25. December 2023
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
It is profound and humbling to stand before you and proclaim this great confession, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten Son of God.”
This was John’s witness, the Gospel says. John’s witness when he came along also then and was asked, “Who are you? Are you the Christ?” And he confesses. “Homo logeo” is the word. He confessed. He did not deny it. “Homo logeo.” I am not the Christ. (That, by the way, is an excellent confession for a pastor! I am not the Christ either.)
And also, later on in John’s first epistle, he writes, “That which we have seen, and we have borne witness to, that the Father has sent his Son, the Savior of the world. If we confess, ὁμολογήσῃ, that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in us.” This is the great confession, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
The Word. The hypostatic Word in eternity, the same Word which was there when the beginning began, and the world was created, the same Word which was spoken which spread out the universe and created the heavens and the earth, the same Word which was spoken in the garden, that your seed, the seed of the woman, shall be bruised but shall crush the head of the serpent. The same Word that was with the prophets all along, the same Word that spoke of the coming of the Christ, the same Word that promised the people and gave them hope in a time of exile, the very same Word became flesh.
Every word of the Bible should be read as though it were written with the ink of the blood of Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What a glorious thing this is! The Word becomes flesh. St. Athanasius says, “That which was not assumed is not redeemed.” By becoming man, Jesus assumes everything you are—your body, your spirit, your soul, your emotions, your vocation. What a wonderful thing that everything that you are except sin, says Hebrews, everything you are has been assumed by Jesus in the Incarnation and redeemed by Him.
Think about the implications, then. He’s part of a woman that he might redeem motherhood, that he might redeem sexuality, that he might redeem the family, that he might redeem fatherhood, that he might redeem holy vocations. What an affirmation of the First Article we have in the Incarnation! What a wonderful way to live! It’s glorious freedom not to be some stuffy, stuck-up Ebenezer Scrooge. Today Jesus invites you to view all of life as a joyous, joyous freedom, an affirmation of the Incarnation.
Furthermore, what a joy that He comes to us in His flesh. And Luther says, “Then we ought to become incarnate, come to our neighbor in our flesh and love them.” This profound Scripture says the Word tented among them. It says, “He dwelt among them, He tabernacles among them.” It comes from a Semitic loan word in Greek. The word to dwell, comes from skenos, or tent, and ultimately from shekina, the dwelling of the Lord. Shekina is that word used for the presence of the Lord, that presence in the Tabernacle, above the holy of holies, above the Ark of the Covenant, sitting upon the wings of the cherubim. This is the glory that departed Solomon’s temple before its destruction by Babylon. This is the dwelling place foretold in prophetic vision by Ezekiel, as we’ve learned in Bible Study.
And once a year, the high priest would go put his hands on the scapegoat’s head. Once a year, the high priest would confess the sins of the people to the scapegoat, and the scapegoat would be released into the wilderness, never to be seen again. And the sins would be confessed on a perfect lamb, and the lamb would be sacrificed, and the blood spread on that mercy seat. There is no forgiveness of sins without the blood. And Jesus is now our tabernacle, ark, and mercy seat. You are forgiven in His blood!
And right there at that place was where the kavod Yahweh, the dwelling of the Lord, and the glory of the Lord, the shekina, the pillar of fire by day and the pillar of cloud by day, it would dwell right over that place where the presence of the Lord was. It was this shekina that filled the temple in 1 Kings 9 when Solomon dedicated the temple. And Solomon prays, “Lord, it’s not that you don’t fill all the heavens and the earth. How can a temple made by the hands of men be your dwelling place? It really can’t, but you have deigned to have your name dwell here for forgiveness.”
The glory of the Lord for forgiveness. Now in Jesus, in Jesus’ flesh, in Jesus. And the glory of the Lord is seen most clearly, of course, in John’s gospel when Jesus turns to the cross and says, “Now the Son of Man is glorified.” Luther says that it is the great hiding. Jesus is glorified. God is hidden in the death of God. But there, the glory of the Lord is revealed in its cruciform way.
We think that when we are weak, the glory has left us. But the lesson of the exiles in Egypt or Babylon is that the glory never departs. God remains with His people but is hidden in suffering and weakness. He tabernacles among the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the abandoned, the grieving, and the imprisoned. Even the great saints of the church, including John, James, Peter, or any of the dearly beloved, have Jesus revealed to them amid weaknesses, challenges, and difficulties.
Jesus reveals Himself to outsiders and outcasts. He restores the lost, the losers, and the dead. The epiphany of the Lord is an epiphany of the cross. The Lord reveals his glory at the wedding of Cana, and by faith, we know we believe in God in the flesh. And yet the most glorious epiphany of the Lord is the cross itself. So Paul can say, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Every word of the Bible should be read as though it were written with the ink of the blood of Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What a glorious thing this is! By becoming man, Jesus assumes everything you are—your body, your spirit, your soul, your emotions, your vocation. He even redeems your pain, loss, suffering, and grief. What a wonderful thing that everything you are except sin, says Hebrews. Everything you are has been assumed by Jesus in the Incarnation and redeemed by Him. The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld his glory full of grace and truth for you today.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin