The Nativity of Our Lord
December 25, 2013 (Revised and updated from Dec. 24, 2010)
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
And the Word… The Son of God is given a peculiar name by St. John. He is the Word, or in Greek, the Logos. To the Greek mind, to whom St. John wrote, the Word is much more than a collection of letters that sound a certain way. The Word is the expression of what is in your heart and in your head.
We can hear this usage in our phrase, “I give you my word.” That is to say, the intention of my heart is to do what I promised. Jesus is the Word of God because He is the expression of what is the heart and mind of God. From the beginning He was with God, and from the beginning He was God. He is the Divine Intention.
God first gave this Word to men when he promised that the Seed of the woman would come to crush the serpents head. This Word was given again and again through patriarchs and prophets. The descendent of Abraham, through whom all nations would be blessed. The One who brings Light to our darkness. The One to takes the government upon His shoulder with the cross. The Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. The Branch from the stump of Jesse.
And the Word became flesh… This Word is not an ethereal, conceptual, and spiritual reality, but the Word becomes flesh. The great mystery of the Incarnation is that God joins Himself with that which He created.
When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, we see that the Word and promise of God from the foundation of the World was to become one of us. In the beginning, God’s intention was to take on flesh.
He is born of the flesh of His mother, yet, because she remained a virgin, He did not inherit the sin that infects all flesh from an earthly father. He is the Son of His Father in heaven, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… The purpose of our Lord’s becoming flesh was to be with us, to live as one of us, to experience what we experience. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).
The word translated as “dwelt” has a deeper meaning. Literally, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled with us.” He pitched His tent with us. Just as the children of Israel knew that God was to be found in the Holy Tabernacle that travelled with them, so also can we be sure that we can find God in the flesh of the Babe of Bethlehem. He is not a God who demands us to make our pilgrimages to Him, but He comes to us, He abides with us-our Lord Immanuel.
The account of the building of the Tabernacle concludes the book of Exodus. Moses begins by setting up the foundations, raising up its frames and pillars. Then he covers it. The kind of covering for the tabernacle was a particular kind—a covering of skins, a covering of flesh.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory… The glory of God was found in the pillar of fire and of cloud when He led His people out of bondage in Egypt. That is, God made Himself known—made Himself visible through these means. Later that same glory descended on the Tabernacle and there He was seen.
The Tabernacle was the place where sacrifices were made. By these sacrifices, the sins of the people were atoned for. Thus, the glory of God is always where there is the forgiveness of sins.
The glory of God in Jesus Christ is beheld in its fullest sense when He goes to the cross. There the Son of Man is glorified because He is sacrificed—a sacrifice greater that all the blood of beasts. For the sacrifices of the Old Testament in the Old Tabernacle did not forgive sins of their own power, but by pointing to the sacrifice that atones for the sins of the whole world.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father… There is no other who glorifies the Father like His own Son. In Him the Father is well pleased because He willingly takes the task given to Him.
Yet He is not the only Son of the Father. He is indeed the only-begotten of the Father, begotten before all worlds, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father.
As the Father was well pleased with His Son when He was baptized, He also finds pleasure in bestowing adoption as sons to each and every man, woman, and child who is baptized in His name. In Holy Baptism, the glory of God washes over sinners and covers them with the righteousness of Christ.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. All of this, the Father does through His Son without any merit or worthiness in me. He does it all by grace. This is the true gift of Christmas: that the Son of God wraps Himself in human flesh and places Himself under the tree of the cross.
Believe this, for Christ’s sake. This Word is Truth, for God cannot lie. Your forgiveness is found in the flesh of Jesus Christ. Find it in the manger, on the cross, and upon the altar. For Christ still dwells among His people, in the flesh, under bread and wine. He comes to make His blessings known, not only on Christmas, but each and every week in the Divine Service.
The true Gift of Christmas is yours by grace, the only-begotten Son of God, whose glory you behold wrapped in the flesh of the eternal Word of God.
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard