Trying to grasp Jesus
- Order of Service: Divine Service II, CW:Supplement, p28
- Lessons: Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-9, John 1:1-14
- Hymns: 62, 63, 39, 61
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh!
“Keep the merry! Dump the myth!” So cries out a billboard in Times Square, where millions walk and shop and soon will watch the ball drop ushering in 2013. Above the words “Keep the merry,” Santa Claus. Above the words “Dump the myth,” the crucified Christ. You can thank the group American Atheists for this wit.
“I think that the stories are made up.” So blogs the Rev. Dr. Don Carlson, assistant to the bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Reverend Doctor says that in a blog post discussing the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. He then unites himself to the atheists by saying: “They are myth.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of the horror in Newtown, Connecticut, a news-anchor on CNN interviewed a Jewish rabbi to get the real story behind the shootings, from God’s perspective. That is, “Why did God let this happen?” She began by ridiculing someone who suggested that part of our problem could be that we’ve removed God from so much of our lives voluntarily that He has graciously consented to stay where we’ve put him. This irritated the CNN anchor, leading her to say, “God is a gentleman and thus will not save 20 children until we invite him back into the public school system? How can people get away with this kind of thing?” The Rabbi she interviewed took the “Why did God do this?” question in another direction by saying, “We need a new approach to religion.” We “have a right to challenge God.” We shouldn’t just “always surrender in silent submission to God’s will.”
And thus we’ve proved John right: The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (John 1:5, NIV84). The Light of the world baffles the darkness. It baffles the atheists. It baffles the liberal theologian. It baffles the outside observer of events. It baffles our own sinful natures. We struggle to get a hold of it, to grasp it, to understand it. We struggle to understand Him, Jesus, Christ, the Word – the Word made flesh. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see? Hail the incarnate Deity? God gestating? God developing? God going through the birth canal? God crucified? God bleeding? God buried? Word, water, bread, wine, we find God in those things?
And so, in a way, it’s good that things like this happen each Christmas. It’s good to be confronted by the atheist’s anger and myth-mongering, just as Jesus dealt with the rage of Jewish leaders who cried out “Myth!” and wanted to stone Him when He said, I and the Father are one and Before Abraham was born, I am (John 10:30 and 8:58, NIV84). It’s good to deal with the majority of our world who refuse to take the Bible at face-value and twist it for their own purposes, just as Jesus dealt with those who turned a sin-forgiving Savior sent from God into a political dynamo who would reestablish their nation. It’s even good, in the Romans 8:28 way of God getting good from evil, when tragedies like those at Newtown cause us to think about God and His ways, just as Mary and Joseph returned from Egypt to discover how many of their friends babies Herod had murdered in his rage to destroy the one born the King of the Jews.
It’s good, because it forces us to talk about our God. It forces us to do so in a world that likes to say, “Let me tell you about the God I believe in,” or “My God would never do this or that.” And what better day than Christmas to do that? Because today we heard about our God. Today we saw our God as He really is. Today our God revealed Himself to us. Today the LORD laid bare His holy arm. Today God speaks to us by His Son. Today God says, “I sent Light and Life into the world.” And it’s in those marvelous words: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14, NIV84).
The Word? The Word. The Word Who was in the beginning. The Word Who was with God. The Word Who is God. The Word through Whom all things were made. The Word without Whom nothing was made that has been made. Apart from that Word, without that Word, independent of that Word, you have nothing. Make him a myth, and we’re living in the world of Buddhism, where all of this is some sort of non-reality and we should just come to grips with that.
But He is no myth. He is the Word. A Word is a real thing. A Word is to be read, written, seen, discussed. A Word speaks. The Word speaks. “I am the resurrection and the life,” this Word says. “I am the light of the world,” this Word says. “Walk with me and you’ll never die. Walk with me, and you’ll always see because I scatter the darkness.” This is so because the Word doesn’t just appear to be God, nor does He just appear to be human. The Word isn’t like God or like a man. He doesn’t just express some or all of the qualities of God or man as if wearing a mask. He is all those things. Necessarily so. For we need this to grasp and to hold onto God. As Hebrews 2 says, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18, NIV84).
If the atheists, the liberal theologians, CNN, and the rabbi are right, then that’s all a myth. God is an ogre. Christmas stinks. Go home. Blow your brains out. Or just try to get as many toys before you die as you can. But they’re dead wrong, because the darkness has not understood it. The Word became flesh. The time came for the baby to be born. He is Christ the Lord – your light, your life, your brother, your God who sustains you and everything by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3, NIV84). Amen.