Friday, December 25, 2020

The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord - Christmas Day


John 1:1-18; Titus 3:4-7; Exodus 40:17-21, 34-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Our God is a Father and a Creator. He brings forth and He creates out of Fatherly divine love and goodness. That’s who He is and that’s what He does. There is a natural and an essential relationship between God and His creation, a relationship like a father and a child, but greater, and a relationship that was broken and corrupted by that which God did not create, sin. Still, God is a Father and a Creator, and God is love, and still God desires to have a relationship with His creation. That’s who He is. The rest of the Holy Scripture are essentially the record of God’s work of recreation and restoration of His fallen creation and the reconciliation of its broken relationship with Him, a work that finds its fulfilment in the incarnation of the Son and Word of God Jesus Christ. And so there is Christmas:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Like the tabernacle before, the glorious presence of the LORD took up residence within a tent of flesh, human flesh, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Creator became a part of His Creation to recreate, redeem, and restore it. As St. Athanasius put it, “God became man so that man might become God.” That is what we remember, celebrate, and give thanks for this day.

God prepared His people for the Incarnation, for the enfleshment of His spiritual Word, in many ways, but principally through the tabernacle and, later, through the temple, where His shekinah glory was present, though veiled, in the midst of His people in the Holy of Holies. But, when the time was right, God’s glorious presence transferred to the womb of the Virgin Mary when the Holy Spirit of God came upon her and she conceived through the very Word the Archangel Gabriel spoke. Thus, our hymn today has it correct: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!

So it is that Christmas is what follows the Fall in Genesis chapter three. Man’s sin and rebellion, the uncleanness and corruption of his flesh, does not prompt the Creator to destroy His creation, but instead He is moved by His own mercy and love to restore His fallen creation. That’s who He is and that’s what He does. God restores His creation, not by leveling it to the ground and rebuilding it, not by wadding it all up into an unformed ball of clay to begin anew, but He, Himself, in His holiness and spiritual purity, stepped right into the muck and mire, the blood and the filth, the uncleanness, pain, suffering, and death of humanity to redeem it and to make it holy. That’s who He is and that’s what He does. Moreover, God is not corrupted by taking on human flesh, but rather, human flesh is made to be holy by its union with the incorruptible God. This truth we confess in the Athanasian Creed saying: Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ – one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God.

Further, the union of divinity and flesh was not just for a time that has now passed and the two are now separate, but Christ remains the God-Man for all eternity, seated now at the right hand of the Father that He might fill all things, but coming again soon in glory to raise our perishable bodies to be like His imperishable body. Thus, though our flesh is still corrupted, though we still sin and though we still die, we are not unclean, for our flesh has been sanctified in the flesh and blood of Christ. We have been given a second birth, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. In believing this you are God’s children.

The Incarnation of the Word of God, the Son of God made man, has changed everything. He was like a seed planted in dry ground, unlikely to flourish, but whose shoots have branched out in every direction far and wide bringing the earth into fruitfulness. The Incarnation means that God has assumed all of human existence into Himself in the very condition of its rebellion and opposition to Him. God loves sinful man in his sinfulness! That’s who He is and that’s what He does.  Thus, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Reflect then, dearly beloved, and in the light of the Holy Spirit carefully turn your mind to perceive, Who it is that has received us into Himself, and Whom have we received within us; for since the Lord Jesus Christ by being born has become our flesh, we also, by being reborn, have become His Body.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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