He Has Made Him Known
December 25, 2019 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler
John 1:18 ~ He Has Made Him Known
Christ Mass Day – Christ Lutheran Church, Cleveland, OH
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made him known. John 1:18
In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Dear beloved of the Lord:
This bright morning, “The Ancient of Days has become an infant” [Chrysostom]. The Holy One comes down from His royal throne to lie helpless in a feeding trough. He who could not be touched has come among us, to be touched. Not as a baby is touched, but to be touched with the whip on His back, thorns on His brow, nails through His hands and feet. In death, He will be touched again by the loving hands of His mother, but not before a spear is thrust into His side.
He who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3) is brought low that He might raise us who have been brought low by our iniquity and the grief of our mortality. Because He lowered Himself we can say: “the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back … and men now [converse] with angels” [Chrysostom].
Sinner, rejoice! The only-begotten Son of God steps forth from His pure and kingly hall to destroy the works of the devil. What works of the devil still need to be destroyed in you? What works of the devil do you need to confess this day? Run and confess them! Kneel-down, throw your body to the ground, see your face besmirched by the soil in your prostration before the newborn King. Then, when confessing, know that He who this bright morning is born, is born precisely to give you new birth of the “Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified forever” [Nicene Creed].
This is why He comes—to restore you, His fallen children. For us, the Uncreated One becomes a creature. For us contained in the prison-house of sin and death, He who cannot be contained is contained in the body of an infant. “He who gives riches becomes poor, for He assumes the poverty of [your] flesh, that [you] may assume the richness of His Godhead. He empties Himself of His glory … that [you] may have a share in His fullness” [Gregory Nazianzus].
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” [Jn. 1:1]. The Word, Christ Jesus our Lord, being God, equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, sets aside the glory of the Father and robes Himself in our humanity, wrapping Himself in our poor flesh and bone. The One who is “equal to the Father as touching His Godhead becomes inferior to the Father as touching His human nature” [Athanasian Creed].
Why? What could cause such a wonderful action—the greatest event in the history of the universe? Love causes His incarnation; love brings Him down to you—for us men and for our salvation [O, Lord, How Shall I Meet You, LSB 334:4]. Greater than a love a family shares, greater than an enthusiasm for a sport team, more profound than any earthly affection is His love for us. His love set aside not only power and majesty, but life itself, to give life to us, His beloved. And such a love it is that He comes to those who spurned Him, rejected Him, turned aside from His gifts. To such an astounding love, we can only say with the Psalmist, “What is man that You are mindful of Him, and the son of man that You care for him?” [Psalm 8:4].
He came among His own, but we did not recognize Him. He had no beauty that we should adore him, no comeliness that we should esteem Him. The Light shines in the darkness, but we do not understand Him. He is despised and rejected of men; His own do not receive Him. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. We hid our face from Him. [Isa. 53:2-3]
Yet still He comes — showing compassion to those who spit on Him, mercy to those who turn away from Him and love to those who do not listen to the Words of the Word made flesh.
He comes — for He sees that we were made in His image and
formed in His likeness. He comes because He sees what we are … children of wrath … alienated from God … without love … without life … languishing in obscurity and darkness … gripped with fear … helpless in the face of our addictions … overcome by sin … held captive by the devil … desiring what is wicked while despising what is good. Still He comes with His perfect grace and mercy because He sees what we can be … redeemed … restored … returned to communion with our Creator … resurrected and brought into the Most Holy Trinity’s life and love.
It will not be without cost. It will cost this Child His life, since He will endure the rejection of the world, the temptation of the devil, even the abandonment of those who feigned friendship and loyalty. And being forsaken by His own eternal Father, He bears the full brunt of the wrath which you and I rightly deserve. [Matthew 27:46]
All this is in view when the Word is made flesh. All that was, is and ever shall be is on the table when God the Son assumes our human nature. That human nature, our human nature, which Christ assumes is now “the point of connection between us and God Himself” [Chemnitz]. That connection is why we gather here this morning for the Christ Mass. You can read and hear the story at home. But it is more than a story, more than words, especially here at His Cradle-Altar. It’s liturgy, that is, God Almighty in Words which mean actions bringing His will to bear for you, sons and daughters of the King.
In the Holy Eucharist, He restores our nature, and connects us to Himself most intimately, by distributing the Body and Blood that He assumed in Mary’s womb now to us in the Supper. Blessed Martin Chemnitz said, “By this connection with His humanity, which has been assumed from us and communicated back to us [in the Supper], He might draw us into communion and union with the deity itself.”
“In Him was life,”— in His very flesh — and we receive that life when we receive His flesh. This food gives life, this is a life-giving drink, not by virtue of the metal of the paten or chalice, or the power of the priest, but by the Word of the Word made flesh who gives His flesh for the life of the world and gives the same to us Christians to eat and to drink, that we might live and not die, but be brought into a wonderful, mysterious union with God Himself, who made the world, and us, and would restore us to the gifts He planned for us from the foundation of the world.
A second miracle of Christ Mass then is just as important as the first. First, He is incarnate—God becomes man and is born of the Blessed Virgin. But the second is that He is born in us, as we receive new birth in Him, in Holy Baptism, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” [Ti. 3:5] where He gives us “power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn. 1:12-13)
His dwelling among men did not cease with His Ascension — for He dwells in us, in the Eucharist. On this Christ Mass, and at every Mass, we receive not just Words, but the Word made flesh, implanted in us, that we might increase and grow, reflecting the light of the true Light, reflecting the love of incarnate love.
All of this is why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Son of God becomes the Son of man “so that we children of men might become children of God.” [Augustine] He works a happy exchange, taking our infirmities on Himself, while bestowing His goodness on us.
This then, is not just for shepherds in a field long ago, not just for kings from the east searching for the newborn King. This gospel is for all creation. Because in the new birth which the newborn King brings, “our iniquity becomes innocence, old age becomes newness of life, we strangers are adopted as sons, and receive an inheritance. This bright morning, the wicked man becomes righteous, the promiscuous have their chastity restored, the greedy person is made generous, the gossiper becomes complimentary” [adapted from Leo the Great]. For the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. Now every morning is a bright morning because of the One whose love brought Him down to this dark world to take on our poor flesh and bone and bring it back to God. “The only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made him known — FOR US! [ John 1:18]
In the Name of the Father and of the Son (X) and of the Holy Spirit
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
S. D. G.