Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd Peperkorn
Christmas Day 2012
TITLE: “His Flesh for You”
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson from St. John chapter one, particularly verse fourteen:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
He has his mother’s eyes. How often have you heard that phrase, or one like it? Family resemblance can be striking. You don’t have to see a child’s parents sometimes to know them. You can see it in the young child’s eyes, or their nose, or the shape of their face. Family resemblance can even go beyond the little things. Big or small, weight, height, build, disposition, inclination toward music or math, or things mechanical, or whatever, all sorts of things are connected to family genes. You can tell so many things about a person by their family.
So what was Jesus’ family like? Our text proclaims a miracle: the Word, the almighty, eternal Word of God, became flesh. The creator of all things came into our flesh to be born of a virgin. He clothed Himself in our flesh, lived our life, died the death that should have been ours, and rose from the dead so that we, too, could live that new life of His. This is His life, and this is our life through baptism. As St. John says in verse 12 of our text, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” By baptism we have been adopted into this same Holy Family that had to flee to Egypt in the Judean night.
This miracle, called the Incarnation in the Church, is perhaps the greatest mystery of all time. How can eternity be contained in a little baby? How can the creator of the universe be wrapped in the clothes of a little Jewish baby in a cold, Judean night? This is one of the mysteries of the Church that we can only confess and give thanks to God for, but perhaps the greater mystery is why. Why would God deign to become man? Now there’s a question we can answer, because our Lord has told us why He came to earth. He came to earth because of His great love for us. Love so deep and rich and passionate that He could not, He would not let us die in the mire of our transgressions. He came into our flesh. This body, this flesh that God has given to each one of us, this is the flesh that we have torn and abused by sin and greed. This is the flesh that holds all of our filthy thoughts, and these are the arms and legs and eyes and mouth and ears that each one of you uses to deny and mock God, and to serve yourself rather than those in need around you. It is into this weak and sinful flesh that Christ our Lord came.
The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Our Lord did not come into the flesh to be an earthly ruler, or as some sort of superhuman. No, he came into our flesh, and He dwelt among us. He came and was in the midst of human life. Our hurts, our sorrows, our joys, our pain, He experienced all of it. That’s the sort of God we worship. Our Lord is not far and away off in heaven, looking downing with a disdainful eye on all of our misdeeds. No, He saw our sinful weakness and rebellion, came into our flesh and dwelt among us. The Son of God entered the world of His creation to redeem it, to buy it back from Satan and the world.
So where do we find this Son of God today? Did He go back into heaven after doing all of His work to save us? Is it back to business as usual? The world today has all sorts of places to go to find God. As are now in the new millennium, we see more and more bizarre cults and religious groups coming forth with the “truth” about God. But where to we find God? John answers the question for us: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. We know God by partaking of His flesh. We know God by knowing Jesus. Luther put it this way:
“The Son of God did not want to be seen and found in heaven. Therefore He descended from heaven into this lowliness, came to us in our flesh, laid Himself into the womb of His mother and into the manger and went to the cross. This ladder He placed on the earth so that we might ascend to God on it. This is the way you must take. If you forsake this way and try to speculate about the glory of the Divine Majesty without this ladder, you will invent marvelous matters, matters that are above your horizon; but you will do so to your very great harm.”
So where is the ladder to heaven and to God? The manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. It is only through Christ that we find God and ascend to heaven. Many people will want to speculate about God, and try to put the focus away from Christ and on to us. That is always the temptation, isn’t it? We so much want to get away from Christ and look elsewhere. A little baby in a manger is cute, but death on a cross? That’s morbid and depressing. But it is only through this cross that we can find God. Luther again put it this way, “We should hold of a certainty that when we look at Christ, hear Him, call upon Him, and worship Him, we are seeing, hearing, calling upon, and worshipping God the Father . . . For what you hear from Christ you hear from the eternal and invisible Father, because besides Christ there is no other God, nor are we to seek any other will of God. Those who indulge their own thoughts and speculate about God and His will without Christ lose God altogether.”
This is what it means to say that we behold His glory. Where is His glory? Is His glory in power, where He rules with an iron fist? Is His glory in success? As a preacher, Jesus was a failure by earthly standards. Who was left with Him when He suffered and died? No one. Does John call Him, “Behold the mighty lion who takes away the sin of the world”? No. He is the lamb, a meek and lowly creature that is easily taken and killed.
Here we get to the back to the mystery of Christmas. The angels and all the heavenly host sing of His glory, and we sing with them. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.” God’s glory, bound together in human flesh, dwelling among us as one of us. Born, circumcised, lived, suffered, died, and rose again. For you. Only for you. This is His glory, that He would live the perfect life we cannot live, and die our death, so that we can partake of His glory.
St. Paul once wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Your baptism bound you to Christ’s life. “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” When you were baptized, all of the fullness of His indestructible life became yours. You are bound to His flesh in your baptism. The fullness of His divine life is yours. Life, real life, is yours through this babe of Bethlehem.
Very soon we will dine at His table, and partake of His divine flesh and blood. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He dwells with us today, and He gives us Himself for divine food and drink. Here, in this holy place, we partake of His divine nature, and all of the gifts that He would bring to you through His cross and resurrection are yours. Take, eat, take, drink. The Word became flesh.
So what was the family resemblance Jesus had with His mother? And what is the family resemblance you have with Jesus, your true Brother? You have the gift of eternal life, and the name of God is upon you. May this life be yours to all eternity, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.