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First Sunday after the Epiphany—The Baptism of Our Lord

““I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,” (Isaiah 42:6 NIV11-GKE)
““I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,” (Isaiah 42:6 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus Will Not Be Broken or Breathed-out

Alittle knowledge is dangerous. If I know how to change a tire on my car that doesn’t mean I know as much about my car as my mechanic. Just because I can put a band-aid on my wound that does not mean I know as much as my doctor. Here, in these words, we bump into a very familiar part of God’s word. Isaiah tells us: 1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

The bruised reed, he will not break off. The smoldering and flickering wick, he will not breathe out. This is a stunningly beautiful picture of Jesus compassion toward us. But here is where a little knowledge is dangerous. There is more going on in these words. For Isaiah tells us: “he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.” (Isaiah 42:4 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus will not break the bruised reed. He will not breathe-out the smoldering wick. But notice what the Lord says here: Jesus will not be broken and he will not be breathed-out. In the previous picture we are the ones in danger of being broken and breathed-out. But in this picture, Jesus is the one who is in danger of being broken off and breathed-out. And who, exactly, is the one who is working so hard to break Jesus and breathe-out his life? Satan is the one. And so, on this day, on the baptism of our Lord, we see God the Father place his Holy Spirit on Jesus to strengthen him. And the result of this is that Jesus will not be broken and he will not be breathed-out.

What follows from this then is the effects of Jesus being so faithful that he is neither broken nor breathed-out. First, His teaching is our hope. In the last part of verse 4, the Lord tells us: “In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”” (Isaiah 42:4 NIV11-GKE)

There are a number of questions to answer as we approach these words. First, who is Isaiah speaking about? All throughout his book he uses words like, nations, peoples, and Islands. And they are all speaking about the people who are far away from Israel—not just in geography, but also in belief. The people who live out there in the islands are also the ones who live in darkness and unbelief. To put it differently, the who is us.

The next question is why. Why was it so important that Jesus never be broken and never be breathed-out? It was important so that what Jesus teaches, both then and now, would be true.

And one last question in this verse: what? What does this mean? God’s word is true, so we put our hope in it. Notice the progression of thought in these words: Because God’s word is true, we trust it. It’s important for us to focus in on this because, as one of my old professors used to say, every false teaching is a confusion of cause and effect. The first false teaching we can be seduced by is the lie that if it makes sense, then it must be true. A farmer, for example, tells you to stay out of his land. And you wonder if he really means it. So what do you do? You carry out an experiment. You climb over the fence to see what will happen. And as you do so, you cry out in pain as the electric fence shocks you. As you lie there on the ground, in pain, you make the logical deduction that what the farmer said is true. And from there you make another experiment. God tells you not to lie. So you carry out another experiment. You tell a lie and wait and see what happens. God didn’t strike you with lightning. So you conclude that, even though God said not to lie, he really didn’t mean it. And he’s OK with you lying.

Logic does not create truth. But just as surely, neither does emotion. I might eat through an entire bag of peppermint oreos. And those cookies might make my tastebuds and stomach feel good. But my emotions cannot create the truth. That’s the second confusion of cause and effect that I can be trapped by.

But what Jesus teaches us in his word—that is the truth. The truth is that we like to make both our minds and our hearts our own gods. The truth is that our consciences preach to us that this is evil. The truth is that Jesus took away those sins of confusing cause and effect by not being broken and by not being breathed out. Jesus never put human understanding above divine truth. Jesus never put his heart above his Father’s mission. The result of this is that, as baptized children, when God looks at us, he sees the fact that Jesus was never broken and never breathed-out in our place.

That is the truth. But my dear friends in Christ, there is a place for logic and emotions. Neither logic nor emotions cause or create truth. But the truth does create proper logical conclusions and pure emotions. Since every breath of God’s word is true we can use it to form proper and true conclusions about reality and the life around us. And since God’s word is true we yearn for it and cling to it.

