The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, Christmas Morning
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH…AND OF HIS FULLNESS HAVE WE ALL RECEIVED AND GRACE UPON GRACE.
What a sweet time to long for something big! What did you wish for? I don’t know how you do it with presents. We rushed home after service last night and stayed up late, watching surprised face after surprised face as the presents were unwrapped: a small picture of GRACE UPON GRACE for sure. Do you do open all of them on Christmas Eve? Or maybe just one? A foretaste of the foretaste of the Feast to come? Or were you up early this morning with sleepy eyes and coffee and breads and stockings filled with chocolates? Whatever your family tradition, we all received the same gift this Christmas, because God always gives exactly what we need: FOR UNTO IS BORN THIS DAY A SAVIOR WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.
And no matter how many times we’ve received Him, Scripture says, OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED. All HIS FULLNESS…as we heard last night, we haven’t even begun to imagine what that means. What does that mean, OF HIS FULLNESS? If we’re talking about presents, how much is packed in Him?
C.S. Lewis once said it’s not that we’ve desired so much or that our heads are lifted too high, but that we haven’t desired nearly enough. We’ve settled, with heads hung low and without the imagination to long for the most splendid things of this life and the next. So we latch on to whatever quick pleasures this world can offer. And rather than see the sweet things of this world as a foretaste of what’s to come when the FULLNESS OF GOD appears, we see the FULLNESS OF GOD as just some other thing dwelling among us.
So what’s going on with us, that we could imagine He’d fit in a corner of our lives, like He were a present that we could push in the corner of the room, like socks that you know you need, but aren’t thrilled about? IN ME, says St. Paul, THAT IS, IN MY SINFUL NATURE, what’s going on is ignorance and self-interest, and blindness to the light that shines in this world. But IN HIM IS HIDDEN ALL THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. In us is ingratitude and panic and worry and death. But IN HIS SON, GOD HAS GIVEN US ETERNAL LIFE AND THAT LIFE flows from Him. What’s going on in our old nature is poverty and sorrow and misery, but IN HIM, THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD LIVES BODILY.
What’d you get for Christmas? You got THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY. OF that FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED, and our Father says, “Keep unwrapping.”
IN HIM IS LIFE and I’m baptized and born again, but it’s still piecemeal. I’ve still got dead parts in me that hates the light and life that streams from His holy face. All things are new this morning. And all God’s promises are yes, in this Child. So far, I KNOW IN PART: I SHALL KNOW FULLY, EVEN AS I HAVE BEEN FULLY KNOWN. And so far, death still has a short term claim on these bodies. But Christ says, I AM THE RESURRECTION, and therefore WE SHALL BE RAISED INDESTRUCTIBLE, POWERFUL, and GLORIOUS. I mean as things stand with us, we barely know the ABC’s of love, but WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM. OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED, and when we’re done taking the gift, we shall be FILLED WITH ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD.
But, honestly, what kind of use have we made of the gift so far? I mean, we won’t be fully healed till Heaven, but how well could I have been by now? How wise could we have been; how much knowledge could we have had; how loving could we have been, how alive by now? But we were busy, I guess, with everything going on in our great, big, huge, all-absorbing, tiny, shrinking lives. I know we wasted a lot of time just plain sinning. What a waste!
So if there’s so much more in the Son of God, what’s that to us? More for us to fail at? More that I ought to be grateful for, that I should have been a lot more grateful for last time? What’d our Father get you for Christmas? The FULLNESS of CHRIST THE LORD that I couldn’t keep up with last year? It’s when I see so plainly what I’ve done so far with my Father’s very expensive present that I’m scared to receive it again. Doesn’t He know what I’ve done with that present before? Doesn’t He know what I’m likely to do? Does He know who He’s giving that to? That’s when I can hardly believe that that’s my name on that gift, again: “From your Father, to Jason.” But He says, “Just keep unwrapping.”
See, OF HIS FULLNESS HAVE WE ALL RECEIVED AND GRACE UPON GRACE. It comes with an attachment. And that’s exactly what I needed. You, too. GRACE is all the love of God, wrapped up in the human flesh and blood of His Only Son. Jesus says, MY FATHER LOVES ME. It’s for you.” I got that last year. Yes, and this year, too. It’s GRACE UPON GRACE, last year and the year before and this year and today and if I say, “I’ll try to do better with it this time,” God says, “This time? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Last I remember, you were receiving My Son and so glad about it, too, with a face like a child receiving something unexpected and wonderful.” Well, beloved, that’s what we got: something unexpected and wonderful, again. GRACE UPON GRACE.
GRACE UPON GRACE is love specially packaged for people like me, and its fits perfectly, no matter how big a sinner you are. Of course, maybe I underestimate you. Maybe you’re a sinner the like of which God has never dealt with before. But are you really going to be egotistical about how bad you are? Are you really going to bury yourself in the poverty of your own heart? Are you still holding out for some starring role in your own holiness, even when it means no happy ending? Of course, take seriously the sin that’s gone on in you and me. But everything that’s been going on in you or me is not everything that’s been going on.
A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN FOR us. And the Star of the whole story is Him, IN WHOM THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD lived splendidly, suffered unimaginably, and died gloriously to drown our sins with GRACE UPON GRACE. THE SON OF GOD is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, and the FULLNESS of that Righteousness that we’ve been baptized into – we haven’t even guessed so far. What’d your Father get you for Christmas? I don’t think we ought to tell Him now, “Oh, You really shouldn’t have.” Of course He shouldn’t have, but what else could He do if He wanted me Home? It’s GRACE UPON GRACE. How else could He get you Home for the Holiday that’s coming? How else could our story get a Happy Ending? A most astonishingly Happy Ending?
There’s everything in what our Father got us for Christmas. And that really is your name on the present. So He hands it to you again and He says, “Look. It’s for you.” FOR GOD SO LOVED you THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, full of knowledge and wisdom and life everlasting and righteousness and GRACE UPON GRACE. OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED. And our Father says, “Child, keep unwrapping.” In the Name of Jesus + Amen.