Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
25. December 2010
Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38; Titus 3:4-7; John 1:1-14
“An Amazing Mystery”
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
If there is one Gospel that never ceases to amaze me, its the Gospel according to St. John. Unlike St. Matthew, St. Mark, or St. Luke, the Evangelist John conveys a sense of awe and mystery to Christ. St. Matthew has the Jesus for the Jews. St. Mark has the Jesus for the anxious. St. Luke has the Jesus for the Gentiles. St. John has the Jesus for the imaginative and curious. Mark may be spiritual milk, Matthew and Luke meat, but John is like a well-aged wine. He is full of complexity and question.
Matthew starts with Abraham and David. Mark and Luke begin with John the Baptist. That’s why we prepared for our annual celebration of the nativity of our Lord with Jesus as the king like David and two weeks on St. John the Baptist. David the king and John the forerunner give way to Jesus. So also they prepared us for this blessed Christmastide.
And John? “In the beginning was the Word.” John begins before the foundation of the world, before history began. John is not content with mere human history. His narrative begins with the eternal mystery of the Godhead. Christ the Word is with Father and Son before the beginning. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
Some have argued that Jesus was a mere man born naturally through Mary and Joseph. God saw the virtue of this boy Jesus and adopted him as his own. False, says St. John. Jesus is God, the Word. He is God and was with God before and in the beginning. Jesus is divine, no mere man.
His birth is not the first time he’s dealt with creation. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The Word of God, Jesus himself, made all things. The voice of the Father was the very Son, spoken into the darkness, creating heavens and earth and all therein from nothing. Apart from the Word, no creature has life. Without Jesus, there are no trees, no birds, no fish, no homes, no food, no clothing, and no homes. Jesus is the Father providing for creation.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Word of life is Jesus. He is the one who enlightens the heart. He is the one who breaks the darkness. He creates light where darkness dwells. He banishes the night with day of his glory. Stuck in the gloom or despair? Jesus shatters the darkness. In the pit of depression or anxiety? The radiance of his glory illuminates even the blackest soul.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus is the true light. He is the creator in the midst of destruction. He is the brilliance that breaks through the clouds. But not all see this light. Many shield their eyes and shy away from his glory. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.”
The best story ever told, the greatest gift ever given, the brightest and warmest light ever to illumine the heart, Jesus, was rejected. The light that banishes the darkness is rejected for shadow. The salvation freely given is rejected for works. Those who might be children of light would rather dwell in darkness. Renewed bodies are abandoned for rotten, stinking flesh.
There is no excuse. God continually sends his messengers to bear this light. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” John the Baptist boldly proclaimed repentance and forgiveness. Still, the corrupted hearts of legalist spat in the face of his witness. They rejected the light he bore and chose to remain in their dark works of the flesh.
Even today his messengers bear witness to the light that radiates from the babe of the manger, the boy in the temple, the God in man who turned water to wine. Despite their faithful witness, the hearts of men are like stone. Stones neither hear, nor see, nor believe. The Lord’s heavy hammer of Law cracks the chestnut, revealing a soft heart of flesh. But for fear or overconfidence, sinners rebuild their fortification. They renew their hard shells and defend their heart from Gospel.
The light of the Word cannot be shrouded. The glory that filled the tabernacle pierces through the hard darkness with forgiveness and new life. Those that dwell in darkness, in sin and the shadow of death have seen a great light, the light of the only begotten Son of the Father. The darkness cannot keep him away. He has shone into your hearts and illumined you with faith.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The “goodness and loving kindness of our God and Savior” has appeared. He has “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” In Holy Baptism you were made clean, your bodies renewed, your soul regenerated.
That’s the kind of thing only the Word can do. The Son who spoke to create nothing in the darkness, now speaks by His Spirit to the churches to create and renew faith. The Word made flesh speaks and faith is born. The Word incarnate speaks and sin is forgiven. The Word Jesus speaks and eternal life is given.
Nothing to do but receive. Nothing to give but only to rejoice with thanksgiving. “Not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Jesus comes, he saves, he gives faith, he restores to his will. Jesus comes in creation to share in our suffering. He becomes like us so that we might be like him. The light that creates now dwells among us, tabernacling in our hearts. The darkness of our flesh cannot contain this light dwelling within the temple of our bodies. “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.”
We see this glory daily as our renewed lives live for God and live for the neighbor. The glory of Son is revealed when we love his commandments and practice them. The glory of God is revealed when our mouths boldly confess our sin and forgive those who sin against us.
Christ dwells richly within us because he is like us, with flesh and blood. He took our humanity into his divinity, restoring it to his image. Our lives as the baptized reflect his glory, his will, and his mercy.
Each Lord’s day we see this glory dwelling under bread and wine. Each Lord’s day our eyes behold the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. This is a divine mystery, a sacramentum, that our flesh cannot comprehend. Yet, we believe. We trust that the Word that became flesh now dwells among us. Just as he was born in the flesh, he gives us his flesh that we may be renewed and bound to him. We feast on the Word made flesh. He offers up this flesh and blood to us for life and salvation.
Behold, the glory of God now dwells with us. The infant conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary dwells here in his holy sanctuary and has tabernacled in your heart. He has remembered you with steadfast love and faithfulness. Behold, the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise and break forth into joyous song. Amazing? Yes. A Mystery? True. Full of grace and truth. Absolutely. Amen!
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +