Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Of all the hair-brained ideas as I’ve had as your pastor, this might be the strangest. For the Sundays in Advent this year, we are going to be looking at four ways in which Christ comes to us, four “Advents” if you will. He came at Christmas to be with His people. He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to save His people. He comes to us today in the Lord’s Supper to offer forgiveness and unity to His people. And we are waiting for Christ to come again on the Last Day to judge, to save, and to make all things new. On its own, not a bad series, if I do say so myself. But where did I get this idea? Take a look at the front of your bulletin. Does that picture look familiar? Yes, this sermon series is based on my stole. But it fits, so I’m going to run with it.
Today’s reading then is from John 1. This is the reading that’s usually assigned for Christmas Day, but it’s not the first reading that comes to our minds when we think about Christmas. There’s no star. There are no shepherds or wise men. There’s no manger or Bethlehem or even Mary and Joseph. No, here in John, all we get is a fragment of a verse that sums up the entire Christmas story. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
At first the phrase might sound underwhelming. We love the full Christmas story with the census and the angels and even the donkeys which don’t show up anywhere in the story, but we love them anyway. In contrast to our idealized Nativity Scene, John’s description of Christmas can seem cold and barren. But the more we sit and think on this text, the more it has to say both about Jesus’ birth and about our lives today.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We’ll start with “the Word.” Lest we have any doubts as to who it is we’re talking about, John makes it very clear. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is the almighty, all-powerful creator of the universe. He is God. He was there in the beginning. He created all things. He gives life. He shines in the darkness. The Word is God Himself. He’s not one god out of many. He’s not just another guy. The Word is God.
And what did God do? He became flesh. There’s a longstanding tradition in Christian art not to portray God the Father in human form. It stems from Scripture, where God is never described as having a physical body. In fact, in many places, we’re told that God is spirit as opposed to flesh. Christmas changed all that. God took on the form of a human. God the Son became flesh. But remember what we just heard about “the Word.” “All things were made through Him.” The Creator becomes the creation. Not content to let us stay where we were in our sinfulness and corruption, God entered this corrupt word to be with us and change us for the better.
But this enfleshment, this incarnation of God, wasn’t just a quick trip in and out either. He “became flesh and dwelt among us.” He came to live and work and preach and teach and die and rise among us. He knew life’s ups and downs. He knew long days and sleepless nights. Since Joseph doesn’t show up in the Gospels after Jesus’ trip as a twelve-year-old to the Temple, it’s quite likely He knew what it was like to lose even a parent. God dwelt among us. He is Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Some of you today need to hear that as Law. You’re contemplating sin or are simply not thinking at all. Instead of considering how to do good and to lift others up, you are considering how to do evil and to tear someone down. If that’s you this morning, then know that God is with you. He knows what you’re thinking. He know what you’re going to do. There’s no hiding from God. Jonah tried that, but it doesn’t work. God is with you, so shape up.
But some of you today need to hear this as Gospel, as Good News. You’re wondering if anyone understands what you’re going through. You don’t quite know yourself how to describe what you’re feeling, but it’s not good. Perhaps you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, an unexpected health problem, or even a crisis of faith. If that’s you this morning, then know that God is with you. He knows how you feel. He knows what you’re thinking. He knows what it’s like. Is there anything in life that you experience that God has not? No, He experienced it all. He even felt the effects of sin when it was placed upon His shoulders on the cross. There is nothing that you or I can or will experience here on this earth that God has not. This means that when you are celebrating the joys in life, God is with you. He knows how you feel and rejoices with you. When you are suffering or in pain or are grieving, God is with you. He knows how you feel and suffers with you. In any case, you are not alone. God is with you.
No matter whether you hear it one way or another, God is still with you. He is with us. This is the fact that Christmas makes a reality. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This was the first coming, the first Advent of Christ. It set in motion the rest of His Advents, when He continued and continues His work among us. This is exactly what we’re celebrating as we’re waiting for Christmas. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell