In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Joy. Pure joy. Joy to the world—we've made it! The Holy Spirit has called and gathered us to the Great Feast of Christmas. Let all preparing cease. The hour is now. The children have led the way with Scripture and song. No more waiting. Open your eyes and your ears and your mouths. Behold, your redemption is near, He is at hand. Gaudete: rejoice! “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” “Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”
He has done marvelous things / in you. You are here. / Some / didn't make it; but you did. What a privilege it is that the Lord has provided for you to be here, to make it all the way through Advent, and not to stumble at the last, but to finish this short course in your Christian journey: just 4 weeks.
4 weeks of promises. 4 weeks of John the Baptist and his preaching of repentance. 4 weeks of anticipation. You made it. You've hoped for this day, these moments, / and you've made it.
To the world, it's really not all that big of a deal. Besides, the Lord's Supper can be offered any old day, what's so special about Christmas Day Divine Service, anyhow? Or maybe you / are wondering this. Maybe not, maybe you actually don't really care and you'd rather be at home right now playing with your new toys, kids? Or wearing your new slippers, laddies? Or figuring out your new tool, gentlemen? “So just make it quick preacher-man, so we can get back to our real lives, and the fun stuff.”
Days in the Church Year—like today, Christmas morning—teach us that the Christian life is not emotionless or empty ritual. There is true and good and holy joy today. It is joy that has substance to it, joy that flows out from something deep within our Christian DNA.
Christmas morning teaches us that we are a part of something, we are in a relationship. If you think about it, you don't get emotional or excited about something you don't care about, that you don't have some sort of connection to.
But, you, Christian, are connected. The Christian life is more about who we are and whose we are, then it is about anything else. In other words, Christianity is more about relationships than it is about doctrine or beliefs.
Surprised to hear that? It's not that doctrine is unimportant. Doctrine is very important. But doctrine does not stand alone. Cold, hard, historic facts (no matter how elaborate or logical they are) are useless without relationship.
Here's an example from today's Gospel lesson:
John writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Good. True. The Word is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. That divine Son took on “flesh” (in other words, became human) and lived and breathed and ate and played and yes, even died among us. Good. True.
So what? What's the big deal? Without a relationship, without a connection to those Words, to those truths, in the end, it really wouldn't matter all that much to you.
Now let's consider this saying as people who do have a connection here:
Again, hear what St John writes: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.
You are human, you have flesh. You were born; and then you grew up a little and learned to walk and talk. Some of you then grew up a little more and you started doing things on your own; sometimes you made choices that were not good, choices that hurt others and you. Some of you grew up even a little more and you started to ask advice from others, those who may be a bit wiser than you, and you began to make real, substantial choices for the rest of your life: what you would do as an occupation, who you would marry, where you would live, what hobbies to get involved with. And some of you have grown up even more; you're looking at yourself at a ripe old age and knowing that life in this world for you won't last too much longer.
That's being human. The Son of God became human, like that, like you. He was born, then he grew up a little and learned to walk and talk, just like you. Then he grew up a little more, and started making choices: perfect choices, always honoring his parents, especially His heavenly Father; always serving others before himself. Then Jesus grew up a little more and began to make real substantial choices about the rest of his life. He decided to go to the river Jordan, to be baptized, to do the will of the Father and begin His 3 year earthly ministry, again, always serving. And finally, Jesus too was looking death right in the face, a little afraid/nervous/anxious about what the next day was going to be like, especially in that last week, especially the last few days before the crucifixion. How long would He go on suffering? Jesus was afflicted with these thoughts, too, just like you.
All the way, just like you. In every way, God has connected Himself to us in the Incarnation and birth and suffering and death and resurrection of the man, Jesus of Nazareth some 2000 years ago. Likewise, in Baptism, He has connected you to Him, your birth and suffering and death and eventual resurrection. The Words of St John aren't just some saying, just something to be believed, but they tell you of your story also. So now, you see, Christianity is more about relationship that it is about doctrine. You can find yourself in those very Words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” because Jesus connected His life with your life.
Put another way: God became like us (human), so that we might become like Him (divine). And that's the way it was meant to be in the first place: we humans were created in God's image. We lost that. / We must regain that. God has provided a way, He has provided the Way, Jesus, who came to earth to connect up with you, to relate to you, becoming your relation, your human brother.
And so: Christmas. Just another-old-day on which the Lord's Supper may be celebrated? No, this is Christmas, the Christ-mass, the divine service of Christ (as we call it in now). Not some cute baby in a manger, (What does that matter?) but God / in flesh / in your flesh / historically at Bethlehem, and Galilee and Calvary; / Sacramentally right here, right now. The Body of the incarnate Christ, your brother, given for you. The Blood of the incarnate Christ, your brother, shed for you.
Enough talking, enough listening. Our eyes and ears have been prepared. Now, O Lord, open thou our lips, / and our mouths will proclaim your death until you come again. Even we Lutherans will make a joyful noise to you, celebrate You on this holiest of Church Year days. We will rejoice in your marvelous works. You, God, / are human. And you come now to us in the most intimate of ways.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.