Text: John 1:1-14
Date: Christmas Day + 12/25/16
Thy Kingdom Come.
Now in the manger we may see
God’s Son from eternity,
The gift from God’s eternal throne
Here clothed in our poor flesh and bone.
Alleluia! (LSB 382:2)
In a way Mark Twain’s famous novel “The Prince and the Pauper” parallels the mystery of Christ and of Christmas. The main difference, of course, is that Twain tells of two young boys who are identical in appearance, one a pauper who lives with his abusive father and the other Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII. In Jesus Christ, however, the two are one, He is both the King Himself from God’s Eternal throne taking on our human nature of His human mother, Mary.
Twain’s story relates how the two boys exchange identities so that the prince now lives as the pauper and the pauper as the prince. In this way the prince actually experiences the harsh and unjust realities of life among the masses which is the more critical element of the story. In the end the death of the prince’s father means the prince is to become king. Only then are the two dramatically discovered for who they really are. The real prince becomes king but the real pauper is rewarded by the king with the rank of earl and his family the right to sit in the presence of the king. In gratitude for supporting the new king’s claim to the throne, he names the former pauper the “king’s ward,” a position he holds for the rest of his life.
Today we highlight and emphasize that phrase in the Nicene Creed that proclaims the mystery that the only-begotten Son of God “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” He didn’t come as an angel or some other creature but as a man, a human being. One translation[i] of Luther’s famous Christmas hymn says,
Look, look, dear friends, look over there!
What lies within that manger bare?
Who is the lovely little one?
The baby Jesus, God’s dear Son.
You know, you look a lot like Him and He looks a lot like you. Could it be that we could exchange places, He living as you and you as Him? And therein is the Gospel story, the great exchange between sin and death and grace and life.
The Son of God was made man. As the Son of God He was in the beginning with God as He was God. He is consubstantial, of one substance with the Father. So identical are they that we must say all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. Yet it was not the Father who became man, so the triune Persons of God have also their unique, individual realms of activity.
In Luther’s valuable “Christian Questions with Their Answers” the question is asked, “How many Gods are there?” To which we are to answer, “Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Of course, the purpose of the Son of God in taking on our human flesh was so that He could die for us and shed His blood for us on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Luther then asks the seeming redundant question, “Did the Father also die for you?” Answer: “He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.”
This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas. He is both prince and pauper for us. He is the Word made flesh. He is the life and light of men who shines and overcomes the darkness of sin and death. To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God. And how is this done? We are given new birth, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,” but by the blood, the flesh and the will of God.
On Christmas Eve we gather in the silence of the night amid candles aglow. “On Christmas night all Christians sing To hear the news the angels bring.” On Christmas Day, however, we break into song saying,
Yea, Lord we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory giv’n!
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
Jesus is the Prince, the Prince of peace who has come to change us from being the poor, helpless paupers of darkness, sin and death to be children of God, members of the household of God, the King.
[i] Lutheran Book of Worship and Lutheran Worship