What Happened at Christmas
The Nativity of Our Lord
December 25, 2017
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Matthew tells us that Mary and Joseph were engaged but she then became pregnant. Joseph was instructed by an angel that this was of God and when Mary gave birth she gave birth to the Savior, the one who would save His people from their sins. Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph went down to Bethlehem to be enrolled in the census that was going on and Mary gave birth to a son and she laid Him in a manger. The angel told the nearby shepherds that this one the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Matthew and Luke give us the details of what happened on that first Christmas, that Jesus was born. They tell us why, that He was born to be the Savior for sin.
John tells us that what happened at Christmas was that God became flesh—And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He doesn’t tell the story of Jesus’ birth, apparently hearing it from Matthew and Luke is enough. He doesn’t specifically state that Jesus was born. But He does say that God became flesh. The Word, who was with God and who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us.
The central events of Christ’s life are the most beloved. The Christmas story is beloved. The Easter story is beloved. John helps us see that the reason they are of profound importance. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Theologians call this is the Incarnation, a fancy word basically meaning, to be in the flesh. Jesus was incarnate. God took on flesh. He who created all became a human being, a man. He who rules the heavens dwelt among us.
What happened at Christmas is that God came to us. He left heaven and came to earth. The Christmas story isn’t just a wonderful, beloved story, it is the story. It is nothing else than the story of salvation. What John tells us happened at Christmas is that God set salvation in motion. And He did it by taking on flesh, needing to be raised by mom and dad.
The Christmas story isn’t great because it is such a good feeling to know that there’s love in the world after all. It is great because it is the story of how God came to be nailed to a cross and suffer in the flesh the condemnation belonging to sinners. Jesus took on our flesh so He could take on our sin. Jesus was born so He could die. Jesus became a man so that we could be with God forever. Jesus was incarnate so that our sinful flesh would be raised from our eventual grave and be restored to Garden of Eden perfection.
What happened at Christmas is that the eternal God, who has no beginning and no end, took on human flesh and so needed to eat, sleep, and daily take care of Himself. The eternal God did not discount us for rejecting Him by our sin. The eternal God made a way to redeem us, forgive us, restore us. When you rise on the Last Day it will be your body that will rise. You will live forever in heaven in a redeemed and renewed body. You will have a perfect body, soul, and spirit forever, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
Christmas is just a nice story if you don’t see what really happened at Christmas. It’s comforting to think of Jesus being wrapped up in swaddling cloths. Not so comforting to think that the reason He chose this path was because we are filled with sin and unbelief. Christmas means nothing apart from our acknowledging that we need Christmas because we need salvation. We need to be delivered from our sin and eternal condemnation. We in our flesh cannot reconcile ourselves to the holy, sinless God.
Jesus accomplished that by coming in our flesh. He reconciled God to us, God pouring His wrath upon sinners onto His Son. Jesus suffering the condemnation rightly belonging to us sinners. Christmas means that we have a Savior, a Savior who suffered and died on the cross for the sin of the world. It doesn’t mean He was a cute little baby. It means He took on our flesh so that we would not endure the wrath of God but as the Gospel reading today says, be children of God.
Remarkable. Jesus is God and yet became a child of Mary. All so we could be children of God. He became incarnate all so we could live in the flesh in eternal glory in heaven. Job made that great confession of faith, Even though I die yet in my flesh I will see God. This is because of Christmas. It is because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Even though your flesh continues to deteriorate, it battles illness, it suffers injury. Even though in your sinful flesh you crumble under temptation. You sin when you have gone through great efforts to not sin. Even though in your flesh you are not able to be who God demands of you, you have hope and true comfort. You have Christmas. The real Christmas, the one where God became flesh, took upon Himself your sin, gave you grace and truth. Amen.