Jesus will never be broken or breathed out. And as a result, his teaching is our hope. But there is another effect we find in these words: 5 This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:5–7 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus will not be broken and will not be breathed-out. So his teaching is our hope. But his covenant is our light. A covenant is an official, binding promise. Here the Lord tells us that Jesus, himself is the promise. But what exactly is he a promise of? He is the promise of two truths. First, he is the promise that we gentiles who are so blind would see. This is the promise of conversion. God will take away our spiritual blindness and darkness and replace it with light. Through the gift of faith we know who God is and trust in him. Second, he will release us captives from prison. Each of was a slave to our sins. We did what our sinful heart wanted. And it would have dragged us down to hell. But Jesus saved us. He paid for our sins on the cross. He washed them away in the waters of our baptisms.

Jesus was never broken and never breathed-out. So his teaching is our hope. And his covenant is our light. And what do you do with a light shining in the darkness? Because it is real and because it is true we follow it and cling to it. Yes, our logic will fail us. And our emotions will too. But the light of his promise to us and his covenant with us will not fail.

A little knowledge is dangerous. But the truth is not. Jesus was never broken and never breathed-out. Jesus is ever-faithful and ever-forgiving for you. Amen.

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The Epiphany of Our Lord

“<11> On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. <12> And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:11–12 NIV11-GKE)
“<11> On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. <12> And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:11–12 NIV11-GKE)

Lift Up Your Eyes

People live down to expectations. If a person gets addicted to drugs and ends up selling all his possessions and stealing others and ends up with nothing, who can he blame but himself. Whom can the person who is caught, tried and convicted blame when he goes to prison? That is the sort of picture we need to hold in our minds as we read these words in Isaiah. In the first half of Isaiah he was writing to a people that needed to repent or else they would be destroyed. But here in these words—in the second half of the book he is speaking to the children of the unrepentant. He is speaking to a broken people carried away to Babylon. They need no reminder of their sin because they live with is everyday. But listen to what Isaiah says to his broken church. For he does not invite them to live down to their own expectations. Instead, he invites them to lift their eyes to see what they are in Christ: 1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” (Isaiah 60:1–2 NIV)

These words are poetry. They are addressed to the church of Isaiah’s day—to daughter Zion. Here he invites the church who got the destruction and devastation she deserved to stand up and look up. He tells her to lift up your eyes to see the Glory of the \textsc{Lord.} Whenever you bump into that phrase, “the Glory of the Lord,” it is good to stop and ponder what those words mean. The Glory of the Lord is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of smoke and fire by night that led the Hebrews out of Egypt. It is the cloud that filled the temple when the temple was first dedicated. It was the real and true promise of God’s presence among his people.

But this presence was both law and gospel. It both severely punished sin and promised a Savior from sin. One of the challenges I have with Christmas Eve is that I don’t get to preach about the topics I would sometimes like to preach about. When the angels appear to the shepherds I always end up preaching about the good news of the birth of a Savior. But there are other words before this, aren’t there? Before this happens the shepherds are terrified. Sure, they are terrified because they see the powerful angels. But that’s only a small part of the picture. They were afraid for a bigger, larger reason. They were terrified because the Glory of the Lord surrounded them. For they remembered the people who died in their inpenitence when the Glory of the Lord appeared.

They were afraid—and had every right to be afraid. For they were sinners who deserved God’s wrath and punishment. But the angels said, “do not be afraid” for a real reason. And we find the same picture here in Isaiah. Notice the pronoun Isaiah uses. More than a half a dozen times in these words Isaiah uses the word, “you.” The Glory of the Lord appears over you, O daughter Zion. Lift your eyes to see it. For the Lord covers you with his glory not to destroy you, but to forgive you.

