Holy Christmas Day

Sermon for Holy Christmas Day
Text: St. John 1:1-14

In Nomine Jesu

“Where in the world is God?” So many people are asking this question today. And so many have the wrong answer. Hindus answer this question by saying that there is no personal deity, only an impersonal force that permeates the universe. For Buddhists, there is no absolute Creator, no one to whom we are accountable for our actions. Just meditate on the Four Noble Truths and follow the Eightfold Path and you too can achieve enlightenment. You too can break the endless cycle of rebirth, if only you can rid yourself of all desire and attachment. Those who don’t follow any particular religion still wonder if there is a God, and those who believe there is a God still don’t know how to find him or what He thinks of them.

“Where in the world is God?” Is God even “findable?” And are we even the ones who have to do the “finding”? Or does God find us? If God is findable, then where is He? Where are we to look for Him? In the Old Testament, there was no question about God’s whereabouts. He was with the Israelites. He was in the Tabernacle of meeting, between the Cherubim, above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. As long as the people of Israel saw that cloud of His Glory in the Tent of Meeting, they knew God was with them to bless them. The Israelites would have been silly to ask, “Where in the world is God?” He was right there with them, there for them to call upon, there for them to see in veiled form. He was there for their benefit and blessing, to forgive their sins, to give them access to His divine presence. Once the temple was built in Jerusalem, God took up residence there. Even then, there was no question as to the whereabouts of God. God was with His people.

But then something changed. Something miraculous took place. The Word became flesh and tented among us. God took up residence not in a temple made with hands, but in the temple of a Body. That body was the child born to Mary, the one named Jesus, the one who would later be crucified and die for the sins of all men. “Where in the world is God?” Christianity answers: He is in Jesus. He is Jesus. The Word was God. To gaze upon the face of Jesus is to gaze upon the face of God. His flesh has taken the place of the veil that separated the holy of holies from the holy place. His body has taken the place of the Temple and the Tent of Meeting. His crucified flesh and blood have taken the place of the sacrifices of lambs, bulls, and goats, and in His death payment has been made once and for all for the sins of the world. This is the good news of Christmas, the news that brings joy and gladness to the hearts of all believers, the news that God is not some impersonal force, or just some concept of the mind, but that He exists, and He is present for us in His Incarnate Son Jesus. And just so you know that the Israelites did not have a leg up on us in this regard, God, in His Son, is still with His Church today. Just as He tented among His people in the Old Testament, so also He tents among us, He dwells among us today, in the Person of His Son, who comes to us today in the Sacrament of the Altar. The answer to the question: “Where in the world is God?” is this: God is in His Son, and His Son is here with us, for He said: “Lo, I am with you always to the very close of the age.”

It’s a scary thing isn’t it, not knowing where or how to find someone important? When a child gets lost, and cannot find his parents, there is fear and trembling. It is of utmost importance that we know where and how to find God in this world. Of course God is everywhere. He is omni-present. He fills all creation. But knowing this does not help us when we are filled with sorrow over sins. Knowing that God is present everywhere does not help us when we are struck with guilt, or when we are in need of comfort and strength. Knowing that God is everywhere does not do us much good when we are in need of forgiveness, of mercy, or when we wish to call upon God for help in prayer. That is why God has taken up permanent residence in the body of His incarnate Son. This is why He reveals Himself and makes Himself available to us in His holy Gospel and Sacraments. God does not want us to be searching around in the dark, like a child looking for his lost parents. He wants us to find him, and in fact, He searches us out and finds us. God is not the one who is lost. We are. Our sins alienate us from God. They separate us from our heavenly Father. But in Christ Jesus He has removed the separation by reconciling the world to Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Amen.

About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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