In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!
It really is a mystery why any one of us is here today. The mystery I refer to isn’t that you are here despite the many worldly things you could be doing at this moment. There are wrapped gifts under the tree that await little fingers to tare them open or the oven needing to be set so that the ham is done on time. Certainly there are many other things you can be doing besides sitting in church on Christmas morning. The mystery we see this morning is that we believe in an unexplainable God. Yesterday, while I was rocking my almost-6-month old to sleep, I thought about that more deeply. His sleepy eyes darted from my eyes to my mouth to the ceiling fan and back to my eyes again. He is such a helpless child who would be nothing without someone to take care of him. That description seems to fit us rather than God. How did the everlasting Lord become a helpless baby?
It really is a mystery. We really can’t comprehend it all. John spoke striking words into the darkness of humankind that don’t make sense. In the beginning was the word. What word? And the word was with God. What was it doing there? And the word was God. Now John has me really confused. What does that even mean? Any attempt to fathom and comprehend such statements with human reason will fail; that there was a word of God before the world’s creation, and that this Word was God. Jesus came. He was all God. He was all man.
And for this, Christianity takes its set of lumps. Unbelievers ridicule and taunt us because we Christians are so absurd and foolish as to believe in and worship such unexplainable nonsense. Let them laugh and jeer. They disregard God’s word in which he has revealed his will and his divine nature as a fable and a fairy tale will. Christ is the target of every attack. It is a struggle between Jesus and the darkness of unbelief, sin, and Satan. In this world the struggle will never cease, the struggle in which the seed of the woman will crush the head of the snake and the snake will bruise his heel. But Christ and his own have held the field thus far. They will continue to do so, upholding his word whether people believe it or not.
It really is a mystery that the complete God would be completely man, veiled in the flesh of a child in a manger. But that mystery means everything. What advantage would Christ’s suffering and death be to me if Christ were merely a human being? As simply man, he could not have overcome the devil, death, and sin. The weakness of his flesh would have been too much for him and he could never have helped us. No, we must have a Savior who is true God and Lord over sin, death, devil and hell. If we permit the devil to topple the stronghold of Christ being God for us then his suffering, death, and resurrection are no good. All hope of eternal life and salvation are lost. We would not able to comfort ourselves with any of the consoling promises of Scripture. But if we are to be saved from the devil’s power and murderous assaults, also from sin and death, it is imperative that we have an eternal possession that is perfect and flawless. Only God could accomplish this.
But if he were not true man he would not have suffered and died to achieve our salvation. If he was not real and natural man born of Mary then he would not be our flesh and blood. He would have nothing in common with us and we would get no comfort from him. Instead, God became man. He is our brother. We are members of his body, flesh and bone of his flesh and bone.
So when by the Spirit we believe the unbelievable, that at Christmas veiled in flesh the Godhead see, that as God’s son he sheds his blood to redeem us and cleans us from sin, we rub the devil’s nose in his own filth. He can try to plague and terrify us with our sins but that won’t work with the Godhead in flesh come to be our Savior at our side. The devil will soon be beaten. He will be forced to withdraw and to stop molesting us. For the hook, which is the divinity of Christ, was concealed under the earthworm. The devil swallowed it with his jaws when Christ died and was buried. But it ripped his belly so that he could not retain it but had to spew it. He ate death for himself. This provides the greatest comfort. Just as the devil could not hold Christ in death, so he cannot hold us who believe in Christ.
If Christ is stripped of his divinity, there remains no help against God’s wrath and no rescue from his judgment. Our sin, misery, and distress are so enormous that they require a ransom too great for anyone to pay. For this God’s Son had to become man, suffer, and shed his blood.
The nativity of our Lord has the imprint of the miraculous all over it, but at first glance it appears so very ordinary. The death of our Lord was almost less than ordinary, appearing to be an undignified death of an unsuccessful itinerant rabbi. Yet, miracle of miracles, that death absolved the world of its sins, in which you are included.
The mystery unfolds before our eyes as John the apostle, an eyewitness to glory, reveals to us in his unique style a wondrous truth: in the Christmas manger we see a child who was born, yet he existed from all eternity; a child who was weak and dependent on his mother, yet the Creator of the world; a child who was humble and lowly, yet he was the King of kings and Lord of lords. Suffice it to say, that we marvel anew each Christmas (and every day) that God’s one and only Son, the totally unique God-man, tented for a while among us and did everything necessary so that we might live in God’s grace and the truth, the reality, of sins forgiven.
Merry Christmas! Amen.