Today, on Christmas, I wanted to reflect on a verse we talked on often in Greek class, John 1:14a, a text that is often used at Christmas. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (ESV).” Our professors called our attention to this verse very often. The second half of that verse featured a verb that is that is translated “dwelt”, which could also be translated as “made his tabernacle among us.” As the rest of this verse says, “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Exactly what the tabernacle
Advent and Christmas are about the incarnation: Christ leaving His high position at the side of the father to come to earth to take on our sins and die for them (verse 5, Dear Christians One and All Rejoice.) He set aside all that He had in heaven, and took upon our nature and lived as a poor man. It would be like Bill Gates living among homeless people, but even that analogy doesn’t do Christ’s sacrifice any justice.
Too often, I think that devil tempts us in subtle ways that we miss. We always think the big sins are murder and adultery, and these are great sins. But too often he tells us to rely on our own works: our dutiful service to our employers, our volunteer work at church, our time at the homeless shelter working with the people who have nothing. Certainly, these are all good works, which we should do with our whole hearts. But they all pale in comparison to Christ’s good work, which he came to this world to do for us. It is the only good work that has any merit before God.
So, as we go about this Christmas, let us remember why the angels are singing “Joy to the World”, and what the real “Wonder of His Love” is. It is the simple love of us, which Christ gave us through His death on the cross. As we go to the stable to see the Christ child, let us remember that Christ’s glory is that He did give himself, out of His own volition, for our salvation, a work that He does without any merit on our part. Let us come to him, not with our outward works, for all our works, no matter how righteous seeming, will all eventually fall short. Let us come to him with our failings, constant as they may be. Let us stand before Him, as the tax collector did in the temple and say, “Have mercy on me, oh Lord, for I am a sinner.”
When we look at baby Jesus, we should see him similarly to how we receive him in the Lord’s Supper: we see him without His glory, only in part. Even though He is still the one who saves, He is that in a state that is to our benefit, whether it is a baby in the manager, or as He is distributed to us in the bread and wine. That, along with baptism and the preaching of the Word, is how He makes his dwelling among us now. Let us rejoice!
So now, as we go about our shopping and other things this Christmas, let’s remember the reason we gather together with our families and give gift: Jesus Christ first humbled himself to be born in a manger and die, so we may live with him in heaven. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and may He keep us faithful until the day of his coming! Amen.