December 25 2011 Sermon
The Great Surprise: The Word among Us
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 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. (Joh 1:1 ESV)
It’s no surprise to find God “in the beginning,” as we do in the first chapter of Genesis. After all, he’s uncreated, he’s infinite, and he’s eternal. He always has been, and he always will be. He is without beginning and without end. If it were any other way, he wouldn’t be God. Everything else, everything that is not God, whether visible or invisible, is part of creation. For Moses says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). He made it out of nothing, spoke all creation into being by his word: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen 1:3).
Like Genesis, the Gospel of John starts before creation with the words “in the beginning” but offers this twist: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). Prior to the creation, when there was nothing besides God, there was God’s Word. St. John puts it like this: “The Word was with God” (Jn 1:1). The Word and God are here described as two distinct persons. Personal pronouns, such as “he” and “him” and “his,” must be used for the Word. He’s a divine person. He is a living, moving, acting, and feeling being. Not at all our concept of what a word is. In short, “The Word was God” (Jn 1:2), uncreated, infinite, and eternal God.
Through this Word, there in the beginning with God, “all things were made” (Jn 1:3). He was the agent by whom God spoke the entire creation into being, “like a master workman,” as it says in Proverbs (8:30). God said, “Let there be light, and the was light.” By his Word, Light and life have their beginning and source. The Word was there when the sun came into being . . . and snow and evergreen trees—the real kind—and reindeer and Adam too. He was there “rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (Prov 8:31). And it was very good—all that he’d made (Gen 1:31).
Now, let’s zoom through time from “the beginning” when all was good, very good, in fact, to this moment, today, and what you find is far different. There’s darkness, thick darkness, and deep gloom over the whole world. The world in which we live doesn’t know God. It’s spiritually ignorant and blind. It cannot recognize its Maker, even though his imprint is still evident in the beauty and complexity and order of creation. With a single word—“darkness” (Jn 1:5)—John describes creation’s fall, sin, death, and hell. The word “darkness” captures the confusion and misunderstanding and futility around us and even in us. “Darkness” means that man can’t find God, no matter how many times he bumps into the stuff God made. He’s lost, disoriented, alienated, constantly inventing false gods and false worship to fill the void and the emptiness, serving the creation rather than the Creator.
Darkness means man’s rebellion against God. His propensity toward sin. The sin of our heart, our thoughts, our feelings and desires. It is our separation from God by nature. Darkness is our enmity with God. By nature we are God’s enemies. By nature we are dead and heading straight to hell. By nature there is nothing but darkness inside us. And that darkness separates us from the light. We are separated from God and there is nothing we can do about it. So we grope around in darkness, looking for the way to God, but cannot find him. We grope around in darkness and hurt others along the way. We destroy lives, our life. We destroy friendships. We destroy justice. We hurt others and others hurt us.
If the creation were to be redeemed, saved, rescued from this darkness of sin and death, then God would have to make himself known, point himself out, reveal himself to us. We could not find God. We cannot go to him. We are living in the darkness of a sinful heart. So how can the creation be redeemed? How can man be saved? How can we find God?
God would come to the place where we are. He would descend to earth, enter his creation, so that we lost and condemned creatures might know him and have communion with him. He would come into this great darkness of ours and find us, rather than wait for us to find him. He would come to seek and save the lost.
This is the great surprise and wondrous mystery of Christmas. God shows up in a place where we certainly don’t expect to find him: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). God the Word, who was there in the beginning and participated in the creation of all things, took on a human nature like yours. The Uncreated became a creature, the Infinite became limited and bound, the Eternal became subject to time. The Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, true God and true man in one person.
WHAT A SURPRISE—BECAUSE MAN CAN NO LONGER FIND THE CREATOR, THE CREATOR BECAME MAN!
The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world, the light that shines in our darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.
So do you recognize your Maker now, dear Christian? O creature, do you know your Creator? Do you see your salvation, O sinner?
The one who formed man from the dust has come with fingernails and eyebrows and kneecaps to reclaim his creation. He was born of a woman, Mary his mother, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger for a bed. He was before Abraham, even before Adam, and yet he can be found in Bethlehem as a tiny babe. O come, let us adore him.
The one who made the forests and the mountains has come also with his arms outstretched on a wooden cross raised up on a hilltop. There the Creator of heaven and earth suffered and bled and died for his creation. The one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) was wrapped in linen and rested in a tomb, bursting forth on the third day as the first bloom of a new creation. O come, let us adore him.
The one who made the wheat and the vine comes now in bread and wine to you. His true body and true blood are present on this altar. Eternal life, the light of the world—it’s so near to you that you can touch it and taste it. God is given into your mouth, taken into your body. He makes himself known to you with forgiveness, life, and salvation. Fall on your knees. Hear the angels’ voices. Join in their song: “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory” (LSB, p 195). O come, let us adore him.
For God the Word who was in the beginning is now and forever incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. That makes Christmas a blessed surprise: the uncreated, eternal, and infinite God comes right here among us as our light and our life. Amen.