Sermon for Christmas Day, AD 2021

John 1:1-18

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This creation of God in the very beginning, God’s absolute creation from nothing, was formless, empty, and dark. It was uninhabitable by anything – plant, animal, angel or man. The human mind cannot comprehend the first undifferentiated creation, without distinction of matter or energy. Yet God was there, and the Spirit of God hovered over this undifferentiated mass, this empty deep. And God said “Let there be light” and there was light. By the Word of God the very glory of the Spirit of God shone into creation.

That Word of God is Jesus, the Son of God, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” God created through speaking a word, The Word, the eternal Son of God. Together, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the heavens and the earth, and created it good. This light was the first thing created that was good, and God divided the light and darkness thereby creating the day and night and time. This was the first day.

And then on the second day God by his Word created the firmament in the heavens to separate the waters from the waters, to give form to what was formless. The firmament was created to divide the waters, and that firmament was called the heaven, or sky. By this firmament God separated heaven, the dwelling place of God and His angels, from the earth, the dwelling place of man. God’s dwelling is unreachable by any spaceship or vehicle that man can contrive. It was attributed to Yuri Gargarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, who said that God was not found in space. Yet the Bible clearly speaks that even a Vostok 3KA vehicle will not bring us closer to God or make a landing upon the heavenly sea of glass to gaze upon God’s throne. Heaven and earth were created separate.

On the third and following days God by His Word formed the earth, filled it with plants, animals, and man and created the lesser and greater light to govern it and all this was good. The firmament, though created, was not called good. Even Adam and Eve in the garden, though in perfect communion with God, could not physically reach heaven. Earth was not created as simply another heaven but was set to grow into heaven. Yet Adam’s sin broke that completely. No longer would the earth become heaven-like, but it would decay. Time’s arrow would push the world further from the good creation it had started from.

For the rest of human history all of Adam and Eve’s children continued to follow in their footsteps. Having broken the connection between heaven and earth, people continued to reach for heaven, to attain God. Like the people who built the tower of Babel, the action is always an upward attempt, getting away from this world and to heaven. Every man-made religion has this quality, that we must achieve something to reach God, to bring earth up to heaven. Even as Christians, we are not immune. Look at common Christian books and teachers. So much is about seeing Jesus as some sort of goal, and then telling us to reach for it – as if He is across a gap that we must bridge. This is the essence of the social gospel, where Christianity turns into making earth into a sort of heaven. Yet every tower of Babel is crushed, every societal program falls apart and nothing science can do can get us closer to God. Man cannot cross that firmament on his own.

Some realize this and instead try mysticism, or seeking a spiritual connection through thoughts and feelings. Mystics think we cannot really connect with God unless we separate from troublesome physical distractions. We may act as if our minds, our dreams, are the true connection between heaven and earth, and everything else in creation is something to be overcome. Many Christian churches who believe like this reject the common material of the sacraments – water, bread, and wine – as being only useful as a reminder, an exercise of the mind. For them there can be no physical connection between heaven and earth.

Yet not even mystical efforts will make that bridge. We see in scripture that God thins that separation between heaven and earth through His good creation. God dwelt among Moses and the people of Israel in a physical place, the tabernacle. This holy tent, crafted from ordinary materials by skilled workmen, was where God met with Moses. Only Moses, and later the high priest, could interact with God there in the tabernacle, and even they did not see Him fully. The separation between heaven and earth was thin there, but it was still there. There had to be a mediator between God and the people. Even the glorious temple of Solomon was only an image of something greater in heaven. Heaven and earth were still separated by the firmament.

God crossed the firmament and broke in. Creation decayed, empires rose and fell, millennia passed, until finally the proper time had come. The time had come for the angel Gabriel to visit the virgin, Mary. Gabriel would announce to her the Word of God, that would conceive and bear a son.

Just as no physicist can create from nothing, no biologist or fertility expert can ever make a virgin conceive. This act of creation God would do once, here, in the backwater town of Nazareth in Galilee. It’s no wonder that Mary would reply “how will this be?” The Spirit of God would overshadow her just as it hovered over the waters on the day of creation. From an empty womb and formless flesh would be formed a single-celled zygote who is both God and man. This one who would go through all the stages of fetal development would be called Jesus – the salvation of the Lord.

In Jesus heaven and earth come together in a physical body. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God makes the finite contain the infinite. The finite womb of the virgin Mary contained a developing little baby who was also the Creator of the Universe. The manger contained the One who appeared to Moses in the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud. The infinite Son of God took on finite, physical flesh. And that is how heaven and earth come together.

Only Jesus as a finite physical man could be nailed to a cross for our sins. Only a man could bear our afflictions and be crushed for our iniquities. Only a man with a physical body could bear the physical chastisement which brings us peace. For this, Christ, the God-man, being lifted up on the cross, is “his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It has been said “the cross stands while the world turns.” That cross is where everything comes together. Heaven and earth meet. Sin is destroyed. Forgiveness flows. We see the true cost of our sin. We see the true love of God in that He was willing to pay that cost for sinners.

So the temple curtain was torn in two that day. No more separation. Heaven and earth have come together in Christ. As physical man, he has borne our sin. As true God, He does not stay dead. For He can take all our sin, all our punishment, and defeat it. Death could not keep Him down.

His birth which the celebrate today means that Heaven has come to earth. He comes to you now, the finite containing the infinite. The infinite God, His body and blood, in bread and wine. Here in the divine service is the thin place, the crack in the firmament, where by faith we receive the gifts of heaven coming to earth. Our wise creator, desiring the salvation of every sinner, now bridges that gap and brings Christ to us in simple, physical means. No mystic or monk comes as close to heaven as when in the divine service Christ comes to you.

For as the kingdom comes now, there are thin places in the firmament, holes where heaven comes to earth. These are found not in a spiritual high or feat or strength, but in Word and Sacrament. As the Son of God came down and took on human flesh to become part of creation, so creation is used to bring you into fellowship with God. Simple water, word, bread, and wine make and strengthen you as a new creation, no longer separated from God by some vast firmament, but indwelt by his Holy Spirit. God will save this world through faith in Christ, as he works by means of men he has given his Holy Spirit.

Only through Christ has this world been redeemed from corruption. The birth of Jesus was the first sign that the world is being birthed as a new creation. It groans in birth pains as the consummation of all things approaches. On that Last Day, our ascended Lord will descend with all His mighty angels. They shall not be a mere choir but a mighty army. As the Lord Jesus descends with the sound of the trumpet, the firmament will finally and permanently crack wide open. Heaven will fully come to earth, earth will be remade as heaven. The Son of God who took on flesh in the virgin’s womb will openly reign as a king forever. The new creation begun in us will be complete, all sin and sorrow washed away. We will not depart from creation, but as we are remade in His image, creation will be remade in heaven’s image, and there will be no separation anymore. For where heaven and earth meet in Christ, from the manger to the final day, there is no separation at all. And it is very good. Merry Christmas. Amen.






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