Topic: Biblical Verse: Hebrews 1:1–1:12
The Nativity of Our Lord
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Hebrews 1:1-12 (John 1:1-14)
There’s a verse in Psalm 119(:87) that reads, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” But is that really the case?
It’s Christmas Day. Whether you’ve traveled some distance to reunite with your family and friends or you’re hosting relatives or other guests over at your home, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect. You can share stories, hearing about what you’ve all been up to since the last time you were able to get together. Christmas, like Thanksgiving, gives people the chance to just hang out. But after you’ve all been together for a few days enjoying each other’s company, all cooped up in the house (or even just close proximity), you’re probably thinking that you’d do well to have some time without all the company. Well, hey: I’ve got some good news for you! The movies are ready and waiting.
Even if you don’t want to go out to the multiplex, you shouldn’t have a problem catching a movie. You could go out and rent a film at a store or kiosk. You could stream something directly to your TV or tablet. Or you could take a look at the library of videos that you or your relatives have on the shelf back at the house. Even if you’ve seen them a number of times, some movies just need re-watching. You might make some movies a part of your Christmas traditions, since they’re set around the holiday – A Christmas Story, White Christmas, or even Die Hard. There are other movies, though, that you’d watch over and over just because you enjoy them. I know some kids that can’t get enough of Disney/Pixar’s Cars, for example, but you’ve probably got a favorite that draws you in with its action / romance / humor / characters / visuals. For me, though, there are some movies that require multiple viewings, films like The Sixth Sense, Shutter Island, or Inception, where you realize at its close that what you think you’ve been watching was merely a limited perspective on a much wider story. You need to go back and watch it again and again to get a better grasp on the story that’s really being told.
It’s Christmas Day. Whether you’ve traveled some distance to reunite with your family and friends or you’re hosting relatives or other guests over at your home, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect. You can share stories, hearing about what you’ve all been up to since the last time you were able to get together. If you’re hearing this message, you’re quite likely familiar with another story, the one that brings us together this morning. Unlike many of the movies that you might watch time and again, the story told today is real. Even so, like many great stories, the account of a baby born and laying in a manger – even a baby born to a virgin mother and sung by angels and shepherds alike – is but a limited perspective on a much wider story.
Whether you’ve heard it dozens of times before or it’s your very first time, you might wonder why the story of Jesus’ birth would mean anything to you. It’s beyond far-fetched; it’s outright nonsensical. In it, we are told that the Person of God the Son became a human being conceived by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, only to be born in an obscure little town outside of Jerusalem to a family of no exceptional regard beyond their ancient ancestors. He entered into the world, living with us, and then went to die on a cross to take care of the problem of sin that has plagued humanity since Adam and Eve. How does that make sense? Why would God do all of that, rather than just dealing with all of our world’s problems by speaking a word? And yet, each year Christians come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, retelling this story as a reminder of God’s love and mercy. What’s really going on in the story that we have heard?
It’s Christmas Day. Whether you’ve traveled some distance to reunite with your family and friends or you’re hosting relatives or other guests over at your home, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect. You can share stories, hearing about what you’ve all been up to since the last time you were able to get together. With some variation, that might be the story of your Christmas year after year. What if you were able to look at the whole of your life, past, present, and future, from the outside, all at once? In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – a story that’s been told dozens of times – Ebenezer Scrooge was able to get a glimpse of that thanks to the Christmas spirits. And in so doing, his was able to change his life-to-be, along with the changing the lives of the people around him. With that in mind, think about how God sees time and the stories that it tells.
Unlike you and me, God doesn’t need to be bound by past, present, and future: God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – created time. Because He created time, He stands outside of it. While we are right in the middle of time, caught up in its current, God knows each of our stories all the way through: all our choices, all our hopes, all our failures, all our sins. God sees and hears all the pain and brokenness and evil of this world that has turned away from its Creator. He knows that without His intervention, you and I and all people would be lost forever to the corruption and hate that lives in us.
Forever. That’s not just “a really long time” when it comes to God; it’s eternity. It’s the whole scope of time. So when we hear throughout the Scriptures that God comes in to time, to be with His creation, that’s significant. God the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was there at the dawning of time, the Word that created everything out of nothingness, laying the very foundations of the earth. As the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes to us today, the Son’s throne and rule are not limited by time. The Son is coeternal with the Father and the Spirit. Forever is his kingdom, his reign. When the psalmist says “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens,” we’re reminded that the Word of God has left His fingerprint on the universe and woven his blueprint into creation. But in John’s Gospel account, when we hear that God the Son, the Word, becomes a human being – fully God and fully man – that’s beyond imagining. Because the God who created time itself knows our whole story, He enters into time to repair it and make us whole. The Word didn’t just stay aloof, distant from His work. The Person of the Son who was, who is, and who is to come, takes on humanity. Out of His love, God spoke the Word that to contend with the world’s problems, entered into it to be like you. And He still is. Jesus didn’t leave his humanity behind when he ascended 40 days after Easter. When he returns, he will come back fully God and fully man, not as a baby but as the King of creation, bringing the full power of the healing of creation and fulfillment of the hope that we celebrate today.
It’s Christmas Day. Whether you’ve traveled some distance to reunite with your family and friends or you’re hosting relatives or other guests over at your home, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect. And when you do, listen to the Christmas story. Hear anew the message that God Himself has stepped down from eternity and come to save you and all people. Listen to the way that God has gone about buying you back from sin, death, and the power of the devil, as we profess in the second article of the Apostles’ Creed – not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious – and human – blood and with His innocent suffering and death.
When you hear the Christmas story, remember that it’s about God’s love for you. All this He has done that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom which knows no end. Remember that God knows the pain, brokenness, and evil in your life and in our world, and He still comes into it to be with you. Remember that you are connected to the Christmas story by Jesus’ body and blood, which we receive at his table today.
Life isn’t usually like the movies. You don’t have the spirits of Christmas coming to show you our past, present, and future. Even better, though, you have the Holy Spirit, come to show you that the story that you’ve heard time and again is only part of a much wider story. The story that’s really being told is my story and your story. It’s about our past, our present, and our future. And Jesus, the Word of God come down for us, is there for all of it.
It’s Christmas Day. God is here for you, forever.