Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Christmas Day 12/25/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11:00am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: ChristmasDay bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Old Testament lessons. To read the Bible texts for the Nativity of Our Lord, click here.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news.” Just like the rest of us, Isaiah couldn’t wait for Christmas. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,” he said.
From beginning to end, the book of Isaiah is rich with longing for the birth of Jesus. “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name, Emmanuel.” That son would be a sign that the Lord was doing what he had promised, what he had planned to do from the beginning. Emmanuel, God with us, means that God is doing the unimaginable. He takes on flesh, and dwells among us.
Isaiah can hardly contain his joy at the thought of Jesus. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For to us a child is born; to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
This child would be the one to whom such wonderful names would be given, whose name excels that of all the angels, the name at which every knee would bow in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth.
And when he came, he’d have the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, so that by his presence, all the disorder of the world would be made right. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion together. And a little child shall lead them.”
Isaiah yearns for that day, the day of the root of Jesse, the day of healing and salvation. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
Isaiah rejoices at the vision of the Lord’s people returning to their home with gladness and joy, where there is no sorrow or sighing.
That day would be a day of peace; a day of comfort; a day of tender speech, a day in which warfare is ended, and iniquity is pardoned, and the glory of Lord is revealed. It’s a day of good news for the poor; a day of binding up the brokenhearted, a day of liberty for the captives, and release for the prisoners. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings such good news.” Just like the rest of us, the prophet, Isaiah, couldn’t wait for Christmas. And now it’s here.
But what about Jesus? How did Jesus feel about Christmas?
In Isaiah we see a picture of Christmas painted in tones of royalty. Eye to eye, everyone sees the Lord return to Zion, the Lord who bared his holy arm and saved his people. But the Gospel story you know is not so majestic.
A scandalous pregnancy, an unceremonious birth, a baby sleeping in a trough; filthy shepherds bending the knee, and a helpless Child threatened by King Herod.
And in John, in our Gospel lesson this morning, everything turns on this most unsettling point: “And the Word became Flesh.”
How does God feel about becoming flesh? How does he feel about making his home with sinners?
And not just folks who stumble into mistakes or fail to make the mark; but even his enemies. He came to his own and his own people did not recognize him. They would sooner kill him that have him as their King.
This is what it’s like for the Lord to bare his holy arm. This is what it’s like for the ends of the earth to see the salvation of our God. This is what Christmas is like for Jesus. It’s to be humbled. It’s to be a Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths.
It’s to be the righteous, eternal, infinite, and only God, who upholds the universe by the Word of His power, born in mortal flesh, helpless and in need, surrounded by and now a part of, the world that has gone astray.
So how does Jesus feel about all of that? How does Jesus feel about Christmas?
For Jesus Christmas is just like in the beginning when there was a wedding. God worked tirelessly to find a companion for Adam. Someone who would be a complement to him; someone with whom he could share selfless love and companionship and the joys of the Garden and the peace of God’s presence. But there was not found a helper from him among all God’s creation. And then one day, Adam awoke from a particularly restful sleep, and saw Eve, whom God had created to be with him. And Adam was so overcome with joy, that he practically sang with joy: “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”
This is what he had been waiting for. This was the something more, the something better that God promises and always delivers. He had been made in the image of God, and now had someone who shared his flesh.
The first Adam was ecstatic at the sight of his bride. And that’s what Christmas is like for Jesus, the second Adam, the better Adam, the Adam in whom we have life. When He takes on human flesh, He wakes up and sees us, His beloved. Beautiful and radiant with his glory. And so, the Word became flesh, and the Word rejoices. Jesus looks at us in love, and says: “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”
You and I are excited for Christmas. The prophet Isaiah was excited for Christmas. But for Jesus, this is what He had been waiting for all the way from the beginning.
He is the radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of His nature. And now He is united with humanity in his very own flesh. Now he can love us with perfect, selfless love, now he can give us his life, now he can give us all the joys of the garden and the peace of God’s presence. Now everything that Isaiah had spoken of can come true.
You and I are excited for Christmas. And the prophet Isaiah was excited for Christmas. But there’s no one more excited for Christmas than Jesus Himself.