These words apply to every person of every age. The church of Isaiah’s day had no right to look forward to the Glory of the Lord resting on them. And they had every reason to fear it. For the spiritual darkness and sin that the Gentiles had, they too had. But the Lord invites them to lift up their eyes and look at this Glory. For in it their sins are forgiven. The Glory of the Lord was not found in a cloud of smoke. That Glory only pictured and pointed ahead to the real glory. The real Glory of God is found in Jesus. He is the one who pierced the darkness of this world with light. He is the one who revealed his glory in his own crucifixion and resurrection. And Jesus invites us to lift up our heads and see the forgiveness he won for us. Satan has two valuable tools. First, he tempts us to think that if we choose and commit a specific sin, then it’s not really that big or bad of a sin. Second, when we commit that sin, we tempts us to conclude that there is no forgiveness for that sin. That is the place that daughter Zion is in in these words. The church here sees the consequence of her sins and finds it so hard to believe that there is forgiveness for her. We too face that same temptation. And that’s why these words are so precious to us. For the Lord lifts our eyes to see the Glory of the Lord—that in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection our sins are forgiven too.

The Lord invites us to lift up our eyes, first to see the Glory of the \textsc{Lord}. But there’s another reason. We also lift up our eyes to see our gifts of praise. It would be enough for daughter Zion to be forgiven. But the Lord wants his church to know that she is forgiven so much that he gives her rich and amazing gifts: 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. 5 Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. 6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60:3–6 NIV)

Lift up your eyes. See not just the Glory of the Lord. Also see the gifts of praise he has given to you. Notice that here too there is a picture. This broken, shattered, desperate and despairing daughter of Zion has every reason to have everyone stay away from her. But, instead, God piles in and pours in Gentiles from afar. And they bring their best to her to praise their Lord. We see this fulfilled in these Gentile wise men who brought costly gifts and with them praised their Lord.

But, my dear friends in Christ, it is not just to the Zion of Isaiah’s day that God gives gift. It is to you, the church of today that God gives gifts. Not only does he love you enough to forgive your sins. He loves you enough to give you gifts. And with these gifts you praise your Lord. Yes, you do this with your lips and with words. But you also do this with your hands and actions.

In England, right now, there is a huge debate going on. For, throughout England there are so many church buildings. The problem is that, in churches that seat a thousand, only a dozen attend. And what they hear from the pulpit is not the gospel. And it is the state that funds these churches, not the church. So what they are planning and proposing is to turn these churches into museums and coffee shops to actually get some use out of the money they are pouring into these buildings. What’s the problem? The problem is that it’s not just the words that preach and proclaim praises to the Triune God. It’s the gifts and abilities that God gives to his church that proclaim those praises too. You can make sure that the Triune God is not preached from the pulpit, but you can’t take it out of the symbols in the stones of that church. For they too preach the Triune God.

Our God is so gracious that not only does he forgive our sins, he also gives us precious gifts and abilities to praise him with. But, as with everything else, Satan can use these gifts against us. Picture a Dad who is so pleased when his son studies to be a pastor but then is so ashamed when he drops out of the Seminary. What a waste. Think of the woman who had a job. She had a profession. But she meets a guy. They get married. And then she has a child. She used to use her mind and people noticed. Now she changes diapers and nobody notices. Think of the man who wanted to be a pastor all his life. But instead, as much as his heart wants to preach, all his hands can do is dig holes to put fence posts in. What a waste.

But that is the trap the Devil wants us to fall into. For our Lord is perfectly content to take amazing and precious gifts and, at least in the eyes of the sinful world, squander them on his unappreciative church. God is content to have the rare and precious knowledge of Greek and Hebrew shared with you. God is more than content to have a well-educated woman not serving, at least for a time, in the classroom as a professor and instead, seemingly squandering and wasting her gifts on her babies. And yes, God is content to have a man use his amazing gifts to dig holes instead of preach the gospel. Why? Because in all of these examples Christians are using their gifts just as the Magi did: to praise their Lord.

So my dear fellow Christians, lift up your eyes. Lift up your eyes to see the Glory of the \textsc{Lord }and the forgiveness found in Christ. And lift up your eyes to see your gifts of praise. See those gifts God has given you. And use them to praise him. Amen.

