Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Chirst. Amen.
Have you ever felt that God was distant and removed from your life? Have you ever felt God was uninterested and inaccessible? We can go through life feeling like God doesn’t care about what happens to us. God is way up there, and I am way down here. Maybe God has forgotten about me. He must have more important things to worry about, right? It’s not uncommon to feel like we’ve been left on our own.
Perhaps that’s why Joan Osborne released a song called back in 1995 called “One of Us.” “What if God was one of us?” she sings, “Just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, tryin’ to make his way home?” Isn’t that an interesting thought? What if God were an average-height, average-weight guy who looked just like a million other people? What if God were one of us—who snored and woke up with morning breath, got sleepy and grumpy, and didn’t always make his bed? What if God lived among us instead of being distant and removed?
I. God is a man
John 1 is a great Christmas passage. The key verse that shows this Christmas orientation is verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the meaning of Christmas. God has come into the world, born of a virgin, in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s the meaning of Christmas. Our cause for joy is that God has come into the world, born of a virgin, in the person of Jesus Christ. We should “break forth together into singing!” God coming in the flesh is our source of joy, comfort, redemption, and salvation. The good news is that in Jesus of Nazareth, our God reigns. God has kept his promises, and he rolled up his divine sleeves. God has gotten involved in our mess. He cares about us.
John teaches us that the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth before he was made flesh was God and that the Father was also God. There are two persons and one God. This is part of the truth which we know as the Trinity. The only-begotten Son of God existed in perfect fellowship with the Father from all eternity. John is saying that Jesus is the eternal Son. Jesus is God. Along with being true God, he is also a flesh and blood man who could be seen, touched, and heard. God has revealed himself; made himself known as a human male. God isn’t just some abstract concept. God is a true and physical man named Jesus. Everything we are and believe as Christians depends upon this: that Jesus Christ is God and Jesus Christ is man. Fully God, fully human. Everything depends on this. Joan Osborne asks, “What if God was one of us?” God is one of us! God is a flesh and blood man named Jesus.
Gone are any pious notions of “God up there” and “we down here” or of our reaching up to God. What we cannot do, God has done. God has come down to us as the child of the manger. We cannot ascend to God, either in our thoughts, our prayers, our dreams, or our faith. We cannot reach up to God, but God reaches down to us. He sent His Son into our Flesh. We don’t seek God. God has sought us and found us in the Flesh of His Son, conceived in a virgin Mother and laid to sleep in a manger.
II. God became a man
Luther once said that there is “no other God than the one who lay in the womb of the Virgin Mary and nursed at her breast. Where Jesus Christ is, there is God himself and the entire Divinity.” No God can help you except the one born of the Virgin. In Jesus, God comes as the child born in a lowly manger and nursed at Mary’s breast. If you want to know what God looks like, acts, and thinks like, then look no further than Jesus. Everything you need to know about God is in him. God is a man, a human. The Creator was born of a woman. God ate and drank, slept and awoke, prayed and worked, taught and cried. Our God is a man we couldn’t have picked out of the crowd. The eternal God has entered time. The all-powerful maker of all decided to dwell among us as a tiny, helpless, pooping, gurgling newborn swaddled against the cold of the night and nestled hungrily at a virgin mother’s breast. When you grasp this, you have captured the breathtaking thrill of Christmas. “God is one of us.”
God did not become flesh to search you out and terrorise you or condemn you. No, he comes to seek and to save you, to give you life in place of death. He did not come to provide you with despair or doom, or condemnation. But hope and joy and consolation. That is why the Word becoming flesh is a gift from God, the most excellent Christmas present you will ever receive. You’ll find the present under the tree–actually, on the tree, on the tree of the cross. That is where this baby is headed: that baby lying in a lowly manger will hang on a cruel cross and lie lifeless in a cold tomb. The Word became flesh so that flesh could be torn off his body by a whip. The Word became flesh so that nails could be driven through his hands into a rough piece of wood. The Word became flesh so that he could endure crucifixion’s slow, suffocating death. That is why he became flesh, to do all that for you. It is your sins for which he died. It is your death he suffered. But by doing so, the holy Son of God paid what you owe – he paid your fine, setting you free from all that bound you, forgiving your sins, winning your salvation. No greater Christmas present will you ever receive, for this gift has it all: forgiveness, life, eternal salvation, resurrection, a life that conquers the grave and lasts forever.
But don’t be “so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” God became flesh and dwelt among the least, the lonely, the unloved, the hungry, and the thirsty. He dwelled among the least of these to serve them. He came to bring justice and end oppression. Don’t ignore that! “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 21:40). We must be concerned about the less fortunate among us. As one Teresa of Avila put it, “Christ has no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.” Or, as Luther put it: “Therefore, just as our neighbor has need and lacks what we have in abundance, so also we had need before God and lacked God’s mercy. For this reason, as our heavenly Father supported us freely in Christ, so also we ought freely to support our neighbor with our body and its actions, and each person ought to become to the other a kind of Christ, so that we may be Christs to one another and be the same Christ in all, that is, that we may be truly Christians” (AL, 1.525). When you see the bad things happening in the world and wonder, “Where is God?” Remember: He sent you! You are Christ’s hands and feet as you love and serve others. God bent down as a servant of all, so we should bend down in service to others.
Do not think that God is distant and removed from your life. God is not uninterested, and he is not inaccessible. Because the Word was made flesh, that means our God got involved. He has rolled up the divine sleeves to do what needs to be done. This is the profound mystery of the Incarnation. God became a man to bring you joy, comfort, and salvation. Because the Word was made flesh, our God continues to get involved and dwell with us. The Word Made Flesh dwells with us in the same humble, creaturely way. He continues to come to you in the preached and written Word. He continues to roll up his divine sleeve in the water of Holy Baptism and enters your life personally with the bread and wine of His Supper. There you will find Him, swaddled in all His enfleshed glory, offering you grace upon grace. Your God is not distant. He rolled up his sleeves and saved us. And we’re invited to roll up our sleeves and serve our neighbours.
Long after the gifts are opened, the decorations are gone and packed away, the holiday joy gives way to the new week of work, we are left with only one thing: in that infant boy born to the Virgin Mary, we find our God coming down to us, rolling up his sleeves to save us.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.