The Intimate Incarnation

+ A Christmas sermon preached for The Nativity of Our Lord (III) at First Lutheran Church, St. Peter, MN on December 25, 2015 +

Texts: John 1:1-14


Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our now-born Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Merry Christmas! Last night, many of us gathered here to wait for and celebrate the birth of the Christ child. We heard the familiar nativity story from Luke’s gospel with angels and shepherds and Mary and Joseph and we sang “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” and a candlelit “Silent Night.”
But today’s gospel is not that synoptic nativity story and we don’t get any of the usual characters we expect at Christmas time. Instead, we get what has been called John’s hymn to the Word. And John’s understanding of Christ’s coming is much more poetically mysterious and mystical. “In the beginning was the Word, god_the_geometerand the Word was with God, and the
Word was God.” Chronologically, John starts well before Christmas morning – he starts even before Genesis, whose memory he invokes with the words “In the beginning”.
In the beginning, way before the earth or the sun or the stars, was the Word – or in Greek, the λόγος – God’s instrument of creation.
The λόγος: eternally with God and eternally God.
The λόγος, the giver of light and life.
But perhaps the most mysterious verse comes at the end of today’s reading. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” In Greek, the verb that is translated “lived” actually has an even more intimate sense to it – “to pitch a tent with” or “to dwell with.”
The Word became flesh and dwelled with us and we have seen his glory.

But this is where the mystery lies for me. Why would the Word, the λόγος, of God, through whom all things were made, decide to become flesh and dwell with us?
Why this incarnation?
Why do we have a Christmas at all?
Surely God knows how broken humanity is.
God sees the wars and famines and persecutions.
God feels the greed and hatred and poverty.
God knows our depressions and addictions and diseases.
Why on earth would God want to become human?

And on this Christmas morning, we hear the answer more clearly than ever – because God loves us so much that God wants to know us better. God, the creator of the universe, again declares humanity to be “very good” and wants to know what it means to truly be human – not to just be among us but separated from us, but to intimately know us. God, the eternal one, wants to know what it means for you and me to live our lives as human beings upon this earth.

In the words of theologian Ruben Alves, “what the doctrine of the incarnation whispers to us is that God, eternally, wants a body like ours. Have you ever thought about this? That at Christmas what is celebrated is our body, as something God desires?”
richardcampbellsthemadonnaToday we celebrate our bodies as something desired by God – our broken and imperfect bodies.
We celebrate that despite all our failings, God, the creator of the cosmos, loves each of us so much that God longs to be one of us in order to know each of us better.
To laugh and cry with us, to feel joys and pains with us, and to shine God’s light of life and love on all of our dark places.

And that’s what this day is about. It’s about Jesus coming to know what it means to be human and learn what you and I experience on a daily basis. And through the life of this little baby born today, God gains first hand knowledge of every aspect of our lives.
And by Christ’s coming down to us, we are raised up.
Despite our brokenness, God puts such value on all of humanity that Jesus is born as a little baby today – and now, every single human bears the beautiful image of Christ.
Every person we meet from the beggar on the street to the richest CEO bears the divine image of our loving God.

For many of us, the days leading up to Christmas can be so hectic – buying and wrapping the right presents, making special and delicious food, traveling and visiting family and friends. But during these 12 days of Christmas, maybe we can take some time to contemplate this divine mystery and worship this God of ours who knows and loves each of us so much that Jesus is born to us today. Our Emmanuel, God with us, has come into the world. We can celebrate that through this little baby, God learns what it means to be really and truly human and we are able to see the face of God and know God’s own glory.


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