion and sustaining all that you see and feel and touch and experience in all of creation, even the things you can’t see and feel and touch and experience, all of it.
On Christmas morning you’re invited to delve into the mystery of this precious gift you’ve been given by God the Father, His eternal Son Jesus, and like a gift the Gospel of Saint John helps you unwrap swaddling cloths and see Jesus for who He truly is. Before His birth Jesus was a gift under wraps, so to speak, this is why Scripture uses words like “revealing” when talking about Jesus. Saint Paul says that Jesus was “the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” In His birth this mystery, long promised begins to be revealed and at the Cross of His crucifixion the reason for the season becomes crystal clear. In the darkness of That Day, as Saint John stood at the foot of the cross with the Virgin Mary John clearly saw that this Jesus was, is and ever shall be “the Light of men.” And John then by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would later write that, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The darkness of That Day on Good Friday didn’t have the last word when it came to the Word of God. The darkness of the Tomb didn’t permanently overcome the Light of men, no our Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father walked into the light of day on that first Easter Morning. When we read this passage from Saint John’s Gospel on Christmas Morning we link together the bright light of Christ at the cross blazing forth in the darkness with the birth of the Christ Child. And so John describes this wonderful gift given by God the Father saying “the true Light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He [this Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.”
There are still many people in the world today for whom this Light is a mystery, people for whom Jesus is still under wraps, as hidden as a secret. Dear ones at the end of the Service we’ll sing “go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere, that Jesus Christ is born.” For those of you with siblings think back, perhaps you had an experience where in the excitement of Christmas gift opening they started to unwrap your gift for your before you could even get at it, maybe this was you, maybe this already happened this morning, don’t feel bad about starting to unwrap the gift of Christ Jesus for someone in your life who doesn’t know Him yet. The Father gives the gift, be the one right there while it’s being unwrapped, help in whatever way you can. Scripture teaches us that this gift of Christ Jesus is not yours by flesh and blood, it’s not yours by the will of man, it’s yours by the will of God, God the Father desires that His Son Jesus would be your Saviour so it is that Saint John says that, “all who did receive [this Jesus], who believed in His name, [are given] the right to become children of God.” And here we see how the First Gift leads to a second wonderful gift, our adoption into God the Father’s family, the right to become the children of God and this is ours not by our will but by His. So it is that as Christians we pray to our shared heavenly Father in the prayer that Jesus gifted us saying to our Father, “Thy will be done,” trusting that His good and gracious will is that we become His children through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who in these days dwells amongst us in Word and Sacrament, in the hearing of God’s word read to us, and in the waters of Baptism and in the Meal in, with and under the consecrated bread and wine of Holy Communion which we will share today. Saint John confesses to you and to me this day, yet again, that on That Day, which we now call Christmas Day that “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.” John was a witness to this and at the end of the Gospel He records the words of the risen Lord Jesus back from the dead that first Easter saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is us, we are those blessed ones who have yet to have seen with our own eyes and yet have, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believed.
And so we return to where we began. We return to the giver of the gift, God the Father, recognising that along with all the good and gracious gifts that He gives us in all of creation that the very best of gifts, the highest and most precious gift is Jesus. And now we all likewise are called to confess that “He does [this] only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” But there’s the rub. Have I fulfilled my duty? Have I without fault given thanks, given praise, given service to my heavenly Father and my neighbour in need obediently without faltering or failing in any way? The honest answer is ‘no,’ and so we arrive at the reason why we personally need this precious Gift so desperately, why the world needs the gift so desperately: Jesus never opposed His Father’s will, in fact Jesus says of Himself, “I and the Father are one.”
Jesus is one with the Father in thought word and deed, in the creation of all things and in the living out of His earthly life in our place and Jesus is one with His Father even now as we await His return in glory. Because of the merit and worthiness of Jesus the keys to the kingdom of heaven are yours. And why is that? I’ll leave you with one last detail from our Confirmation of Baptism class the other day: we talked about the idea of an MVP the Most Valuable Player; Jesus is the ultimate MVP: now when it comes to living a perfect life without sin being the MVP doesn’t rotate around to all the players disregarding their merit and worthiness out of some false sense of fairness, as Christians we have one MVP and that’s Jesus, whose birth we celebrate today, but because He’s the overall MVP in life and because we are on His team, and because He has won not just the game but the whole season, we then as players on His team all share in the win. The points for winning the game go to the whole team not just the MVP. His victory becomes your victory, His place eternal place of God the Father’s Son becomes yours too when you are baptised into His team. All analogies eventually break down so don’t push it too far but rest assured that in Jesus the darkness is defeated by His light, and Sin, Death and the Devil are all on the losing team. His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return on The Last Day means you are saved and you now share in the victory. And now you’re free to thank and praise, serve and obey your heavenly Father in Christ Jesus to the best of your abilities both in gratitude and for the good of your neighbour. 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.
 John 1:1-2
 John 1:3
 Nicene Creed
 Genesis 1:2
 The Athanasian Creed
 Romans 16:25
 “Go Tell it on The Mountain,” Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, #388
 John 1:12-13
 John 20:29
 John 10:30