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“Luther Proclaims that Christ is truly God,” Christmas Day Sermon, 2009

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Christmas Day, December 25th 2009

Isaiah 52:7-9 Psalm 98 Hebrews 1:1-4[5-12] John 1:1-14

Luther Proclaims that Christ is truly God

To prepare for this sermon I read Luther’s long 42 page sermon for Christmas Day and I am following many of his thoughts from it.[1] He called it the Gospel for the High Christ-mass; we would say for the Christmas Day Service. Luther felt that the Prologue of John is the clearest Gospel depicting the Godhood of Christ.

On Christmas Day, we do not relate the intimate details of the story about the birth of Christ: the baby Jesus, Mary, his mother, and father Joseph, being as helpful as he can be. Today we look at what this story means. What does it mean that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us? Today we think about what it means that Christ was born and lived and ministered among us, full of grace and truth.

The Gospel lesson is the introduction to the Gospel of John. John is not like the other three gospels. John starts at the beginning of everything, wants to think the story of Jesus all the way through and get to the bottom of it. He starts like the Bible in Genesis, “In the beginning….” In Genesis we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In John we read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word.” John wants to tell us that the birth of Christ compares in significance to the creation of the whole world, because God was fulfilling the divine prophesies and promises pronounced in the Old Testament. God, Immanuel, God-self would come and dwell with people. Luther explained that the Old Testament is the sealed letter that the New Testament opens up for us, revealing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whom the Old Testament promised.

In the creation story the Three Persons of the blessed Trinity can be distinguished in the very first words of the Bible. John actually thinks out the distinction of the First and Second Person in his first verses. But first, let’s take the light: John says, “The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” In Genesis, “God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light.’” Back to the Persons: if God spoke, then there are the Speaker and the Word and therefore the Word that God spoke, was with God before creation. Further God speaks from the heart, so the heart of God was in the Word. That Word is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Often we Christians say, “The Father, Word, and Holy Spirit,” instead of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Christ is the Word, the Word of God, the Christ of God, whose birth we celebrate today. Thus you see how high John’s presentation of Christ is.

Now the creation story continues with the spirit hovering over the face of the waters, the formless deep. Here you have the Blessed Third Person of the Trinity. So there is the eternal Father; the Son, begotten but not made; and the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Notice how all three persons of the Godhead are involved in creation.

Now the Bible is not a book of science, but of theology and our faith in God. The science of that day needs to be updated by the science of our day, even if even today, we cannot hold a candle to the science God knows. So when you hear about the scientific Big Bang Theory of the beginning of the universe, then you have to realize that the Christ of God born on Christmas Day, was in eternity with the Father and the Holy Spirit before creation. This Word of God “created all things, made everything that was made and without him nothing was made that was made.” So the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit launched this creation, this universe or multi-verse, as we sometimes say today, where in the first milliseconds, it became as big as a golf-ball, then in a few more seconds following, expanded into the galaxies of the universe light years apart.

Suddenly time, space, and light began, because God said, “Let there be light.” But it all sprang into creation through the Word of God. Imagine the awesome power of the Word of God, flinging the creation with its starry heavens into existence and providing this planet Earth for us to live on and dwell in as it orbits around the sun.

Oh, if we were able to weigh, with [the feeling] that we ought, what it means to be saying, “God is speaking,” “God is promising,” “God is threatening”! Who I ask would not be shaken to their very depths? This is a great word, a great sound, and one to be feared: “Behold the Word of God!”[2]

Here was the Light of the World before the light of the sun, moon, and stars; the Light of the World come to give us life and light by his life now coming into creation to be born amongst us. Yes, the Word of Heaven is now born a human being. That is the miracle of Christmas.

The eternal Father’s only child,

Now lying in a manger mild.

The maker of everything now asleep in a lowly crib; the One whom the universe could not contain, now a little bundle of love, hope, and joy lying helplessly in a cradle.

The Light that preceded our physical light came from the Word, the Word did not come from the light, according to Luther. And God spoke all things into existence by means of the Word.

So the Word of God is not a creature and has no beginning as creatures do, but existed before creation, beyond time in eternity. Time and creation cannot grasp the Word, because they began through the Word. Those who meditate say that we cannot peer into the light that gives us our conscious existence.

Thus Luther maintains that we cannot understand, but we can only proclaim that the Word became flesh – and “flesh” here means a human being. That is the good news that Isaiah is singing about, the event he is announcing, our salvation.

Again, the Word of God is spoken from God’s heart and thus Christ reveals to us what is in God’s heart and God needs to be received through the Word, this Word that became a human being. Luther tells a saying, “What fills the heart overflows out of the mouth.” So we can picture what God is like from God’s Word, from the Christ of God, just like we can tell what songbird is singing, by recognizing the bird’s song, Luther continues. In the same way we can tell who God is by hearing about Jesus Christ and getting to know his life.

