God keeps sending witnesses. Last night we heard the angels with their good news. Then we saw the shepherds telling everyone what they’d seen and heard. Today John: “Sent by God.” “For a witness.” “To testify.” “So that all would believe through Him.”
Pastors and teachers and confessions of faith serve the same purpose. I’m not Jesus, just as John the Baptist wasn’t. And our Lutheran Confessions, like our Catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, etc., aren’t the Word of God. Yet God sends confessions, He sends pastors and teachers. To witness. To testify. To point to the Light. To Jesus. So that all believe.
Because we’re born blind. Worse, we were blind men walking in darkness, as Isaiah said last night, “The people walking in darkness.” And not just any darkness, “land of the shadow of death” darkness.
We see Jesus and we see nothing. A threat to power to murder. A weak little baby. A boasting, bragging local boy who’s gotten too big for his britches and needs to be tossed off a cliff. A crazy man claiming God as His Father. Even yet today, we’re tempted to see almost worse things: a great teacher giving us new rules to follow. An amazing humanitarian who helping the poor. A political revolutionary. The devil rejoices to show these Jesus’ to us, to mask Him as He is: the true Light; the One who was in the world before the world began, through whom all things were made.
We can’t see Jesus without God’s help. Praise God that our Father isn’t some disinterested observer just watching. Instead, He enters into our time and space, our problems, our struggles, our life, our death. “The true Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
John sums this up by saying, “He came to His own.” This could refer to Jesus coming among Jews, God’s Old Testament chosen people. It could be broader, and refer to all creation, all humanity. Then those sad words, “The world did not recognize him,” “his own did not receive him.” Our sin nature blinds us, we fail to recognize or receive Jesus. It’s just as bad to nail Him to the cross as it is to view Him as just a rule giver, or a buddy, or my enabler of sinful behaviors.
Likewise, it’s failing to see Jesus when we fail to see how desperate our situation is. The Large Catechism nails it: “For when we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil. So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us. So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free, and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.”
God makes us see. He opens our eyes. Jesus opened blind eyes. Even more marvelous, and important, is how the Spirit gives sight to hearts and minds. More, it’s about death and life. Dead in sins, God raises us. As Jesus did to Lazarus, He cries out “Come forth!” As John said, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” The Formula of Concord refers to John 1 this way, “Faith, however, is a divine work in us that changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. It kills the old man and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers.” God killed us and brought us to life. He did it by doing it to His Son first.
John said this in a unique way: “He gave the right to become children of God.” An interesting way to speak of faith. It’s as if to say, “You have the right to use this name, which you didn’t have before.” Jesus approves us, like the administrator of some Facebook group.
Better than any Facebook group is this gift of faith: “to become children of God.” This is not what you were by birth, but what you are now, through faith, through God’s gift – “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” In other words, by faith in Christ, by God’s gift, you can now pray, “Our Father” and plead with God for your daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance and eternal life.
All because the Light entered the world, the Word became flesh. Not to put us back in our mother’s womb. Not to give us literal food and drink. Not to wash our body. But to give us rebirth. Water of life. Bread of life. A washing of, a feeding of, a rebirthing of our souls through Him, who came into our flesh, into our soul, into our world. God was one of us. Born for us, to die for us, to rise for us, and to take us through that: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life.” The Word became flesh for our flesh to make us a part of His body.
Today we testify about this God. That He became flesh. To bring light and life and peace and joy and forgiveness. Light to me. Sight to me. Life and peace and joy and forgiveness to me. That makes Christmas merry. That and nothing else. Amen.