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The Holy Innocents

	“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”” (Matthew 2:13 NIV11-GKE)
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”” (Matthew 2:13 NIV11-GKE)

Out of Egypt I Called My Son

The hero had to flee. Each and every one of us likes a good story. And, without realizing it, we all recognize that a good story has conflict, growth and resolution. And so, before we see the hero prevail, we see him flee. And, as we hear these holy words this morning we see the same pattern. The hero flees. In fact, Jesus is only a tiny baby. So he can’t even flee by himself. He has to have his parents carry him. But what makes these words different than any other book you have read or a movie you have seen is why. The hero in your books and movies runs away so that he can train his body and focus his mind. But why does Jesus run and why do his parents flee? God’s word tells us: 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”” (Matthew 2:13–15 NIV)

Joseph and Mary ran from Bethlehem and stayed in Egypt? Why? They ran to Egypt because God’s word prophesied and promised, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” What?! What does that even mean? These words are reminder that the bible is not a movie. It’s the real promises of the only real God who knows all and sees all. These words take us back deep into the Old Testament. You’ll remember in Exodus the Lord’s people are slaves to Pharaoh. And the Lord called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. And plague after plague, threat after threat, Pharaoh would not let them go. So, even before any of the plagues were started, we read these words: 21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”” (Exodus 4:21–23 NIV)

The Lord names the entire nation of Israel, the entire gathering of Hebrews with the word, son. And he says that his son must come up out of Egypt and worship him. Those words were fulfilled in the book of Joshua when they took possession of the promised land. But it really wasn’t enough, was it? For what good was it to have a promised land without a promised savior? So the Lord attached a second fulfillment of this promise. Jesus had to flee to Egypt so that he could return to Israel and redeem it.

So the Lord promises, “Out of of Egypt, I Called my Son.” And, as we follow these words, we see that he calls his Son out of Egypt to end sin. For in verse 16 we read: “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16 NIV)

These are one of the most tragic verses to read and difficult to hear in all the bible. Jesus is born to redeem the world of its sin. But Satan and this sinful world set out to murder its Savior. And if they can’t murder Jesus, they murder anyone they can get their hands on. And so, from the dawn of time, sinful people have gone after the weakest people in the world to murder them. In Moses’ day the Hebrews were becoming too numerous. And Pharaoh was afraid of their numbers. So he murdered so many baby boys. Herod, out of his own fear and his own pride murdered the one or two dozen boys in Bethlehem. And it should not surprise us that today the same sin happens. People seek out the weakest parts of our society and kill them. For more than forty years Roe v. Wade has been part of the laws of our land. It is legal for parents to kill their unborn children. At the base of the statue of Liberty, we find these words in bronze: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But our nation has made it perfectly permissible to kill those yearning to be free.

When we as Christians see how evil Satan is and how willingly evil the world is that it seeks out the weakest people to end them, our hearts cry out for justice, they beg God to take action. And in these words we hear a response from God. In verses 14-15, we read these words: 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”” (Matthew 2:14–15 NIV)

It says, wait until the death of Herod. But literally it says , “stay there until his end.” And that teaches us how God deals with wickedness in the world. First, he limits, shapes and controls it so that so very often it doesn’t reach its goal and target. Second, When it does reach its target, God promises to use it for his plan and purpose. And finally, God deals with the wicked plans and purposes of Satan and his followers by ending them. After Herod killed these baby boys in Bethlehem along with so many others, what did it gain him? Did he live longer? Did he kill the true king of Israel? All that he planned was brought to nothing.

So the Lord says, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” And in these words we begin to see why he called his Son out of Egypt. He called him out of Egypt to end sin by ending sinners. Just as he put unrepentant Herod to death, so also today, he will manage the plans of every evil person and finally bring them to death. But there’s also another reason why the Lord called his Son out of Egypt. The Father called Jesus out of Egypt to end sin by ending sinners. But he also ended sin by paying for it.

