Merry Christmas! Here’s my Christmas Day sermon for 2016. You can read this year’s Christmas Eve sermon here. This sermon is based on John 1:1-18 along with Isaiah 52:7-10 and Hebrews 1:1-4.
I heard once about a little boy in a Sunday School class who was drawing a picture, and his teacher asked him what he was drawing. He said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” She responded, “How are you drawing God? No one knows what God looks like?”
He looked up at her and said, “Well, maybe they don’t now, but they will when I get finished!” [pretty sure I first heard this joke in an Alpha video]
One of the questions of Christmas, in fact, one of the questions of the entire Christian faith, is “How do we know about God?”
It’s a great question. I suspect if we tried to draw God, we’d all come up with something different.
One of the fundamental characteristics of God is that God is so far beyond us that we can’t fully describe him.
In fact, even saying we can’t describe “him” goes too far, because God isn’t a him, or a her. God isn’t male or female. But God isn’t an “it”, either, because God is a personal, active being.
You start to see how our very human language is inadequate for fully grasping God. We can name characteristics of God, like God is loving, God is just, and God is patient, but we can’t work out fully how those come together. The attempts we make to define God always end up being too small, because God doesn’t neatly fit into any box we can imagine.
The claim of Christianity, however, is that we can know something about God, because God has chosen to come to us as Jesus. God wants us to know him. God longs to be in a relationship with us.
John’s beautiful prologue to his Gospel, the passage we just heard, describes God as the Word. God’s voice animates creation, God spoke and the world began. The Word was in the beginning with God, and all things came into being through him. And the Word was God.
It’s a beautiful, majestic way to describe God, especially as he goes on to say God the Word became flesh and lived among us. The Message paraphrase of the Bible describes it like this: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
God became knowable. God revealed himself to us. God didn’t stay off somewhere far away in heaven; God moved into our neighborhood, into our lives. When we look at Jesus, the baby whose birth we celebrate today, we see God.
Quoting from the Message again, verse 18 of John’s prologue, “No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.”
Trying to picture God the eternal, infinite Creator is more than our little human brains can handle. We can’t grasp God.
Martin Luther in a Christmas sermon put it like this:
“I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, but rather his flesh. Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify man. Inexpressible majesty will crush him. That is why Christ took on our humanity, save for sin, that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm.”
To understand God, we need to look at Jesus. We look at the life he lived, we look at his healings, his teachings, at his death on the cross to forgive us, and we learn about God. Jesus is how we meet God.
By looking at Jesus, we learn about God’s love and God’s care, and we also learn something about God from the way God chooses to enter the world.
God isn’t just found in the majesty, in the peaceful places, in the sacred; God is also found in the messiness and the chaos, in the weakness of a little baby. God moves into our neighborhood, which means we should go out there too. God cares about the world, so we should too.
Without Jesus, we could catch glimpses of God’s character, but in the Word made flesh, we see God’s greatest revelation. As the Hebrews reading said, “Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets.”
There are lots of ways we can learn bits about God, from the prophets and the entire Old Testament of the Bible. “But in these last days, he has spoken to us by a Son.” All of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, all of it points to Jesus, to God in the flesh.
We celebrate at Christmas because God has chosen to reveal himself to us. God isn’t just some spirit out there, or something like the Force from Star Wars. God isn’t just out there somewhere.
Because of Christmas, we know God is personal. When you take communion in a few minutes and taste the body and blood of our Lord, that’s personal. When you are drowned in the waters of baptism and given new life, that’s personal.
Out of the Father’s love, God the Creator comes to you, to all of us. God’s light shines into our darkness. Merry Christmas.