25 December 2018†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church

The Nativity of Our Lord††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

ďOpen Your Gift!Ē

Text: John 1:1-14

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

A present wrapped in the shape of a tennis racket probably is a tennis racket. Not much else shaped like that and hard to make anything else look like that. In the same kind of way, a small box under the tree probably doesnít contain the large present you were hoping for. We can often figure out presents by their shape, rattle, size, or weight. Or at least get a clue to what may be under the wrapping. Though we do like to try to fool each other sometimes. Putting a small gift in a large box, or a putting a small picture of that large gift, hidden in the other room, into that small box under the tree. The other thing about gifts is that children tend to open the biggest gifts first. Because the bigger the better, right?

 

Well not this morning. This morning, in the tiniest of human packages, is the biggest and greatest gift of all. Today in the poorest of wrappings, swaddling clothes, is the most precious and priceless gift of all. For we remember this day, the Word that was in the beginning, before all things, the Word that was with God, and the Word that is God, became flesh and dwelt among us. Today, the eternal Son of God is wrapped in human flesh for you.

 

Now, the size and shape and appearance of the baby lying in the manger could not tell you that. In fact, judging by appearance, you should have pity on this newborn, born into such poverty, in such an unfortunate way, far away from home. But do no such thing, John is telling us this morning. He came not for your pity, but to have pity, to have compassion, on you. On you who had everything, but gave it all away. You who were created as the crown of Godís creation. You who were given dominion over all creation. You who were created without sin, without sickness, without death . . . but now look at you.

 

You see, the devil knows how to wrap, too. How to wrap sin into a really good looking package. That it look like what youíve been wanting. That it look really good. But when you unwrap it, open it, itís not what you thought it was. Adam and Eve found that out that hard way. Us, too.

 

And so, as I said, look at you now. Look at what sin has done to all of us. We are hurt by sin and hurt others by your sin. We are sick, diseased, and frail. We have graves full of loved ones. So what to do? Well, we try to do it too! For if it worked on us, maybe it will work on others, too. And so we try to wrap ourselves up and look good; try to fool others with our happy appearance. Maybe others wonít know what Iím like inside, how sinful; all that I am ashamed of. Maybe they wonít know how I feel inside; the hurts and pains and doubts and fears.

 

So what many want for Christmas, but theyíre afraid to say, is for all that to be gone. To stop having to hide. For the hurts to be healed, the doubts to be conquered, the pains turned to joy, and the fears conquered by love. And not just for a day.

 

So today, John is unwrapping the gift of God to us. The gift that gives all that! That we not judge this gift by its size, shape, or appearance, but know that here, today, is the gift we need.

 

Last night we heard about the wrapping and what could been seen - the journey to Bethlehem, the stable, the swaddling clothes, the manger, the angels and the shepherds. Thatís like your Christmas tree with all the presents under it and around it, but none of them unwrapped or opened yet. Itís pretty, but thereís more to it.

 

And that more is what John is telling us today. John unwraps all that and tells you what the real gift here is: that baby is the Word was made flesh. Or in other words, the very Son of God was made to be just like you. The infinite God has, in this child, become as small as you. The all powerful God has, in this child, become as weak as you. The glorious God has, in this child, become as poor as you. Which might not sound like good news, at first. But it is, John says. It is! The Son of God is born a son of man, that we children of men might become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

Born of God. Thatís you. Born of man, you are sinner. Ugly. You have to wrap yourself up to look good and hide the ugliness. But born of God, you are saint. Holy, perfect, and pure. Because thatís what God has made you, through this child, in the forgiveness of your sins. Your wrapping might not show that. Like the child Jesus, you look just like everyone else. But youíre not. Not anymore! Because of Jesus, youíre now a child of God by grace through faith. Youíre a child of God, for youíve been baptized into your Saviour.

 

And speaking of deceptive gift wrapping . . . thatís one right there: baptism. Thatís like the present under the tree that you open last, because itís kind of small and doesnít look like much. But when you open it, unwrap it, you find out itís the gift youíve been wanting and waiting for! Thatís baptism! It really doesnít look like much, just a little water. But really, thereís the gift you need. Thereís the healing, the forgiveness, the love, the life, the salvation youíve been wanting, and need! God put all that there for you.

 

And the Lordís Supper too. Just a little piece of untasty bread and a sip of wine. Like a present wrapped in a plain, brown bag. Or what about Absolution? Just words? Or maybe the humble wrapping is hiding the greatest gift of all. For you see, thatís Jesus in all those things. Wrapped up for you in water and in words and in bread and wine. And not just the baby Jesus, but the beaten and bloody Jesus, the crucified Jesus, the risen Jesus, and the ascended Jesus. Your Saviour Jesus, to save you.

 

Thatís what John wants you to know this morning. And itís what we sang to each other in the beautiful opening hymn we sing every year on Christmas Day (LSB #384) - a hymn written back in the fifth century! A hymn Christians have been singing for some 1500 years now! Expressing this truth.

 

That this child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?

He is the one:

 

(v. 1) Of the Fatherís love begotten before the worlds began to be,

He is the Alpha and the Omega,

††††††††††† the source, the ending,

††††††††††††††††††††††† of all the things that are, that have been, or that will be. Forever.

 

(v. 2) He is the one now born,

Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin, Mary -

††††††††††† she bore the Savior of our race!

On that day not just a child was born, but the worldís Redeemer

††††††††††† first revealed His sacred face. Forever.

 

This child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger? He is the one:

 

(v. 3) The prophets and seers in old time, in the Old Testament,

††††††††††† all spoke of with different words, yet in unison.

And promised in their faithful words that God was fulfilling His promise!

And now He shines, here, with the glory of God!

††††††††††† Let creation praise its Lord! Forever.

 

(v. 4) But not just creation! All the heights of heaven, too!

††††††††††† The angel hosts that praise Him in heaven, now praise Him on earth,

††††††††††††††††††††††† extolling our God and King now born in human flesh and blood.

So let no tongue on earth be silent either! Every voice in this concert, ring!

††††††††††† Forever.

 

Did you realize thatís what we sang? Pretty amazing. Not the song, the child. The gift. Donít let the wrapping fool you. Here is a gift that will never run out, never wear out. It might seem like Heís gone out of style these days, but He never does. For what He is, what He has, is what we always need. For He is full of grace and truth. And you need both. Grace without truth is like treating the symptoms but not healing the disease. Truth without grace is like operating without anesthesia. But when you know the truth of our sin and its depths, and know the grace of God and how great it is, then we have something! And what we have is Jesus. And when we have Jesus, we have His life and His forgiveness, we have His Sonship and His kingdom, we have His perfection and His love. And that, you have to say, is a gift unlike any other.

 

Therefore we sang our thanks in the final verse of that opening hymn:

 

(v. 5) Christ, to Thee, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit,

††††††††††† hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unending praises!

For with Him is honor, glory, dominion, and eternal victory! Forever.

Evermore and evermore!

 

And we will sing that, those thanks, forever. A hymn, chant, high thanksgiving, and praise that not even death will be able to end. Because of Him. Because of your gift, born for you this day.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.