The Word is Life

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1-14

Dear people in the light of Christ: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Gospel lesson for Christmas Day is the most important of the Christmas accounts for knowing who Jesus is. It most clearly teaches that Jesus is not just man, but that He is divine; that He is God.

First, we see this because He is the Word. John points us back to the beginning as recorded by Moses in Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John writes, “In the beginning was the Word.”

For each day of creation, God created with His Word. The first day, God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. This John corroborates by writing, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

If everything that was created by God was created through Christ, who is the Word, then that means that Christ is not created. Christ must precede everything that was created. Christ therefore is eternal without beginning.

Nothing exists apart from God and what God has created. If Christ is not created, He is therefore God.

Then John tells us, “And the Word was with God.” This was in the beginning, before creation. There was nothing outside of God, so of course the Word was with God. Again, this is the same that Moses writes. When he writes, “God said, ‘Let there be light’” it shows that whenever God speaks, the Word must be with Him. The Word was with God, a separate person, but also God. Therefore John continues, in order to be as explicit and clear as possible, “And the Word was God.” There is no doubt therefore that Jesus is very God of very God as we confess in the Nicene Creed.

Second, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “In Him was life.” Of course, you cannot create life unless you are the source of life. Apart from the Word, nothing is alive. All things that are alive are alive through the Word.

This is also true of eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) There is no resurrection without the Word. There is no eternal life without the Word. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because only He died to earn you eternal life, and only He conquered death by rising from the dead Himself. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because He is the source, the cause, the fountain of life.

Next, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “The life was the light of men.” If the Word is the light of men, without Him, we are in darkness. This is why the prophet Isaiah writes concerning the birth of Christ, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Is. 9:2)

Without Christ, man is in complete spiritual darkness. He may imagine that he is pleasing God in his life. He may think that his ways are right. He may think that he clings to what is life, but because he is in darkness, he really clings to death.

All who trust in Christ for salvation, however, are in the light and have life. Even though our body will die, our soul will live forever and never die. This is what Jesus promises when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) “Though he die, yet shall he live” sounds like a contradiction if you don’t know what He means. It is no contradiction. Whoever believes in Christ has eternal life even when his body dies. The body is buried and awaits the day of resurrection, but the soul returns to its maker in Paradise, and is alive.

Christ died as a man and His body was buried. Yet His spirit lived on because He is Life. Life could not and cannot die. Consequently, death was overcome and was swallowed up by life, so much so that His body soon again became alive.

This same Life is the light of men. He who recognizes and believes in such a life in Christ, indeed passes through death, yet never dies. Christ, who is our Life protects him, so that death cannot harm him. Although the body must die and decay, the soul will not feel this death because believers are in the light of Christ, who is Life. On the day of resurrection his body will be raised imperishable and reunited with the soul.

He who does not believe this, remains in darkness and death. Such a soul will taste and feel death, and will die eternally. On the day of resurrection, his body will be raised from the grave and both body and soul will suffer eternally for rejecting Christ who is the Life.

Christ is your life. The soul of all who believe will never taste death because Jesus tasted death for you. The eternal Word who created you, came to earth to save you. God became man to deliver man. He is your light. He is your life.

The darkness of this world cannot overcome the light of Christ. Death cannot overcome Christ, who is the Life. The Word who created you will protect your soul from death and raise your body on the Last Day. He is God, so you know that He keeps His promises and can do what He says He will do. He is eternal, and in Him, you too will live forever.

May these blessed and comforting words of the Gospel strengthen you at this Christmas time. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Humiliation and Exaltation

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas based on Luke 2:40-52

Dear believers who will be exalted: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God humbled Himself and was born of a virgin. This is really beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. It is God not coming in all His power and glory, but humbly taking on human flesh.

The humiliation of Christ was that He did not always use His divine powers and attributes. We see this most clearly in His suffering and death. Jesus could have simply walked away from the soldiers as they came to arrest Him in the garden, as He had walked away previously when crowds had tried to kill Him. Jesus could have struck them down with a word from His mouth. But Jesus had a purpose, and that purpose was to die for the sins of mankind. He came for this purpose, and He humbled Himself for this purpose.

We see the humiliation of the Son of God in today’s Gospel reading also, as He submits to Joseph and Mary. As God, Jesus did not need to submit to anyone. However, according to His human nature, He entered a human family and thus put Himself under the authority of a human father and mother. Jesus gives witness to the order that God intended in creation by submitting Himself to that order.

