Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we have come to honor You on Your birthday, our joy is that You came down at Christmas to honor and uplift us! You fulfilled the eternal plan of salvation for our souls that angels longed to look into since the creation of this world. Yes, we thank You for taking on our flesh and living for a while among us! Moreover, today we also thank You for still dwelling with us in Your Holy Word of Truth and in the living Word of Your sacraments. May we never dishonor You with doubt, but instead honor You with love and humble obedience. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WORD WHO BECAME FLESH!
TEXT: John 1: 1-14
Dearly Beloved Children of the Heavenly Father:
Remember when Pontus Pilate uttered those famous words: “What is truth?” Well, we know the answer to that question, don’t we? Our loving Savior provides it for us in His living Word when He said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The eternal truths of Christmas are under attack. They have always been resisted, after all, Satan hates Christmas. But, in our day they are resisted more openly and that’s why more and more people have been robbed of Christmas joy. Just this past week I was treated to another crass example of this denigration of Christmas joy which is built upon Godly truth. PBS recently aired a show in which a talking head from the Harvard Divinity School, along with the other supposedly Christian scholars especially amazed me. Again and again they attacked the truthfulness of the various accounts of Christ’s birth. Again and again they sought to rob Christianity of its power and joy by showing their lack of knowledge as to what grace really is.
My friends, no matter how humans try to steal God’s glory and interject their own sin-tainted opinions into the truth of Christmas, they will never totally succeed. And that’s because:
CHRISTMAS ENDURES BECAUSE TRUTH ENDURES
Let’s review a few vital points about our faith on this holy day—points that PBS got wrong. First, there are only two religions in the world.—Faith in God’s grace and works. Islam and Judaism both miss the point of the Old Testament that they misuse. Both are built on the necessity of human works to make humans right with God. But Christianity, true Christianity, teaches that God had to save us. That in love He sent His Son to buy us back from sin and Satan. Christianity teaches that salvation is not something we do, it is something God did for us and something that God gives to us as a free gift—through faith! And that my friends, is why we don’t live in fear, guilt, or have to engage in a repetitive prayer 4 or 5 times a day to make us right with God. No, Jesus has already done so by giving His life for ours on a cross. Moreover, if you look at those other religions, the burden for eternal life is place upon man. But in Christianity, the Baby Jesus came to take that burden for us—recall His words: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Secondly, we hear the talking heads today tell us things like: “Matthew’s Gospel account of Christ’s birth is totally different than Luke’s or John’s. So, obviously it is all made up stuff, not real truth.” What garbage! Yes, Matthew wrote to a different audience than the others, that being converted Jews. So Matthew obviously stressed different points of Christ’s birth. But that does not mean any of them are wrong. Instead, it means that to gain a complete picture of what happened in Bethlehem we need to study all three accounts and bow to their expertise. I dare say, if I asked 3 or 4 of you to write about today’s service and give it to me next week, all would have a different flavor. All would stress unique viewpoints. And taken together all would provide a more complete picture, wouldn’t they?
And thirdly, just because some details in one account get left out, it doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Likewise, just because secular history cannot confirm the flight into Egypt, doesn’t mean it didn’t occur. After all, it was a secret trip. Mary and Joseph lived in fear for their lives against the long arm of King Herod. Would you blab to strangers about your sudden appearance in their community if you were under the gun?
Against this backdrop we sit here on Christmas Day confronted with perhaps the most profound section of the entire Bible. John didn’t write about the nuts and bolts of Christ’s birth because he didn’t have to—Luke already had. So, instead, John gives us the mysterious, Divine truths that lay behind it. He relates how the Baby Jesus was the eternal Word of God.—The same Word that created the universe in Genesis. Then John states something earth-shattering: “The Word was God…and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The modern Jews are the same as the ancient Jews in that they cannot get their minds around the fact that God became human in order to save us. The followers of Islam believe that Christ was a prophet, like Mohammed, but fail to accept His divinity. Indeed, like all other religions apart from Christianity, their focus is on what they must do to save themselves and make themselves right with God—works—instead of accepting the fact that such a thing is impossible due to sin, so that God freely gave us His underserved love in the Christ-Child instead.
St. John tells us that such doubting and rejection has always been present. “He was in the world…but the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” And yet, Christmas Endures because Truth Endures! John tells us that, too. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
There you have it! As long as God’s Word remains in this world and people hear and ponder the Christmas story, that Word will work to save souls and uplift sinners like us. Why? Because Christ is that eternal Word, Christ is divine, and Christ alone gives us eternal love and forgiveness. Yes, Christmas joy will always endure until the end of times because Christ is enduring. He is eternal. He is the Son of God—our Savior. And He has chosen us to be recipients of His grace and truth. Rejoice! Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…
Pastor Thomas H. Fox.