December 24, 2019

The Spoken Word

Speaker:

Every year we gather to sing the same songs, the same way, and remind ourselves of the day the Christ-child was born. In true routine, we rehearse the story of God become flesh, but do we every stop to grasp the why, or what it means that the Lord of Glory would need to condescend?

Why did he have to become like us? And why as a baby, not as a man? Wouldn’t it be a better plan to send the Savior of the World in His adult form, on a cloud of glory, in all power and might, dispelling demons and villains by the sword of his tongue? Then they would have known where he was from, and cowered in trembling fear, frightened to come near the One who reigns in power and strength.

Instead, his entry to our atmosphere was fragile, and subtle. And instead of fear he pronounced joy and peace, and invited the weak to draw near. And when water broke and flesh was torn, the Son of God was born. Life birthed the Light of the world, enveloped in a child who was laid in a manger, a trough dug in the dirt; a whole in the ground… not the hay-filled framework we see in front of a church. And in striking fashion, the One whom created Adam, stooped down again, scooped dirt in his hand, and set out to make a new man. He was the second Adam, and we are his brothers and sisters, who are born again.

But really— no crying he made? Gimme a break! That’s not consistent— not for God, whom to his people, depraved and resistant, showed steadfast love with anguished soul. He came crying for us, decrying our case, sweat blood and wept, interceded, that we would see God’s face. He was a man of sorrows. 

Why would he not cry at his birth? He left unapproachable glory and took on 8 lb 6 oz of human frailty… to be born in the dirt… I’d cry too!

The story for us is that God sent a heavenly chorus to praise his Son when He emptied himself into the likeness of man. Like taking a Porsche through a mud-rink, crusted earth covered the God-Man child-ling, and veiled His deity with skin. This emptying, scholars call it subtraction by addition; now God, who is Spirit, lives in a fleshly condition. 

But it seemed the glory of the Lord to the world was infrared, and like the dead, no one noticed the heavenly parade that night, save a few shepherds in the field, whom God chose to spite the wisdom of the world. 

Why shepherds? Called the uneducated, thieves and cheats, they were mocked and teased, the lowest of Israel’s cast. It seems even at His birth, Jesus was identifying with the worst the world would have. Jesus too was later mocked.

Circumcised on day 8, the first born to consecrate to the Lord; two turtle doves was the offering of the poor— a rich sacrifice for a pair of travelers taxed by the Roman empire. “Thus, he fulfilled all righteousness,” for righteousness is required for salvation he brings. 

Then, the Lord’s servant, Simeon— a man of age, with diminishing eyes, gazed upon the glory the world was blind to. Rejoicing, he held the child high, and exclaimed in the temple, “Now you are letting your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation! A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to your people Israel.” He gave the child back to the couple, but offered them words mixed with joy and sorrow, like wine and myrr. “Behold, the child is appointed for the rise and fall of many in Israel, for a sign that is opposed, for hearts and minds will be exposed. And the sword will pierce your soul, too! 

Mary listened and drew her baby to her chest, and pondered.

It was two years later when the Magi arrived, looking for the Bethlehem-born King. They testified to the star they’d seen rise in the East, crossed terrain and sea, and traced it to the child. With gold, incense, and myrrh, bearing gifts they worshiped a toddler— not the way we see some parents worship their toddler, “Oh, Johnny this,” and “Oh, Bonny that—!” No, this was the kind that one would raise the eyebrow at! 

Grown men, prostrate, fall, flat on their face; rejoicing in the grace of Israel’s two year-old poverty-stricken king. And they worshiped him.

Foreigners were noticed around Bethlehem. Herod’s guards followed and observed when they heard the men ask for the One born King of the Jews. To be king was to fill Herod’s shoes, and no deified baby was to grow to threaten his throne. He was Herod the Great, let his name be known, and he did not have a star, or 3 wise men to hail his ascent, he was a ruthless and self-made man; if three wise men crossed him, we’ll see how they run! “When you find him, bring me word, for I, too, want to worship the child,” he said with a crooked smile. The magi, warned by and angel in a dream, did not to return to the evil king. A few short weeks revealed his intention; Herod had prepared a bloodbath for all boys, two or less in Bethlehem. In the name of political preservation, we hear Israel, through, Rachel weeping for her children. 

