Sermon – Christmas Day 2018
John 1:14 ‘Christmas Camping’
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Intro: Most of us, if we’re travelling any distance and especially if we’re going to be away for any length of time, make plans; how to get there, where we’ll stay! We book motel rooms ahead of time; we even book a site at our favourite campground weeks ahead of time. Local hunters have been known to send someone out the week before moose hunting to secure their favourite campsite.
No Tent, No Room: Mary and Joseph’s travel plans were simple; walk 70 miles (110 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We, not the biblical writers, put Mary on the back of donkey, but I’m not sure what would be worse; walking 70 miles when you’re about to give birth to your 1st child or riding a donkey? The ‘Nativity Story’ movie depicts the young couple camping out along the way; no blow up mattresses, no pop up ice fishing shelters, and a very harsh environment. And then to get to Joseph’s hometown (“for he was of the house and lineage of David”) and not find even some distant shirt-tail relative that would take them in. There was not surfing the web for a Comfort Inn, no Trivago, no reservations, none available, and no MasterCard privileges; there was only a cave—a grotto—a cattle stall—a sheep shelter. Never mind the picture perfect delivery into the hands of waiting medical staff; the perfect Son of God delivered from a young woman’s womb into the trembling hands of a carpenter, betrothed to be her husband. No prep, no prenatal classes; just the hard school of a baby coming into the world now!
Tented With Us: As difficult as it is for us to imagine those circumstances, Galatians reads: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who are under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” What appears to us to be almost a haphazard playing out of events is God’s plan; purposeful and deliberate and for us! The Word—that is God Himself—became flesh and dwelt among us; quite literally, camped out in our midst! God comes to us in the miracle we celebrate at Christmas; He set aside the glory of heaven and entered into the harsh realities of our world for our sake. God coming to us—with us—for us, is at the heart of what makes Christianity tick; it’s the Gospel itself!
Though it was told that the Christ would be of the line of David, born in Bethlehem, and would rule fairly and rightly over His kingdom forever; no one was really expecting or looking or welcoming. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When King Herod found out about Jesus’ birth, he tried to murder Him. Even though “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…the world did not know Him.” “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” Yet Jesus camped out with us anyway; shedding His light into our darkness!
Piercing our Darkness: Darkness is not just the night of that 1st Christmas Eve; it’s the condition of our hearts and lives apart from faith in God’s Son. Jesus said that “people loved darkness rather than the light because [our] works are evil.” (John 3) But Jesus didn’t come to simply shed light on or expose our sins; He came to save us from them. Jesus is the Light that enters into the dark tents of our lives. The darkness of our lives, and futile attempts to know God, add nothing to the light. It is the brightness of a Coleman lantern that pierces the darkness of night campground. It is the light and the warmth of the campfire that warms the campsite.
Yet people today look at Christianity and push it away in fear, not understanding the purpose of the light is to warm and comfort. And so often, we as Christians fuel that fear with an attitude that we’re here to expose and judge what’s wrong in other people’s lives. The purpose of Christ’s Light is to reveal the grace of God, offer and deliver forgiveness, and give life. Christmas, Jesus’ birth continues to receive a cold shoulder from many rather than a warm welcome, and even among we who believe He is often relegated to the back shed of our lives instead of the front room.
Born in Us: “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today!” We add nothing to Jesus’ light of life, no more than a dark tent adds to the light that illuminates it; we are the vessel that receives His light, and He dispels the darkness of sin, the grip of death, and the power of the devil. And as our Gospel lesson says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name”—the result of the Light in our lives is to create a saving faith, a faith by which we believe—“He gave (we didn’t take or accept)—He gave the right to become children of God.” And John’s record of the Christmas campout does not stop there—“[we are then] born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” It’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus—that we must be ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’. This is God’s work at our Baptism where you and I are born of water and the Spirit.
Light in Us: Christmas is God coming to us, with us, for us; the Light of Christmas that shines into our darkness giving life. This Light of Christmas is no other than “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” And this Light of the world has purified you from all sin. The baptismal candle is lit and a smaller candle is lit from it and given to us—the Light of the world—the Light of life received in us! We witnessed that same action on Christmas eve, but until the Light of Christ takes hold of our darkness, Christmas can never be Christmas…but because it has we can say: “We have seen the glory of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” for me!