Rev. George F. Borghardt
Merry Christmas! In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Oh yes, Merry Christmas! Say it to me! Merry Christmas! Say it to those around you. Merry Christmas!
“O Come All Ye Faithful” to hear some “Angels We Have Heard on High.” “Joy to the World the Lord has come” into “the little town of Bethlehem.”
You see, there’s no FROM ABOVE without our Lord Jesus coming to you “from above.” And that first “from above” is all Christmasy! For Christmas is the celebration that Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made;” (Nicene Creed)
The eternal Word was with God in the beginning and is the One through whom all things were made… for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” (Nicene Creed)
In the Virgin’s arms, wrapped in swaddling clothes is God Himself. God Incarnate! Like chili con carne is “chili with meat.” “Incarnate” means “became meat, became flesh.” God is in our flesh to save us. He’s in our flesh.
The Word became flesh and dwelt, literally “tabernacled,” among us and not just in a tent like He did in the Old Testament where He was delivering blood-sprinkled forgiveness to us veiled and hidden behind a curtain, lest His glory do us in.
But, since Christmas, God has “from-aboved” to us. He dwells with sinners now! With even you and me whose hearts are all “two sizes too small!” He tabernacles with us! We beheld His glory in the flesh and blood of the man, Jesus.
Now all the rules of how the God-who-was-up-there are off! For since God in Christ has taken on your flesh, God has fingers like you. Ten piggies like you. He has a heart that beats fast when He’s excited. He hungers and thirsts. He has dirty diapers. He spits! God spits! He gets cold. He even gets frosty like you do. And yes, crying He makes...
And on Good Friday, we beat God up, we mocked, spit upon Him and stripped Him naked, we drove nails into His hands and feet and lifted Him up from the earth. Then, the God whose job description says “cannot die” did just that. God breathed His last. We then pierced Him with a spear through His side into His no-more-beating heart to make sure we’d properly killed Him.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The babe, the son of Mary! (LSB 370, 2)
Behold God for you—come “from above” to be crucified for you under Pontius Pilate. He trades for you the wood of the manger for the wood of the cross. The swaddling clothes are traded for burial clothes and the warmth of the Blessed Virgin’s arms for the loneliness of the grave.
Now He showers His Christmas gifts on you and into you in the water and blood flowing from His pierced side. You could live as if Christmas never happened. As if Christ hasn’t taken on your flesh, as if you are on God’s “naughty” list. As if you have got to be good for goodness sake for God to call you His child.
You can “let your sins and sorrows grow and let thorns infest the ground” of your life. You can snatch and grab what you can while and act like the people trying to grab the last gift on a shelf on Christmas Eve.
You could be hateful, so grinchy with yourself and those whom you love. You could live “from below” in your sins, clutching hold of them as if you’ll die without them.
No Christmas cheer then! You will die in your sins. And God will give you what you want: a life without Jesus—full of coal in your stocking and the dirt of the grave and the fires of hell.
But, faith! Faith receives, faith believes, that God on Christmas came “from above” and changed everything for this world and so also for you.
For in His incarnation, Jesus has become all that you are and all that is you to redeem all that you are and all that is you with His holy life and His Good Friday and Easter.
What you suffer, He suffered. The hurt and aches that hurt and ache you, hurt and ached Him first: the heartbreak, failures, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, joy, stress, temptation, sicknesses, pain, even death itself. He experienced it all. He took it into the grave with Him and left it there. He rose. You rose with Him.
God dwells with you. Near you. He’s washed down your forehead, making you as white as snow. His Body and Blood are put into your mouth to drive away all your bah humbugs. His Words deck the halls of your life with the forgiveness of all your sins. So cue the Angels! Wake the shepherds—and sleeping youth leaders! God is with sinners. He has come from above into our world to save us from our world. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Merry Christmas! Say it to me. Merry Christmas! Say it to each other. Merry Christmas! In the name of Jesus! Amen.
(This article has been adapted from a sermon preached by Rev. Borghardt at the three From Above conferences last summer.)
Rev. George F. Borghardt is the president of Higher Things and serves as the senior pastor at Zion Ev. Lutheran Church in McHenry, Illinois.