If you have God’s Word within you, Luther maintains that you have God’s divine nature in you. Don’t let your reasoning get in the way. “Crawl into the God’s Word and remain in it like a rabbit hiding in the crevasses of some rocks,” because these matters are all hard to believe. Thus our reason militates against these beliefs. So let your reason take a walk, Luther says, and hide in God’s Word like the rabbit. Don’t make your faith go on a walk and don’t let your reason speculate about these divine matters or you will soon mingle and confuse your faith, reason, and God, not knowing what they are.

Reason first received its light from the Light of God, so it cannot grasp its source. Our lives received their life from the eternal life of God and our reasoning and our lives are like darkness compared with the source of our life and light. That is why the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it. Worse still, we love the darkness of our light and lives more than the Light that came into the world to enlighten us.

Our text follows a distinction made by St. Augustine that Luther rejects. Look at verse three: Augustine connects “What has come into being” to what follows and Luther maintains it belongs to what came before it. “All things came into being through him, that is, the Word, the Blessed second Person of the Trinity, and without him not one thing came into being, that came into being.” Our text reads, “What came into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people.” This interpretation lends itself to Augustine’s Platonic belief that all things had eternal forms and souls in the Christ of God before they later existed on earth.

Luther argued that John was not doing philosophy, but was proclaiming Christ. He was not taking us away from Christ and into ourselves, but taking us out of ourselves and into Christ. It is true that “In God we live, move, and have our being,” but John wants us to realize that from the life of Christ, which he is going to tell us about in his gospel, we receive the Light from above, the Light only receivable by faith, the Light that is the source of reasoning and the source of our lives. It is the Light that gives us the eyes that see, who it was born on this Christmas Day, it gives us the ears to hear the Word of God, and gives us the heart that has room for Christ.

Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

There is room in my heart for Thee.

In the enlightenment of Christ, we already get to enter the Light, which comes down from above and enter the life that the Jesus Christ came to us to bring. His life is the source of life that will never die; even crucified, that life will rise again on the third day, because it is the life that overcomes death. It is the source of life in the Christ of God and in all who believe in his name and receive him. In this Word of Life we never taste death.

Luther mentions a certain contemporary of John called Cerinthus, who said that Christ did not exist before his mother, because he was a human being and a mother exists before her child. John angrily refutes Cerinthus and throughout his gospel he shows Jesus confronting his mother, because he wants to show that the Word of God, the Christ of God even existed before time and creation, let alone before his mother.

Now like Cerinthus, if we believe that Jesus Christ was merely a good man, then we consider him only according to the flesh, that is, as a human being, and “the flesh is of no avail.” A human being is like a dim reflection of the life and light of God, like our moon merely reflecting the light of the sun. That kind of belief is bankrupt and loses out on the whole shining Gospel of the grace and glory of Christmas.

If we believe that the Christ of God, the Word of God from heaven was God dwelling with us in the life of Jesus Christ here on Earth, then his flesh is food indeed, his blood is drink indeed, for it is nourishment received from the source of life and gives us a life lived in the Light of God. We receive heavenly life and light from him. With this faith, his flesh becomes the very bread of heaven.

When the “One through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that was made,” that is, the Maker of heaven and earth, nourishes us, then the life, which is the light we are speaking about, enriches us with grace, so fills and renews us, that we too live in this marvelous light and life of God.

Verse thirteen shows that those who believe that Christ is truly God and walk in his Light are born of God. Then Christ will exchange our birth for his. Then Christmas will also be our birthday. Name your birthday! Your real birthday will be December 25th and Christ will take your day, which sometimes no one else would ever celebrate.

The Christ of God is a person who is the Son of God and the Son of Man, true God of true God and truly a human being, born of the Virgin Mary. If you take him as a mere human being, then you let the darkness of your reason throw a cloud over the miracle of Christmas and over the way all the saints rise up as the children of God, born not of the blood, or of the will of the flesh or of human will, but of God!

This flesh availeth very much, because this human being, who is God, the Word, has come to dwell with us and launch our salvation. He gives us the nourishment of eternal life, the source of light that changes us in the twinkling of God’s eye, from people bound in the cords of death to people looking forward to the heavenly welcome table, in the marriage feast with the Christ of God. His light cures our blindness and overcomes the darkness. Many are blind, live without this grace, and even persecute it. But thanks be to God, who opens our eyes and ears and hearts to see the salvation launched by the birth of Christ on this day. God gives those who receive him the new birth of the children of God, whose Name be praised for ever and ever, for sending his Christmas Son to save us.

Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus.

There’s room in our hearts for Thee.

Amen.


[1] Martin Luther: Ausgewählte Werke: Von Advent bis Epiphanias Evangelienpredigten der Kirchenpostille, herausgegeben von H.H. Borcherdt und Georg Merz, Dritte Auflage, Ergänzungsreihe, Vierter Band, (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1960), pages 140-182. This sermon can be found in any edition of Luther’s Advent and Christmas Postil. It is in the Weimar Edition, WA 10.I.j.180-247.

[2] WA 4:380.15-18. Quoted from James Samuel Preus, From Shadow to Promise, (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1969), p. 253.

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Written by peterkrey

December 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm

One Response

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  1. What a great way to introduce an issue. I’d like to learn more with regard to this and to listen to perspectives from the rest of your [website].

    Carson Ojito

    January 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm


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