Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A great Warrior for a Cosmic Battle. . .

Sermon preached on Christmas Morning 2016 by the Rev. Larry A. Peters.

We have very different perspectives on the Incarnation of our Lord.  St. Matthew sets Christmas in the context of Joseph’s apprehension to take the pregnant Mary as his wife.  Luke gives us the full and familiar details of angels and shepherds, stable and manger, inn and Magi.  Mark skips over the birth entirely and begins with John the Forerunner preaching repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

But John’s Gospel sets Christmas in a much larger context.  Here is the great cosmic war – not between God and man but God and Satan, between darkness and Light.  Before the world was made, the eternal Word of God was, the Logos, the everlasting Son.  His voice spoke and everything was made.  He is the Word of life whose light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old.  The prophets addressed us with the promise through the ages.  Generations rose and fell - kept alive in hope by the prophetic voice.  Then, in the last days, God spoke not through prophets but through His Son.  God raised up a witness to bear witness that this was the day the prophets had foretold – the true Light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.  The days of promise were kept and the new thing long spoken of was now fulfilled.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory of the One and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.  He came to a broken world, a world of darkness and death, of sin and sadness, of worldliness and wickedness.  He came to a people whose hearts were so soiled by sin they did not know Him, they did not even know the depths of their sin and thought they could cover it up, make peace with death, and still dream of being gods and living in control of their destiny.

Though He was in the world, the world was blinded by sin.  His voice was a stranger to their ears.  Though His voice called all things into being, they did not know Him or welcome Him. 
His own people, set apart by the covenant, Law, and promise were blind to their God.  They had perpetuated a religion of self-justifying works over a faith that trusted in the mercy of God.  They did not know the prophets and the promise so they did not know Him whom the prophets proclaiimed.

So radical was this warrior Child whom God sent, that they could not ignore Him but rejected Him, His message, His kingdom, and His repentance. Well not all.  A remnant believed just as had always been. A people in misery because of the terrible guilt of their sin, whose shame refused to allow them to look into the face of God without fear, who were desperate for hope to answer the emptiness and despair within, who longed for a clear conscience and its peace, a righteousness big enough to cover them all, and who stood in fear of death, this remnant looked for the Savior whom the Father sent.

To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the sons of inheritance, the children of God born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh not the lust of the heart, nor the power of man, but of God.  You are this remnant now assembled and to you this day St. John has spoken of the great warrior who fought for you with His own blood and who has brought Light to shine in the darkness of your lives.

This Word made flesh bore on His innocent shoulders the weight of your sin.  He died as the innocent for the guilty to break the shackles of death.  He stood before Your enemy Satan – tempted like you are but without sin – to be your champion and to write a new story never before written – a story of redemption, of the pioneer who marks His way through death that we  might follow, and who leads His captive people to the freedom no one can steal from them anymore.

He is the finisher who began it all with the His voice in the emptiness of that first day and now He brings all things to their consummation and completion in the last day, the eternal day, when darkness is banished to hell and the people whom He delivered at the cost of His own blood will dwell in Light forevermore.  He will not relinquish the children of Light to the darkness, not now in this present life and not in eternity.

We are tempted to believe that it all began in Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is not where it began and it is not where it ends.  Site after Site from Eden to heaven is but a vantage point upon which we glimpse the saving purpose of God. Horan, Moriah, Sinai, Gerazim, Nebo, Shiloh, Jerusalem, Calvary, and Clarksville. These are but stops on the way to an eternal victory and an eternal dwelling place delivered to you by Him who fought for you with His own blood.

The Law through Moses, grace and truth through Jesus the Word made flesh.  He is the face of the unseen God, the revealer of all that is hidden. He is the army of one who fights for us and wins where we lost, restoring to us more than Satan took.  He is the sufferer who gives meaning to our own sufferings.  His death means that our death is not the end.  He is the Light to shine in every darkness of our discontent, disappointment, and despair.  He is the Life to rescue the lives of all who trust in Him.

There is a bigger story than Bethlehem but Bethlehem is part of it.  There is a bigger story than you, but you are a part of it.  The Lord has bared His holy arm before the face of all the nations and all the peoples and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.  Even you.

Matthew’s story is good enough.  Luke’s is sweet and tender.  Mark’s is too urgent to tarry at a manger.  But John has given us the big picture.  The Word became flesh in the cosmic clash of Light and darkness, sin and righteousness, death and life.  You have come to celebrate a birthday but God has given you so much more.  He has hastened with the beautiful feet of the messengers of good news to plant the victory standard in our world and in our lives and to remind us in our troubles, trials, and temptation, “Your God reigns!”  We thought we came to celebrate the birthday of our Lord.  We did not realize the birthday we celebrate today is our own.