Christmas Day Sermon 2022
Merry Christmas. Last night we gathered to hear the Nativity story as told by the Gospel according to Saint Luke. And we heard that God comes to us whether we are ready or not. And the text contained a whole list of characters that we expected to be in the story.
We had Mary and Joseph. We had angels. We had shepherds. We had barn animals. And we had the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.
Well, this morning our text does not contain any of these characters. In fact, as one reads the text for today, one finds that the Gospel according to Saint John pulls us back from the details of the story to give us the heart of the story. And that is why John gives us the Christmas story without shepherds and angels, without a barnyard, or cattle, without even Mary or Joseph.
For you see, the Gospel of John takes us to the core, or as one of my professors would say, to the meat of the story. The Gospel of John loudly proclaims: “And the Word became flesh.”
So, what exactly does this all mean? It means that God took on our human form. It means that God became man and yet remained fully God. That is what Saint John meant when he wrote, The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. Literally, God pitched his tent; he set up his tabernacle in our midst.
Now, John’s Gospel story of the incarnation is hardly one we could use to produce a Christmas pageant. It is too theological. It is too philosophical. It is too dogmatic. So, what on earth does it mean that the God of all creation chose to become incarnate? And what exactly does the word incarnation actually mean?
To understand the word incarnation let us start by comparing it to the flower with a similar name. The name carnation gets its name from its fleshy color. The name originated from the Latin word “carnis,” which means flesh, because early carnations were typically pink.
It is also related to the word “carnivale,” the South American Mardi Gras festival where one is encouraged to eat all the meat that is in the house before the Lenten fast.
It is also linked to the word carnivore, the scientific word for meat eater. Carne means meat. So, the word incarnation literally means “to take on meat.” And that is what John means when he wrote “And the Word became flesh.” The birth of the Christ Child is the moment when God puts on the meat of humanity, the flesh of our human bodies.
And so, if you want to know what the Christ Child looks like, look at the people around you, look at their skin, and eyes, and hair. When Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds looked into the eyes of the Christ Child, they were looking into the eyes of God.
When the disciples and the crowds heard His voice, they would have heard the voice of God. When the lepers and the lame and the blind were touched by Jesus, they would have felt the touch of God. When the soldiers nailed His feet and hands to the Cross, they impaled and wounded the actual body of God.
But putting on our meat is not just about physical bodies. The incarnation event also meant God put on the flesh of humanity. Through the incarnation, God experienced the pain, and suffering, and death we experience in our world. God experienced the whole flesh of our human condition.
God experienced all the emotions and fears and heartache that we humans experience in this world. God took on what it truly meant to be human. He ate with us. He walked with us. He did all the things that we do in our everyday lives. God literally became one of us.
So, while John’s Gospel does not have all the details that we think are normally a part of the Nativity Story, John’s Gospel does take us to the heart, or rather, to the meat of the story. John’s Gospel removes all the details to emphasize that God came to our world to take on our human flesh so He could become one of us.
Pause: I would like to close this morning with an illustration that most of you have probably heard before that expresses John’s Gospel so well that I would like to repeat it again to you this morning.
The illustration states that once there was a young girl who complained to her mother that she was afraid of the dark. And so, to comfort the child her mother said to her “Sally, remember that Jesus is with you.”
The young girl paused a moment and then replied “I know mother, but I want someone with some skin on them.”
My friends, God has taken on our skin and God has experienced our pain, our temptations, our disappointments, our fears, and all our concerns. And the skin that God took on was pierced by nails and hung on a cross so that the sin which has separated us from God could be removed forever.
As John 3:16 so wonderfully states “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
This morning we gather to celebrate the fact that God has taken on our skin. And we rejoice in the Gospel proclamation “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you have filled us with the light of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. Let the light of faith shine in all we do, so that people everywhere may believe, rejoice, and celebrate the love you have for each one of us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.