Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
How good it is to sing praises to our God! *
how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; *
he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted *
and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars *
and calls them all by their names.
Great is our LORD and mighty in power; *
there is no limit to his wisdom.
The LORD lifts up the lowly, *
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; *
make music to our God upon the harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds *
and prepares rain for the earth;
He makes grass to grow upon the mountains *
and green plants to serve mankind.
He provides food for flocks and herds *
and for the young ravens when they cry.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;
But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him, *
in those who await his gracious favor.
Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem; *
praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; *
he has blessed your children within you.
He has established peace on your borders; *
he satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth, *
and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool; *
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He scatters his hail like bread crumbs; *
who can stand against his cold?
He sends forth his word and melts them; *
he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, *
his statutes and his judgments to Israel.
He has not done so to any other nation; *
to them he has not revealed his judgments.
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
“I believe in God like I believe in the sun,
not because I can see it,
but because of it all things are seen.”
One of my favorite CS Lewis quotes.
It captures the idea that God is not so much the product of our reason
as the founder and source of it.
Insofar as the world can be understood,
we understand it by the grace of God, and
Insofar as theology can be understood,
we understand it in light of the incarnation.
God became flesh and dwelt among us.
“the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came,
so that we might be justified by faith.
But now that faith has come,
we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.”
Many people will tell you that faith has to do with creeds,
that it is something to do with your brain,
something to assent to, or adhere to, or accept
But I do not believe this is so.
I tell you instead that faith is a relationship.
Faith means a personal connection and love of Christ Jesus
God become human.
If faith means some sort of creed, then
we simply replace one law with another,
one disciplinarian with another.
When Paul says we are justified by faith
he means we are justified by a personal relationship
not an abstract interaction with a law.
Righteousness, in these terms means being right with God
instead of the popular definition of being correct.
In this light, the opening of John’s gospel is particularly good news.
In the beginning was this person Jesus,
he was with God
and he was God
through him all things came into being
and his coming to be was the very essence
of light and life.
Not the abstract and distant God, but the immediate, incarnate, and visceral God
was the light of the world.
We understand, not in terms of a distant and transcendent arbiter
but in terms of a God who is also a man.
And the world comes into being
through this strange paradox,
through this fusion of divinity and humanity.
And yet it is the hardest thing to accept.
John says “the world knew him not”
for most of us refuse to accept that we partake of Godhead
in God’s condescension to humanity.
We refuse to accept that the things of value
are precisely the things we touch, and taste, and feel.
But that is the revelation of Christmas
That God became human
If the Lord is to be, seen, we see him among us,
for “No one has ever seen God.
It is God the only Son,
who is close to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.”
We have a personal relationship with God,
gathered in this place, at this table,
but also in every place, and at every time
for everything that was created
was made through God become flesh
And no thing was created that does not bear His imprint.
Celebrate the incarnation.
Celebrate a very particular person,
in whom the Father’s glory shines
and celebrate a whole creation
made possible in his birth.