December 25, 2011: Christmas Day

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GLORIOUS LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, THE ETERNAL WORD OF GOD WHO LIGHTS THE UNIVERSE WITH HIS LOVE!

Text: John 1: 1-14

Dearly Beloved By the Baby Jesus:

Christmas Eve is always an anticipatory, exciting time, while Christmas Day is more quiet and reflective. The Gospel lessons for both illustrate that truth. Christmas Eve’s Luke 2 is full of boisterous angels, scurrying shepherds, and parents who must have been on an adrenaline rush. Whereas Christmas Day’s John 1 speaks of deep, profound, silence inducing mysteries concerning Christ’s eternal Godly nature. I haven’t counted, but I know I’ve preached on John 1 well over 20 times during my ministry. I just keep coming back to it. It has a magnetic draw. St. Augustine once said of St. John’s entire Gospel: “It’s shallow enough for any child to wade in and deep enough for an elephant to drown.” How true. And to continue his mental vein: “John 1 is something every Christian should soak in on Christmas, while pondering how easily it swallows up entire fleets!”

Today I want to zero in on the “light/darkness” theme of John 1. Specifically, I want to have it flesh out God’s answer to the greatest and most vexing problem and conundrum we humans face upon this earth: that is, the problem of evil.

I

I suppose it is “hate speech” to label someone of something “evil” in our modern world. So instead people employ the word: “bad”—it sounds softer. Nonetheless, we all know that evil exists. We know people can be downright evil—hurting anyone and anything in their path just for the “fun” of it. If we’re honest, we also know that we have an evil seed residing in our hearts. We’re loath to show it. We don’t like to acknowledge it. But it helps explain why seemingly decent people can turn into a seething mass of rage if the right trigger sets them off.

Our modern world has no time for the traditional Christian views of God and the universe. They continually delude themselves with new theories and postulate new rules to help explain away all those “quaint” mysteries in the Bible. And so we arrive at 2011, where most write off the reality of God as merely a psychological crutch for weak minds. However, there is one issue that they cannot explain and have no answer for. It is the reality of evil in this world. If people are basically “good” as they tell us, where does evil come from? Where is its source? And how do you conquer evil? I’ve heard such folks say: “If someone is evil and you get rid of them (putting them to death) for it, don’t you become them, become tainted by evil, too, in the process?” People constantly struggle with such issues. And so we’ve arrived at our modern world where we let evil pass by and seldom confront it unless it gets too outlandish. After all, it’s easier to act the ostrich than genuinely try to recreate and reform sin-tainted hearts. But ultimately, no matter the avoidance, the evilness of death touches and claims everyone…..

II

Christmas, the cross, and finally the empty tomb are God’s answer to our problem with evil. And God’s resolution to it all started out in that manger at Bethlehem. St. John describes it all from the cosmic vantage point: “In the beginning was the Word.” That beginning was the moment of creation when God first made time. The Word is Christ without human flesh. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit existed and everything that was, is, or will ever be was contained in that Triune God. “The Word was God.” “Through Him all things were made…in Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Creation was perfect, Christ made it so. And then somehow, someway, an angel used God’s gift of free will against its Creator, Satan came to be evil, and he then went about trying to corrupt every aspect of God’s goodness, especially us. The modern world scoffs at this account of evil’s origins. Of course, they never offer any solution of their own. Likewise, the modern world arrogantly says: “If that’s how it all happened, why didn’t your “God” just wipe it all away and start over! That’s what I would have done!” Yes, the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness just doesn’t get it…..

God’s answer to dealing with evil was poles apart from our own. Since “God is love” He used His love to destroy evil. He literally “loved it to death.” How? Well, that’s where the baby Jesus comes in. The entire Trinity agreed that the only way to redeem, or buy back, human sinners from eternal evil was to destroy evil’s ultimate power, death, with life! And the only way to do that without denying God’s holy will of perfect justice was to send Jesus into humanness. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And so, the Lord “laid upon Him the iniquity (the evil) of us all and by His wounds we have been healed.”

Christmas is the beginning of evil’s end. The finale took place, fittingly, in the darkness of Calvary and from there Light and Life arose from a tomb of seeming despair—bursting forth into never-ending Joy! All this and more John encapsulates within His pithy Gospel lesson.

My friends, Christmas is pure joy because it’s pure Christ. It’s God’s undeserved love, His grace, poured out before us, laying in a manger in complete humility in the one form that can never be scary—A Baby! You can either believe it or reject it. You can either take Christ into your heart via faith, or you can invent your own answers to life’s vexing problems. You can either stand with corruptible people, muddle along, and then die never to be heard from again. Or, you can stand with Christ, and live in the joy of knowing that you’re His family—forever! Yes, “to all who received him, to those who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God,… born of God.” God’s solution to the problem of evil was and still is a Baby’s love for us! Merry Christmas! Amen