Joseph, warned in same manner, took flight by night with Mary and baby and escaped the king’s rage. Through desert brush and sage, they fled to Egypt where God had once before preserved his people to save. As the prophet declared, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” The Christ child had already begun to trace the steps of Israel, but as the obedient, God-dependent, and righteous One. 

We know He didn’t stay a child. Herod died, and by angelic spurring, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned, with siblings wrapped in tote on Mary’s hip. The family veered north to Nazareth and put distance between the son of Herod, and the Son of God.

Think about this birth story: Angels singing in cosmic glory, a guiding star led mystic men to a toddler, and an earthly king was put on notice! How is a mother or father to prove this? 

How does that tale get spun around the dinner table? No wonder his brothers dissented— he was the golden child— literally God’s gift to man, if you were in that family, wouldn’t you resent him? If Joseph’s brothers wouldn’t believe they’d bow before selling him to slavery, why would the siblings of the Son of God not feel their older brother was a little out of wack?

And by the way, mom conceived him by the Spirit —the Son of David, not necessarily the son of Joseph. I mean he is, but he isn’t… not really (?) … and some how this is a good thing! 

Talk about a confusing!

But was it true? Mary seemed to think so. She treasured each moment, memorizing by heart, writing word and deed of God on her soul, a scroll to record the revealed Arm of the Lord. He came as a child, but no amount of boding could keep him swaddled her arms.

Jesus grew in stature and favor with God and man. It was then one might have perceived, Jesus comprehended far more than one would believe the age-appropriate yeshiva taught. He was twelve when he was found on the Mount, at His Father’s house, doing His Father’s lot. He had abandoned the train of travelers who had left for Nazareth. Let Mary and Joseph and reader understand; he was on a mission.

From baby, to toddler, to child, teen to man. Birth, 2, 13, to 30. Why did Jesus come as a baby? Because we are not only saved by his death, but by His life. He fulfilled the law perfectly, taking on humanity, and he now knows by experience every thought and feeling, every temptation and situation you and I contrive. 

It was Satan who took the Nazarite to mountain height, and promised a world of riches, power, and pleasures of sin. He grew up poor, do you think that tempted him? All Jesus had to do was bow down. Who here wouldn’t give in? Who here hasn’t dove in? He was tempted in every way. So every temptation we face, every power, drug, lust, or pleasure we can taste, was paraded before him. This after 40 days of fasting. He felt the drunk’en stupor when you’re flesh is weak, and sin calls you by name, like a siren from the sea, only he didn’t hit the reef. He lived perfectly; he navigated those waters in righteousness, and paved the way for you and I to be free. But He did it as a man… instead of turning to his divine power to prevail, he resisted by the word of God, and over the devil he assailed. And when baptized, the Majestic Glory broke from the skies and spoke these words:“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

He knew from Eternity past the world would lash at him every day of his 33 year life, and a righteous response is what the Father required to save this world, gone astray. Therefore, He was made like his brothers in every way, and in every respect, tempted and able to save us when we defect, able to sympathize and reconcile as our merciful high priest; only He can offer to God what is required of me! 

He was born, suffered, and was perfected in the flesh, able to represent all humanity. Only God can pay back to God the honor of God that mankind rejected. Therefore, because Jesus, the only God-man, stood before the Father, and made an offering of His life, having suffered every trial, having prevailed over every temptation and strife, he has made peace with God for us. And because by faith, I believe, His obedience has become mine, and the Father speaks those same words over me, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.”

It was his salvation plan that God would not conceal His glory forever, but reveal to us glory, fused in flesh, and freely give the gift of His Son. This is why the birth, the life, the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the eternal gift of Christmas; it is Jesus, for He was and is, and is to come.

May all God’s people pray this Christmas— Come Lord Jesus.

Amen.

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