Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Second Sunday After Christmas (A) 2014

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +

Text: John 1:1-18
Theme: Dwelling Among Us

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

In the Scriptures Jesus Christ is referred to as the Word of God. In the beginning God spoke and creation came into existence out of nothing. Essential to the meaning of His incarnation, of Christmas, is the understanding that in these events all creation is taken back to the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”1 In the flesh of Christ, a perfect state of material being again exists. In the person of Jesus, the image of true humanity is restored. Our continued celebration of Christmas involves the promise that believers will be restored in both body and soul for eternity according to the words of the Spirit, “Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”2 This future is God’s original intent for us.

Fundamental to understanding the Biblical perspective of existence is understanding that what is commonly known as the natural state of things is actually an estrangement from God. Human beings, as they are in and of themselves, are not in the state God originally intended and created. We are born divorced from proper fellowship with God. His ways and works are alien to our instincts and desires. This is true not just for those who are willfully and outwardly evil, but even for those who appear to be honest and godly in their actions. Since this truth cannot be empirically proven, it must be believed. Our Scripture says, “He [that is, Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”3

The creation does not, in fact, cannot, recognize her Creator. To acknowledge the existence of God intellectually is not the same as believing in Him, as loving Him. The First Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods.”4 “What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”5 It means to look to Him for our only hope and security, our only source of life and strength. Faith in Christ necessarily involves the repudiation of self and all other sources of hope. In Christ, we then become what we are meant to be. Our gospel says, “To all who received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God- children born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”6

Spiritual conversion is a wholly supernatural activity. The Bible excludes any place for human ability and capacity when it comes to gathering people into His kingdom. Just as we are born to parents, born into a family completely apart from our choosing or cooperation, so too are we brought into the family of God. It should not be surprising that baptism, the means by which this takes place, is described as bringing about a new birth. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”7 Thus from start to finish God is, as the Bible says, “the author and perfecter of our faith.”8 “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”9

The forgiveness we have is not some theoretical platitude. It was earned through the suffering of Christ’s body and His sacrifice unto death. The promise of absolution has the guarantee of His flesh and blood. The sins of repentant believers, sins great and small, truly are forgiven, removed, washed away. Even as Christ is risen from the dead, we too are raised to a new spiritual life here and now. Dear Friends, do not take it lightly that by faith you are resurrected beings. Christ has bestowed on humans an honour higher than that of angels.

In due time, our spiritual resurrection will give way to a physical resurrection when we pass through death into life. We should long for this each and every day. Our life here is but temporary. Our life there is forever. Then all the frailties of the human body, all the weakness of the human mind, all that torments heart and soul will be resolved. The blindness that strikes the eyes, the deafness that strikes the ear, the confusion that mutes the tongue, the lameness that hinders the limb, the atrophy that cripples the joints, the cancer that commandeers the flesh, the Alzheimer’s that decimates the mind, the frailty that simply drains strength, all the bitterness and hardship with which we must cope will vanish in an instant. There is noting that we suffer now that will not quickly become a vanishing and fleeting memory.

Yes, in this life we will struggle. But the point of Christmas is that Christ is with us. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”10 We can now live in such away so as to bring the presence of God to others. The year 2014 is before us and we are faced with great challenge and opportunity. Despite the affluence (or we may say also because of it) real human need is as great as ever. People live in open ungodliness and societal values become more secular. There is a vast mission field right at our doorstep. Across the world some nations and people groups suffer great physical want while others have never heard the gospel proclaimed or the word of God taught. As individual Christians and as a church, we are held to account. We must prioritize our resources and energies in sacrifice of our neighbor and in honor of God’s name. No effort, regardless how small, is insignificant. In Christ, we can meet the future with determination and excitement.

It is appropriate that during the season of Christmas, one calendar year comes to an end and a new year begins. We go forward knowing that Christ is with us. Through water and the word, through His Spirit, through the sacramental bread and wine, He dwells in and among us. We go forward knowing that in the Lord, even the most menial daily tasks are not in vain. We go forward with the boldness to hold high the Light of the world in a spiritually dark age. We go forward with the eagerness to more fully understand His will. We go forward with the comfort and confidence of knowing the future is secured. We go forward with the prayer of St. Paul who said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”11

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Christmas
January 5, 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 1:1-2
2 Philippians 3:20-21
3 John 1:10-11 4 Exodus 20:3
5 Martin Luther 6 John 1:12-13
7 Titus 3:5-6 8 Hebrews 12:2
9 Colossians 1:13-14 10 John 1:14
11 Ephesians 1:18-19