We see the humiliation of Christ also in His increasing in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. As God, Jesus could not increase in wisdom or stature or favour. Jesus is the wisdom of God through Whom the universe was created (cf. Prov. 8; Jn. 1). But in His state of humiliation, Jesus did not fully use His divine powers and attributes. As a man, Jesus did not fully use His divine knowledge and wisdom. Thus He increased in wisdom according to His human nature. He learned.

At the same time, we see a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity; we see that Jesus is also God. He astounds the teachers of the law in the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy. His understanding and answers blew them away. He had wisdom beyond comparison. The teachers who spent their lives studying and teaching God’s Word learned from the twelve-year-old Jesus as He opened Scripture to them and as He guided them through questions concerning Scripture.

Jesus is still active in His Word, teaching and guiding. The Word of God is not a dead book of mere letters and words. The Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit works through the Word to open our eyes to God’s truth and to teach us.

That’s why we should be continually immersed in the Word of God. If we don’t continually seek God’s wisdom concerning all matters in our lives, we can easily be swayed by the world’s wisdom and be led astray. If we don’t seek God’s will for our lives from His Word, we can easily make up our own ideas about what God’s will is, even though such ideas may be entirely false.

There are always and have always been people who claim to be doing God’s will even though they are blatantly going against what God says in His Word. Such people are not following God’s Word, but rather the devil, the world, and their sinful flesh.

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, 56% of the members of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) believe that homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged. 46% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 45% say they look to common sense for guidance rather than the Word of God. 20% are not certain that there even is a God. It is no coincidence that this ties in with 64% of the members of LCMS not reading the Bible even once a week. I don’t know what the statistics are for Lutheran Church-Canada, but I fear they are equally scary. When you don’t follow God’s Word, the only thing left is to follow the devil, the world, and your sinful nature.

This new year, let us make a commitment to read God’s Word regularly. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found (Is. 55:6). Immerse yourself in Scripture every day to learn and to be blessed by the living and active Word of God. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Attend the Divine Service to receive instruction and the forgiveness of sins. Come to Bible classes to learn and ask questions about God’s Word.

Jesus is in His Father’s house, so come here regularly to receive from Him. Joseph and Mary didn’t understand that Jesus must be in His Father’s house as the Old Testament prophesies. Of course Jesus is to be sought in His Father’s house. This is no different for us today. Why would we seek Jesus elsewhere? He’s promised to be found in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. God the Father’s business is forgiveness and He gives it in His house. This was true of the Old Testament Temple where sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people, and it is even more true for the Church where the benefits of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross are given out freely.

Jesus is present here in His Word, teaching and astonishing as He did in the Temple. Jesus is present here in His body and blood, giving us the forgiveness of sins He earned by giving His body to death and shedding His blood for us. As God and man, Christ has bridged the gap between heaven and earth. He brings heaven down to earth in Holy Communion, and will take us from earth to heaven because of the forgiveness we receive in Holy Communion.

Jesus is our Mediator in heaven not just as God, but as man. We have a man, Jesus Christ our Lord, interceding in heaven on our behalf. He speaks for us. He prays for us. As a man, Jesus opened the kingdom of heaven for man.

And Jesus is no longer in His state of humiliation. After He died, it was finished. Jesus entered His state of exaltation. He showed Himself victorious over His enemies in hell (I Peter 3:18-19, Col. 2:15). He rose from the dead, defeating death. He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father almighty. He fully uses His divine powers and attributes as He wills especially in giving us His true body and blood to eat and drink and in forgiving us all of our sins.

Jesus’ state of humiliation was for us and our salvation. Jesus’ state of exaltation is also for us and our salvation. He suffered and died for us in His state of humiliation. He rose from the dead for us and ascended to the right hand of the Father for us in His state of exaltation.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. This also is for us because we already know the verdict of His judgment. We have already been declared not guilty. Not because we haven’t done anything sinful, but because Jesus was Himself judged for us and found guilty of all of our sins. Through our Baptism into Christ, we are in Him and thus we’ve already died in His death. Our Baptism was our death, and that is the only judgment we will receive.

Now Jesus returns to judge the world and to separate us from it. He comes to rescue us from the world and its sin and suffering. He comes to rescue us from our humiliation. He comes to exalt us with Him into the eternal joys of the Father.

Jesus is in His state of exaltation and will share His exaltation with us. The humiliation we suffer in this world because of our own sins and the sins of others will be replaced with glorious exaltation. Jesus will raise us up with Him into the heavenly places because He suffered humiliation for us, and is now exalted for us at the right hand of God the Father. Our humiliation will soon be over and our exaltation will soon begin. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.