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Meditating on the Mystery

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Text: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... 14 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." (, )
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “ ()
14 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. " ()
I don’t remember where I came across it, but one observation about us Lutherans that has stuck with me is the observation that Lutheranism is strongly tied to the universities. Martin Luther, for example, was a professor at the University of Wittenberg. One of the most interesting by-products of the Reformation was a tremendous surge in the importance of schools. To this day, we see that effect. There are a number of larger denominations out there but our Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod is at the top in terms of the number of schools, from preschools through our Concordia University system scattered around the country. We are exercising a remarkable influence on Lutheran Church bodies around the world on account of the strength of our seminaries.
I don’t remember where I came across it, but one observation about us Lutherans that has stuck with me is the observation that Lutheranism is strongly tied to the universities. Martin Luther, for example, was a professor at the University of Wittenberg. One of the most interesting by-products of the Reformation was a tremendous surge in the importance of schools. To this day, we see that effect. There are a number of larger denominations out there but our Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod is at the top in terms of the number of schools, from preschools through our Concordia University system scattered around the country. We are exercising a remarkable influence on Lutheran Church bodies around the world on account of the strength of our seminaries.
We Lutherans like our
And we like our doctrine. That is literally what defines us, what distinguishes us from other church bodies. What makes us Lutheran is our subscription to the doctrine contained in the Book of Concord— not because it is a new revelation from God, but because it is a correct exposition of God’s Word. If a point of scripture is important on any level, we’ve written about it extensively, we’ve clearly defined what it is and what it is not, and we’ve probably got a Latin term for it.
I do have a point. This day reminds us that there is a time to simply sit and marvel. To meditate upon the awesome mystery. And to respond with our highest thanks and praise for this incomprehensible Truth.
So let’s do that for a moment this morning. Let’s step back from all the traditions, the obligations, the expectations and meditate upon the awesome mystery. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... 14 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."
Long before he lay in the manger, the Son stood beside the Father as Wisdom, dancing and laughing with delight as the cosmos was made (). He was the means whereby the Father brought all creation, including humanity, into being. He is the Word, the Logos, who has now become flesh.
And it is not doctrine for doctrine’s sake. We are a confessing church, working very hard to say back to God what He has told us about Himself. We strive to act according to what that doctrine— to what God’s Word— tells us.
He has not, however, just put on human nature like a shirt and pair of pants, easily stripped off to be a naked God again. No, from the moment of his conception onward, into the everlasting future, God is also human. He made the choice to join our family. Forever. To share our DNA. To become not a superman, but a human, just as we are.
...God is thus no longer so hard for us to grasp. He has hair. He has fingers. He has eyes in which God sees us and in which we see God.
I don’t mean the passage from John chapter 1 that you heard a few moments ago. John’s gospel, itself, doesn’t include a description of Jesus’ birth. But John does describe it in one of the other books of the Bible that he wrote, the book of Revelation. In we read, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” ().
(Bird, Chad. “Celebrate Your Birthday at Christmas,” www.1517.org, 12/19/2019.)
As of today, God has a belly button.
We marvel at the Godhead, the mystery of the Trinity— 3 persons, yet one God— and it is simply beyond our comprehension. And yet, “9 [in the little baby lying in the manger] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily...” ().
A Muslim man has recently made several posts on Twitter mocking Christianity. The most recent one to make the rounds mocked the idea that God would become a helpless child and entrust Himself to the care of His creatures, that He would be completely dependent upon them and need to be fed and to have His diaper changed. Allah, he insists, would never do such a thing. Well Allah wouldn’t, but God would— and did.
This is a mystery that is worth meditating upon every day of the year. And, by the way, right doctrine only deepens the wonderful mystery. For example, He did not just seem to become human, He really and truly is human so that Mary is rightly called “the Mother of God.”
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days
The incarnation, itself, is worth meditating upon 24/7. But perhaps the greater marvel is what it means for you. Think about what God has done for you today.
We (rightly) sing about the angels gathering at the manger to behold this great and wonderful mystery. It’s not just what’s in the manger that they marvel at. They marvel at you, at what God has done for you. The eternal Son of God did not become an angel, He became human.
“6 ...What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.” ()
The eternal Son of God is not ashamed to call you His brother. “14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” ()
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
But it’s not just that He’s honored you with His presence, like a celebrity gracing your holiday party.
God is thus no longer so hard for us to grasp. He has hair. He has fingers. He has eyes in which God sees us and in which we see God. He has tiny hands that will stretch up to his mother’s breast, merciful hands that touch leprous skin, sacrificial hands that bleed from nails, and loving hands that baptize us and feed us week after week at the altar. When he touches us, we touch God.
The mystery is not simply that God would entrust Himself to His creatures, needing to be fed and cleaned, but that He would hand Himself over to them to be mocked, beaten, nailed to a cross— all for their benefit, to pay for their sins.
The birthday of this man, who is also God, is humanity’s fresh start. A new kind of genesis. If Adam is the father of the human race, then Jesus is the father of a new human race. This new race is just as human as before, but at the same time—if you’ll permit it—even more human.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
“More human” in this sense: in Jesus, we are more like God wants us to be than we were before. We gain more in Christ than we lost in Adam. We are no longer just in the image of God—mirroring him—but in Christ we become incorporated into the man who is himself God.
...“in him the whole fullness [πλήρωμα] of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled [πεπληρωμένοι] in him” (). The two Greek words, one a noun and one a verb, are from the same root. The ESV has captured it well with “fullness” and “have been filled.” We might paraphrase it like this: Jesus, who is God full-bodied, fulfills our humanity by joining us to God in himself. As J. B. Lightfoot puts it, “His πλήρωμα [fullness] is transfused into you by virtue of your incorporation into Him.”
This incorporation is so profound that Paul calls us, the church, the body of Jesus. We’re not “like” the body of Jesus in a “let’s pretend” sort of way. Our intimate communion with Jesus is just as intimate—we might say more intimate—than a head’s communion with its body.
This incorporation is so profound that Paul calls us, the church, the body of Jesus. We’re not “like” the body of Jesus in a “let’s pretend” sort of way. Our intimate communion with Jesus is just as intimate—we might say more intimate—than a head’s communion with its body.
(Bird)
The psalmist was talking about Jesus, but, in Jesus, it’s true for you, as well, “6 ...What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” ()
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
The images: “ In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.” ()
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Meditate upon the awesome mystery. Marvel at what happened on this day. And may that joyous mystery fill you with the highest thanks and praise for this incomprehensible Truth.
The honor:
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