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Incarnation and Creation, a Sermon Preached at Resurrection Lutheran Church, the Second Sunday after Christmas, January 2, 2011

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Second Sunday after Christmas

Jeremiah 31: 7-14  Ephesians 1:3-14  John 1:1-18

Incarnation and the Creation

In the Prayer for Today we prayed, “Almighty God, you have filled the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ.”  God filled the world with the light of the incarnate Word, the Son of God. In our language the “son” as in the Son of God and “sun” as in the sun up in the sky, sound the same. The words are homonyms, but although they have different meanings, we can make a comparison between the one and the other. On earth the light of the rising sun makes the whole world come out of darkness and become visible to our eyes. In the same way, the Son of God has come to the earth in Jesus Christ and has made God’s whole creation come to light, come into being, for us who believe and receive the One whom God sent to us from heaven.

So Christ is the source of our light while we reflect it, like the moon reflects the light of the sun. We just experienced a total eclipse of the moon the other night. It took place on December 21st, on the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year. [I watched it outside until about 1:00am. I had to crane my neck and I was afraid I would get a kink in it.] As the shadow of the earth swallowed up the moon, it was still visible as a reddish-brown colored ball. Mostly we see the sky as if it were two dimensional and we see the moon as if it were a shining disk. When the eclipse took place, the sky became three dimensional and began to look like space. The moon looked exactly like a planet floating in space and it was possible to imagine our own blue and white planet Earth just like the moon, floating in space and reflecting the light of the sun. [We experience daylight when the sun shines on our side of the earth and night when it shines on the other side. If we looked at our planet from the moon, our planet would have phases just like the moon as we see it from the Earth.]

Watching that eclipse take place, I thought, “What a wonder our creation is!” The moon is up there and it does not fall down out of the sky. We ourselves on Earth are floating in space as well as the moon. While falling in the pull of gravity toward the Earth (according to Sir Isaac Newton), the moon keeps circling around the earth and in the same way the Earth with our moon keeps circling around our sun.

And reading the Prologue of John, we can say, “What a wonder that the Creator God sent his Son, the Word to become flesh and dwell with us!” In Hebrew “flesh” means a human being. That means the Word of God became a human being and dwelt among us. In the same way, “carno” means flesh in Latin and “incarnation” means to take on flesh. Thus Incarnation means the Word of God became enfleshed, became embodied, became a human being in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Gospel of John starts with the same words that start the whole Bible. Genesis starts, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Our Gospel starts, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Thus the Gospel of John is relating the creation with the incarnation. Don’t let these 25 cent words throw you. Christmas, the Nativity, the birth of Christ has to do with how God is creating the world. God’s sending the Word into the world is involved with the creation.

Often we simplify heavenly things. We say God the Father created the world; God the Son saves it, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies it. But all three persons of the Blessed Trinity are always involved in each other’s work. So the Son is also involved in the creation as well as the Holy Spirit: remember how it says that the Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos like a mother hen? We also often place the creation back into the past and we do not realize that God is continuously creating the world. We believe in the continuous creation, because God touches our time with eternity – transcending time, lifting up our time into eternity, where God continues creation.

Through the birth of Christ, that is through God’s incarnation, God has done a new thing in the continuous creation of this world, because we ourselves receive a new birth in Christ, when we believe in the One whom heaven sent to us and faithfully receive the One whom the faithless world disowned and rejected, even though it was created by the Word of God. The world did not know and recognize its own Creator.

As the gospel says, “All things came into being by the Word, [meaning the Son of God,] and without him not one thing came into being that exists.”

We mostly celebrate Christmas from an earthly point of view, while the Gospel of John takes a heavenly point of view. We usually think about the manger, the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, that there was no room in the inn, etc. This gospel, however, takes a heavenly point of view, the point of view of eternity (to use the words of Spinoza) and shows how the Son of God or the Word of God in the heavenly places of eternity is about continuous creation. When we believe in the One, that is, the Logos, the Word, who is God’s self revelation to us; and when we receive him, when we make our hearts his manger and his birth takes place in us, then our lives become changed by the incarnation. We ourselves become new creations. The Word becomes flesh in us and we experience the mark of God’s continuous incarnation. As Luther says in his Galatians commentary, we become beautiful new incarnations of Christ.[1]

[When I was translating Luther’s “Freedom of the Christian,” in the places where Luther writes that we become Christs to our neighbor, I wrote, “we are to become ‘little Christs.’” Prof. Timothy Wengert corrected my translation. “No, Luther said we become Christs to our neighbor.”]

Thus Christmas, the nativity, the incarnation is about our new creation. God has adopted us as God’s children through the birth of Christ.

