Rocklin, California

Tag: Nativity

Knowing the Mind of God – Christmas Day 2011

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM Holy Cross Lutheran Church Christmas Day 2011 (rev. from 2008) John 1:1-14

TITLE: “Knowing the Mind of God”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson from St. John chapter one, particularly verse fourteen: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV) This morning we will reflect in wonder upon the mystery that in Jesus Christ, God bares His soul to us and gives of Himself in a way that none of us can ever truly comprehend.

Every one of us has a sort of running conversation that goes on within us. You know what I mean. You talk to yourself. You talk to yourself about whether to get out of bed, what clothes to wear, how you feel, what you want to do, how much coffee to drink. You can have pretty extended conversations with yourself. Luther talks about this as follows:

Furthermore, we must realize that this Word in God is entirely different from my word or yours. For we, too, have a word, especially a “word of the heart,” as the holy fathers call it.4[1] When, for example, we think about something and diligently investigate it, we have words; we carry on a conversation with ourselves. Its content is unknown to all but ourselves until such Words of the heart are translated into oral words and speech, which we now utter after we have revolved them in our heart and have reflected on them for a long time. Not until then is our word heard and understood by others. St. Paul touches on this in First Corinthians (2:11): “No person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him.”

Can you imagine what it would be like to know another person like that, to peek in to their interior monologue? None of us ever knows another person that way. First of all, we would all be too afraid. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we would run and hide at the thought of another person truly knowing our thoughts. They are too close, too private, too personal. They are too full of sin and selfishness and heartache and sorrow and want and need and pain. None of us could bear that level of self-disclosure. None of us could handle being that exposed. Not to our children. Not even to our spouse. It would be the ultimate in too much information.

Yet that is exactly what God does in sending His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into our flesh. The divine life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have existed in all eternity with that holy conversation going on. The Father showing His will to the Son. The Son receiving that will of the Father and returning it to Him, all happening in the Spirit.

But God, who is rich in mercy, did not wish to exist simply in Himself. He spoke the Word, and it went forth in creation, making a world out of nothing. God bared His soul to the world. But sin entered in, and the voice of God was not heard. We stopped up our ears to His voice. We refused to listen to all of the great and mighty things that He wanted to tell us. So He sent His prophets. Time and time again God sent them, so that His mind would be made known to us. But what did we do? We killed them. We threw them out of our cities. We were too busy, too bored, too uninterested in the things of God to care about such trifles.

God bared His soul to the world in a way that none of us could ever truly comprehend. He sent His Son, His Word made flesh. The author to the book of Hebrews put it this way:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV)

God has bared His soul to you. He has opened His mind to you by sending His Word, His Son, His voice into your flesh and blood. It is unfathomable. It is mysterious and wonderful. It is the greatest gift that anyone has ever given, anywhere. And it is all for you. That river of God’s mercy which flows from Jesus’ birth now flows to you. For after all, remember the words from Isaiah:

Unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given. His name shall be called wonderful counselor, the mighty God, The everlasting Father, the | Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Our heavenly Father, you see, has no secrets from you, none that matter to us anyway. His bares His very soul to you in sending His Word into your flesh and blood. Trust Him now. Believe in Him, and live. Know that the God who would do such a great and mighty deed would never seek to hurt or harm you. He loves you, with every fiber of His being. Could there be any greater gift? No. That is the gift of Christmas. God becomes man so that we might become like unto God. He comes down, here and now, so that you might ascend to him. Another early pastor (St. Cyril of Alexandria) put it like this:

He found humanity reduced to the level of the beasts. Therefore he is placed like feed in a manger, that we, having left behind our carnal desires, might rise up to that degree of intelligence which befits human nature. Whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, yes, his table, we find no longer feed, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life.[1][2]

So come, feast upon the Word made Flesh for you. Feast and rejoice, for God has drawn you up into Him! Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

 [1] 4Here Luther seems to be referring to a distinction which originated in Stoic thought and which appeared in Philo between the λόγος ἐδιάθετος (the Logos as He was in God) and the λόγος προφορικός (the Logos as He emanated from God). The first church father to employ the distinction appears to have been Theophilus, To Autolycus, II, ch. 10; II, ch. 22. Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957), 22:8. [2] [1] COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 1. Just, A. A. (2005). Vol. 3: Luke. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 3. (39). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

“Because” Christmas Children’s Evening Prayer – 2011

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I’ve always loved that phrase at the end of Luther’s hymn, “While angels sing with pious mirth A glad new year to all the earth.” Pious mirth. It is easy in the hustle and bustle of our lives, to forget to laugh and have true joy. Truth be told, often laughter is pretty low on our “to do” list of things for the Christmas season.

But the angels have something to teach us about how we look at these things. The events themselves are pretty simple. We just heard the story from our children, and from Dr. Luther’s marvelous hymn. But simple does not mean unimportant. Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While they are there, Mary gives birth to her Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord.

That’s it. Oh, there are more details to be had, things to be said, and the like. But the bare facts of it are quite simple. Jesus is born. And with this event, everything changes for you and me, indeed for the entire world.

Because Jesus is born, the story, your story, now has an ending in joy, not sorrow.

Because Jesus is born, these children here have a future that is bright with the light of eternity.

Because Jesus is born, your griefs will come to an end.

Because Jesus is born, the road to the cross is set, and your salvation is at hand.

Because Jesus is born, your sins do not define you. They will be cast off with His death and resurrection.

Because Jesus is born, all of Satan’s plans have come unraveled like so many loose beads on a string.

Because Jesus is born, the gates of hell itself are shaken at the cry of this little babe.

Because Jesus is born, you can sing with the angels of God’s glory now come to earth.

Because Jesus is born, you can now depart in peace. Death is but a quiet slumber, the sleep of a child who will awaken at the call of their Father.

Because Jesus is born, no matter how dark the night is for you, the dawn of a new day in Christ is here.

Because Jesus is born, you can now laugh with the pious mirth of the angels, knowing that your champion is now at hand.

So this night, as we hear the story anew and learn from our children about the Christ child, laugh with the angels. A glad new year is here for all the earth. You are at peace. God loves you. He comes to you now in Word and Meal, ready ever to forgive and to draw you into that gracious embrace.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake, and Merry Christmas in Jesus’ name! Amen.