It is easy to look at these words and conclude that Jesus is a wimp. He dodges the bullet so that others can take that bullet. He flees to Egypt and dozens of other baby boys die. But if we go down that road we are completely missing the point of what the Lord promises here when he says, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” For Jesus didn’t have the ‘easy-way-out.’ If Jesus would have died in Bethlehem his end would have been easy and quick. But, no, his end was to happen in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem Jesus was tortured for hours. And he died in a long, agonizing way—not in a quick way. And as he died he endured all the punishments we deserved in hell. So we have no reason to think that Jesus took the easy way out by fleeing. Jesus has a plan and a purpose. That plan was set from eternity. And it unfolded detail by detail according to his plan. And the result of Jesus perfect punishment was that our sins received a perfect payment.

Jesus put an end to sin by paying for it. That means that your sins are paid for. Yes, up to this point we have been speaking about wicked Pharaoh and evil Herod. But you are a sinner too. And each of us shows and proves that we are sinners just as they were. We see it in our temptation to be apathetic. We hear so much and so often about the sin of abortion that, after a while, it doesn’t hurt us anymore. But it should. We too face the temptation to sin against the fifth commandment. And for those of us who have children, we too know this sin. When you have one child and then you have another and those two children need your constant care so that you do not get the rest and care that you need, it is ever-so-tempting to say to yourself that it would have been better to have never had children.

Jesus came out of Egypt to end sin. Yes, he ends sin by ending sinners who don’t repent. But he ends sin by paying for it. And that means that my sins against this commandment are forgiven in his death too. And the great truth is that this is a payment that we can share with others too. One of the reasons abortion is so evil is that it kills two birds with one stone. A child’s life is ended. And then, later on, when that mom has another child and then keeps it, her conscience is tormented with well-deserved guilt. And she can either give into pride, denying that what she did was wrong or give into despair, concluding that there is no forgiveness for her. And that’s why these final words are so important and precious: 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”” (Matthew 2:17–18 NIV)

Whether by her own choice or not, what comfort is there for a mom who loses her child? That’s why Jesus came out of Egypt. Yes, he ends sin by ending the faithless sinner. But he also ends sin by paying for it. And with that fact there is comfort to combat the guilt. For God is merciful even to the point of forgiving the sins of murder in our hearts and in our hands. Amen.

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The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV11-GKE)
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus Was Born That We May Believe

It is wasted on me. Are those words you ever spoke to yourself? Months ago I received a present from my in-laws. The present was maple syrup. I was excited. I thought that if it was real maple syrup there would be more maple and more taste in it. But after trying it, I have admit, to me it just tasted like watery, wimpy syrup. And finally, after days of silent evaluation, I have concluded that the problem is not with they syrup. The problem is with me. The syrup is wasted on me. Golf too is wasted on me. Years ago we went to Christmas Dinner with Pastor Hacker. And he was watching golf. He got excited when the guy hit the ball with the stick. And I realized that that sport was wasted on me. As we begin John’s gospel it’s hard to not have the same thought. For John tells us: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5” (John 1:1–4 NIV)

In these opening words John pours out such wonderful, weighty theology. John introduces us to the word. And immediately, naturally, we ask the question: who is this word? We learn that this word is face to face with God. We learn that this word is God. We learn that this word created all things that exist. And finally, we learn that this word was light for all people. But there’s a problem. John tells us: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5 NIV)

In a very real way, Jesus, the word, was wasted on the world. Why? The world was full of darkness. And this darkness did not ‘understand’ this light. The word that John uses here, translated as “understand” is a difficult word to translate.1 It means, “to grasp, grab onto.” It’s not just that this sin-darkened world could not understand who the light was. It’s even worse than that, they could not trust the light. Months ago we listened to the book, unbroken. It’s about a U.S. pilot that was shot down in WW II. In the book he tells how when a plane flies by you have to make a choice. It’s too far away to see the markings on the plane. But you have to fire off your flare gun and roll the dice. Because, if that is a rescue plane and you don’t fire off your flare gun, you will die. The sinful world is darkness. And we were in that darkness too. And it didn’t matter how bright or how long the light shone out to us, we did not trust it.