Mark the way the gospel speaks about Christ coming before John, the Baptist, even though he came after him and Jesus himself said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”

I would like to relate that to evolution. I’m sure many people shake their heads and turn away from faith because of the theory of evolution. But I submit, even though evolution is biologically true and real, that we have been lifted up into eternity and the story of evolution is not really our story any longer. Our story is one of God’s continuous creation. We don’t think about the Cromagnons, the Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens. Before that we have been taken up into God’s continuous creation and we have become beautiful new incarnations of Christ. Thus evolution is no longer our story, because our story precedes it, like Christ preceded John, even though he came after him.

What does it matter that they just found teeth that belong to Homo sapiens in an archeological dig in central Israel? They could be 400,000 years old, while they thought Homo sapiens went back only half of that time.[2] Those durations of time, however, cannot compare with eternity.

And the incarnations, which continue because you believe in God’s name and receive Jesus Christ into your hearts, are our story, which begins with the Garden of Eden and ends with the holy city of the New Jerusalem, coming out of eternity. Thus the story of evolution and the many scientific scenarios of how this world could end [I’ve been watching the History channel], are not our stories. Although evolution took place from an earthly perspective, our incarnations coming out of eternity, came before it.

We are part of the continuous incarnation by our new births in Christ. It is not only we ourselves, who believe in Christ and who receive Christ that have this new birth, but our whole world will have a new birth in Christ. [See Romans, chapter 8:22: we know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”][3]

In our adoption as the children of God, we become God’s wonderful people finding and taking our heavenly places (Ephesians). We used to sing a song in Coney Island:

Don’t you love the thrill that you feel

When we get together with

God’s wonderful people

Don’t you love the thrill that you feel

When we get together with

God’s wonderful people

What a sight just to see all those shining faces

Praising God in heavenly places

Don’t you love the thrill that you feel

When you get together with

God’s wonderful people.[4]

[When you experience rejection or you get put down, then think about your being a beautiful new incarnation of Christ. Talk about lifting up your self-esteem!]

Now people will look at realities, earthly realities, for sure, and say, “No, we are just a dominant species of animals, who are what we are by adaptation and the survival of the fittest.” But we will say, “No, we are God’s wonderful children.” Because eternity is touching our time and touching us, now the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem have become our story.

The world may say, “You are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” But we say, “You are so earthly minded that you are no heavenly good.” And the heavens are still above the earth the last time I looked.

So the heavens have touched us, because God so loved the world that God sent his only Son to die for us, to be born for us, to be a human being for us, to transform us into God’s new creation. The Word of God proclaims the good news, the in-breaking news, the breaking story of our becoming a new species, who awake in the likeness of Christ.[5] The old Adam and Eve have died and we are now brothers and sisters of Christ.

Now our faith and our receiving the One whom God sent accomplish this miracle, in which we become beautiful new incarnations of Christ. None of us from an earthly point of view, conceived ourselves, nor did we labor and bring ourselves to term. No, our mothers did that for us and our fathers had to conceive us, otherwise none of us would have been born. A self made man is impossible. There can be no such person.

In the same way, by our faith and by our receiving the One this world has disowned, the beautiful new incarnation, a new birth in Christ happens to us. It is by God’s grace alone that we receive the new birth in Christ and become children of God in the Beloved Community around the table of the Lord.

So let us live in the light. Let us reflect the light of the love of God. Let us rejoice in the Good News and become part of the breaking new story that is all about not condemning the world, but saving it and entering the abundant life that God’s Word came to us to bring. Amen.

[1] “The Law pertains to doing. But faith is not of this sort; it is something completely different – something that is required before the Law is kept, so that when faith is preexistent, a beautiful incarnation can take place.” Luther’s Galatians Commentary of 1535, LW 26, page 272. WA XL: 425-427.

My own notes here: faith needs to be unobscured by the formation of love – not replete with works, that is, it needs to be free from works, etc. Faith needs to be all alone, so that the new human being can incarnate in the believer. Faith is not idle. By faith Christ brings about his marvelous exchange with us. Our transformation is the fruit of the first commandment.

[2] Archeologist now wonder if Homo sapiens did or did not come out of Africa. Like all science, more evidence, like a skull, is needed to be sure that the teeth belong to our anthropological species, Homo sapiens. “Israel: Old Teeth Could Change Ideas about Evolution,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 2010, page A2.

[3] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning with labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8: 19-23).

[4] I doctored the words somewhat to make them more acceptable for Lutherans. See

[5] See 1 John 3:1-2 and Psalm 17:15.


Written by peterkrey

January 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

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  1. […] incarnation even while God is at work in the continuous creation. You can check out this sermon here. In the many flowers of the beautiful Christmas plant, the poinsettia, I used to see the Nativity […]

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