From the Gospel of John 1:14 The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Christmas Eve – no matter what time of day it is observed, is a time for singing, hearing the word of God and considering what great gift God has given us. Because of how God came to us as a child, we can all relate to that event. Whether or not we had or raised children, each of us entered this world crying, being hungry, and sleeping. We cuddled up to our parents or parent figures and felt their warmth and love as Christ would have felt the warmth and love of Mary, his mother. We can all identify with the baby Jesus.
As children grow a bit older, they still often will say they identify with their parents. When asked whom they love, most will say “mom”, “daddy”, or “grandma”. Others are likely to say “Barney” or “Mickey Mouse.” Stuffed animals, shirts, shoes, pajamas, and anything else a business thinks it can sell will reinforce ideas about whom young children identify.
Older children and adults may identify with sports heroes, favorite teams, and music groups. When our children were much younger, we adopted a Dalmatian. Walking that dog in the neighborhood, even 2 and 3 year olds would say “Dalmatian.” They had seen the movie 101 Dalmatians! Sometimes, whether we like it or not, people identify us with something other than the baby in a manger.
There is nothing wrong with identifying with a talking mouse, a purple dinosaur, a team, or even a video about Dalmatians. Yet Christ reminds us there is someone infinitely more important with whom we can identify. The miracle of Christmas is that GOD CHOSE TO IDENTIFY WITH US IN A WAY WE WOULD UNDERSTAND – HE BECAME ONE OF US. St. John wrote The Word became flesh.
For centuries, almighty God revealed Himself to His people though Moses, Abraham, and the prophets. They revealed God’s law and his love to the people. Later God revealed himself to us by being born of a woman, yet without sin. Baby Jesus grew up and identified fully with us. He knew what it was like to be hungry, tired, thirsty and hurting. Jesus grieved for loved ones, endured pain, suffered on the cross, and went through death just as we will.
But God, the Word, became flesh and lived among us that we might see His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grave and truth. Peter wrote He bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness. Jesus identified with us. His Spirit enables us to identify with Him!
If we had time, I would like to hear each of you talk about a special Christmas you remember. I have one that I shared with Bethany Lutheran Church in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was Christmas Eve, 1993. That year, I was working for Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey, as Administrator of several programs. I was also asked to lead worship on Christmas Eve at Bethany in Jersey City. They had no Pastor that Christmas. I had been to Jersey City the previous week. That afternoon, while in Jersey City, I received a call from the Administrator of our Agency. He told me the Share-A-Home we had on Nelson Avenue was on fire!
This was home for six senior citizen ladies who could not afford to live independently. When I arrived, I saw flames shooting out of the home. I saw fire trucks and an ambulance crew removing one of the ladies from their home. The other ladies were standing on the sidewalk, looking at their burning home. I took three ladies to our St. Paul home for homeless women and children.
As bad as the event was, for the next three days I witnessed Christian love shown by many neighbors. These neighbors showed a genuine sense of caring about the ladies. A man at the nearby deli risked his life to try and recue one lady before the firemen arrived. Others asked how the ladies were coping. A Pastor found two members of his congregation to begin cleaning out the mess created by fire and water damage. He brought them to the site and picked them up.
A niece of the hospitalized lady came to help clean out her belongings. I heard one of the volunteers say to her “I would like to know your aunt’s name so we can pray for her in our prayer circle!” One of my sons, home for the holidays, spent Monday with other volunteers and me. We hauled burnt furniture and clothing from the building … other volunteers came to offer help to the ladies who had lost so much. Friends and strangers showed how much they cared for these ladies – what a memorable Christmas!
On Christmas Eve, I told the families at Bethany Lutheran, Jersey City, what happened after the fire in their hometown. So many strangers reached out in love to those ladies in their greatest need. They saw Christ in those ladies and chose to help them. That happens whenever we identify with Jesus our Lord. We do by reaching out to those in need of a kind word, a thoughtful deed, and a heartfelt prayer for God’s help.
Christmas is a time to recall God’s great love for us. He chose to identify with us by coming into his world as a child. When we identify with Christ; when we worship Him and share our love and our lives with those around us, then we are truly celebrating Christ every day of the year!
JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME; WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF A FATHER’S ONLY SON, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. AMEN.
Preached at St. Michael Lutheran on Christmas Eve, 2017, by The Rev. John Weinbach.