But here in these word we see why Jesus was born. Jesus was born that we would believe the power of God’s word. For John tells us: 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:6–13 NIV)

The light shines out. But the people living in the darkness of sin and unbelief do not trust it. Now, notice the amazing wisdom of our God. He does not affect people’s emotions to make them washed over and overwhelmed with emotion. He does not make an amazing, eloquent speech, so that they know, undeniably that Jesus is the divine word. No, instead he sends out a messenger to simply preach God’s word. And that word is powerful. It replaces the darkness with light. It replaces the hatred with trust. It creates faith where there was only despair. The solution to people not knowing who their Triune God was is God’s word. When it is preached and proclaimed, it is powerful.

But there’s another reason why Jesus was born. We read: “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.” (John 1:14 NIV)

Jesus was born so that we would believe the power of his word. But he was also born that we would believe the point of his birth. John tells us that the word became flesh and dwelled among us. The verb John uses here is a very specific one. It means “to dwell in a tent.”2 This one word travels down a middle road between two horrible false teachings. The first false teaching is Docetism. This heresy is an ancient one. And in this false teaching people believed that Jesus only seemed to be a human. He “appeared” to be a human. He put on a disguise. But he really wasn’t a real human. You see, it was popular in ancient times to hear of Greek and Roman gods coming down and appearing to be humans. But after they were done pretending to be humans they went back up to Olympus. And so, when people came to these words which so clearly and boldly say that the divine word became flesh and blood, they changed the meaning.

And this is a false teaching that we can begin to buy into. Jesus became a human being to redeem our bodies along with our souls. One of the reasons Jesus instituted the sacraments was because he realized that we have more than one way of perceiving reality and taking in information. And so, in the Lord’s Supper we have forgiveness not just that we can hear about, but instead, we see it; we taste it; we smell that wine and bread. Jesus does this because he recognized that we have bodies and our senses are part of our bodies. We dare never reach a place where we read God’s word here or study it at home and then conclude that we don’t need to the Lord’s Supper. For just as the ancient heretics devalued Jesus’ body and their own own, so we can fall into the same trap today.

But there was also another heresy. The first heresy taught that Jesus only seemed to dwell here. The second heresy teaches that Jesus only dwells here. And this is a modern teaching. It’s the view of the world that the church should stop bothering about feeding people’s souls with God’s word. Instead, we should just be concerned about people’s stomachs. It’s the teaching that we should obsess over the heat of global warming and forget about the torturous heat of hell.

But again, this is a false teaching that we can fall into. My dear Christians, just think of the normal course of your life. You grow older. You begin to have pain. And then, inevitably, when there’s more pain, what are we tempted to do? We are tempted to blame God for us getting old and the pain that comes along with it. Did you ever stop to think that just as Jesus ‘tented’ here for a little while and now is in heaven, we will be doing the same? And there are times that God prepares us for our new bodies and new homes in heaven by giving us pain in this life and in these bodies.

And that then, is the point of Jesus being born. Jesus was born so that we may believe that his word is powerful. But he was also born that we may believe the point of his birth. He was born to bear our sin and then finally bring us to heaven.

How amazing and great it is to know that this little baby is our Savior. The times we thought too little of our bodies and devalued them—they are forgiven by Jesus. the times we thought too much of our bodies, yearning and pining that our lives and bodies would just simply stay the way they are, those sins are forgiven too.

And so, my dear friends in Christ, since God’s word is powerful, rest your faith in it, not in anything that comes from you. And rejoice that the word took on flesh and blood and dwelled among us. He bore our sins and will take us to heaven. Amen.

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