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Sermon for Christmas Day, Year C

Based on Jn. 1:14

By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

“The Incarnation”

   Surprises. We worship a God of surprises. Today we celebrate one of the most fascinating surprises of them all. The birth of Jesus Christ, God coming into this world in a real, live human being. Today’s gospel puts it this way: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” He “became a person, and took up his abode in our being” (William Barclay).

   The Greek word for live or dwelt among us literally means: “God pitched his tent among us.” This great event of God entering world history in the person of Jesus is called the incarnation. The word refers to God putting on, wearing, human flesh.

   The Christian mystic from India, Sadhu Sundar Singh, was so moved by Christ’s incarnation, that he told the following story.

   There was a King. His Grand Vizier was a learned and saintly man. When traveling in Palestine the Vizier was deeply moved as he heard about Christ, and became a Christian. When he returned home he told the people that he was a Christian, and that he believed in the Saviour who came to this world to save sinners. The King said to him: ‘If I want anything to be done, I tell my servant and it is done. Then why should the King of Kings who is able to save people by a word come to this world himself and become incarnate?’ The Vizier asked for a day of grace before giving his answer to the question. He sent for a skilled carpenter and asked him to make a doll and dress it up exactly like the one-year-old son of the King, and to bring it to him the next day. The next day the King and his Minister were in a boat together, and the King asked him for an answer to his question. At the same time the carpenter came and stood on the shore with his doll. The King stretched out his arm to receive the child, who, thought, was his own child. According to instructions previously given by the Vizier, the carpenter let the doll fall into the water. The King at once jumped into the water to rescue the drowning child. After a while the Vizier said: ‘O King you needed not to leap into the water. Was it not enough to bid me do it? Why should you yourself jump in?’ The King reflected: ‘It was a father’s love.’ The Vizier said: ‘Love was also the reason why, in order to save the world, the all-powerful God became incarnate instead of doing it by His mere word.’1

   The incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and living among us, the birth of Jesus as a real, live human baby is God’s way of rescuing us from  drowning in our sin. It is God’s way of telling the world, tell each one of us: “I love you.” The three most important words that all of us need to hear over and over again, every day of our lives—“I love you.

   Dorothy Sayers was correct, when she insightfully expressed the meaning of the incarnation, and  observed:

For whatever reason God chose to make (us humans) as (we are)—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He  had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from (humankind) that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth the while.2

   What better way could there be for God to get his message across to us? God living among us, pitching his tent in this world with real flesh and bones and blood. As Christians, we do not worship or turn Christ into an abstraction, an idea, a concept. No! We worship and celebrate him as a human being.

   He is able to reach us and save us precisely because he became one of us. As God incarnate, he shares all of our humanity—thus we are invited and able to share all of our humanity with him too because he accepts, loves, understand and saves us perfectly, unconditionally, and endlessly. NOW THAT’S GOOD NEWS FOR ALL OF US TO SHARE AND CELEBRATE!

   This Christmas, may we not give in to hopelessness and despair; may we fail to accept “the way things are and ever shall be” as far as the sin and evil in ourselves, others and the world are concerned. Rather, may we be messengers and servants of hope, meaningfulness, love, justice, mercy and peace—SHARING THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS AND HIS GOSPEL MESSAGE WITH THE WORLD THAT GOD LOVES BEYOND OUR COMPREHENSION OR CAPACITY TO MEASURE. MAY EACH ONE OF US HERE TODAY BE WITNESSES OF JESUS CHRIST, ALIVE IN OUR LIVES AND CHURCH. May our Christmas prayer and worship be able to declare with the poet, Richard Crashaw:

Welcome! All Wonders in one sight!

Eternity shut in a span.

Summer in winter, day in night,

Heaven in earth, and God in human.

Great little one! Whose all-embracing birth

Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth!3

 

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1 B.H. Streeter & A.J. Appasamy, The Sadhu: A Study In Mysticism & Practical Religion (London: MacMillan & Co., Ltd., 1921) pp. 58-59.

2 Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1949) pp. 3-4.

3  Cited from: J.D. Morrison, Editor, Masterpieces of Religious Verse (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977) p.139.

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