“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

“The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:1-18)

“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.” This is the most wonderful good news we could ever receive! It is this central truth that makes Christmas Christmas. It’s not about toys or Santa Claus or mistletoe or even getting the family together. Those are all good things, but they’re not essential to Christmas being Christmas. Christ is–he, the Word made flesh. And that’s why we’re here this morning.

People like to think of Christmas as something soft and fluffy, full of warm and fuzzy feelings. Curled up on the couch, watching a Hallmark movie. Christmas as hot chocolate for the soul. But to reduce Christmas to that–well, that falls way short. Christmas is not cute and cuddly. Christmas is raw and real. Christ came into our world to deal with the root problem of humanity, which is sin. Christ came in the flesh, because that’s the only way it could happen. Christmas is earthy, not fluffy. It is flesh-and-blood reality that brings God to us, up close and personal. And that is what makes the real Christmas ultimately so offensive to the world.

But to us who know the truth of Christmas, its “fleshiness” is absolutely crucial and vital. Our very salvation depends on it! And so the church must always be vigilant about confessing “The Truth of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh.”

Christmas marks a dividing line between truth and error. The reality of what happened at Christmas–the Word becoming flesh–is so offensive, that people will do anything to get around it. On the one hand, they will soften Christmas into a sentimental mush. Or, on the other hand, they will deny the truth of the Word made flesh and promote error in its place. Most all the classic heresies throughout history have this in common: They cannot handle the truth of Christmas. They cannot stand the idea that the Word, the eternal Son of God, had to become flesh, in order to save us.

“And the Word became flesh.” No more profound truth was ever written in so few words; no more unfathomable mystery ever captured in such a simple statement. The apostle John wrote these words for the prologue to his gospel. “The Word became flesh.” But what does he mean by “the Word”? To understand that, we need to go back the opening verses of our text.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John here is deliberately recalling the Creation account from the opening of Genesis: “In the beginning.” He’s saying that there is one called “the Word,” the Logos, who was in a face-to-face relationship with God, and yet who was also God in his very substance, in his essence. This one called the Word was there “in the beginning,” that is, at Creation, which means that he himself was not created. He is God eternal in his being, without beginning or end. And this Word who was with God in the beginning likewise was active in the work of Creation. “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light,” and so on. That was the Word, the Logos, acting in Creation. So John says of him: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This one called the Word, the Logos, is true God, from eternity, above all created things.

But now here is the amazing thing: “And the Word became flesh.” The one who was true God, from eternity, at a certain point in human history, also became true man. The Word became flesh, became one of us, our brother, a real flesh-and-blood human being–a little baby even, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. But how can this be? Well, it is. Our mind, our reason, cannot comprehend just how this is possible. But God declares that it is so, and therefore it is. Faith, worked by the Holy Spirit, receives this truth in quiet humility.

And faith confesses this truth gladly and boldly. We just confessed this very truth in the Nicene Creed. There we said that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one by whom all things were made–for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate and was made man. The church is confessing the same truth John says in our text. The church is confessing this truth against all who teach otherwise, whether the Arians of the fourth century or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons of our day.

“And the Word became flesh.” This truth is absolutely crucial to our salvation. Here’s why. John goes on to finish the sentence: “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.” Now we will see why this truth is both utterly saving and so incredibly offensive.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” You could also translate it, “and tabernacled among us.” In the Old Testament, the Lord God made his dwelling place in the midst of his people at the Tabernacle, “the tent of meeting.” The Lord did that, he made his presence known among the people, in order to meet with them, to interact with them. The Lord tabernacled among them, to guard and guide them, to give them his instruction, to forgive their sins through his appointed sacrifices, to lead them into the Promised Land–in short, to save them. That was how the Lord dealt with Israel by tabernacling among them.

So, what John is saying here is that what the Lord did by tabernacling among Israel has now been fulfilled in an even greater way, by the Word becoming flesh and tabernacling among us! In Christ, God is present in the midst of fallen humanity in order to save us. The only Son of the Father, the glorious Son of God from eternity, pitched his tent in our midst. He became flesh, and he did so “full of grace and truth.” God’s Son was on a saving mission to redeem mankind, and he did it by becoming man himself. That’s what the little baby in the manger is all about. That’s what Christmas is all about: The Word becoming flesh in order to save us.

But why did God have to become flesh in order to save us? Because the situation called for it. This is God’s plan, it always has been, and it’s the only way that works. All of humanity, every single one of us, had fallen into the death-trap of sin, ever since our first parents. We have fallen, and we can’t get up. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can to do that. But at the same time, God’s justice demands that those who sin against him must die. “The wages of sin is death.” Man had sinned, and man must die. Sin can’t just be swept under the rug or ignored. It must be dealt with.

Only God can save us. Yet justice demands that sinful man must die. And so it took the Son of God coming in the flesh, as a man–Jesus–to suffer and die in our place, in order to save us. And then when Christ rose bodily from the dead, victorious over sin and death, it showed that his mission was successful. Now, by trusting in him, baptized into Christ, you share in his victory. You have his righteousness and life now. You have his resurrection and eternal life waiting for you. This is the only way that works. It’s Plan A, and there is no Plan B.

But this is also why Christmas is so offensive. Because there is no Plan B. And people don’t like to hear Plan A. The world cannot accept the fact that God had to become man, the Word had to become flesh, in order to suffer and die to save us. You see, if that is the case, then it says several things about me. It says that I need saving, that I am a lost sinner, unable to save myself. And I don’t like to hear that. My natural man, my old Adam, rebels against it. To say that it takes the death of the Son of God to pay for my sins–you mean, I’m not good enough on my own? You mean there’s nothing I can do to merit or earn my salvation? No, that’s too much. I can’t have that. I can’t accept it. Oh, I can handle toys and Santa and Christmas trees and family get-togethers–that Christmas. But don’t give me all that Jesus stuff! Let’s leave Christ out of Christmas, shall we?

By the way, that’s the real reason why people don’t come to church. They don’t want all this Jesus stuff, which is really all we have to offer here at church. Plenty of Jesus. And this is like a bazillion times better than all the toys under the tree, these gifts that Jesus gives: forgiveness, life, eternal salvation. Jesus is giving you these gifts right here today in the Christ Mass, in the blessed Sacrament of his body and blood. But people look down their noses at these treasures and would rather sit at home with their Netflix and a box from Amazon Prime.

So you can see why the real Christmas is so controversial, so offensive. People don’t want a flesh-and-blood Savior who has to die for them in order to make them acceptable before God. They’d rather do it themselves, or think that they’re good enough on their own. So they’ll change Christmas into some innocuous feel-good thingie about Santa and reindeer and hot cocoa and warm family memories. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. They’re fine. It’s just that they can’t do what your flesh-and-blood Savior can do.

What can he do? This Jesus, the Word made flesh, can save you! He has saved you! He does save you! He will save you! The baby born in Bethlehem went from the cradle to the cross, to do the saving job for you. Your past is forgiven. Your present is enfolded in God’s loving care. And your future is forever, firmly set in the heavens, ready to be revealed when Christ comes again.

“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.” Rejoice in this truth! Confess this truth boldly and gladly! The Word became flesh: God is with us, to save us, in the person of Christ.

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Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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