Life in a Place of Death: A(nother) Sermon for the Nativity of Our Lord on St. John 1:1-14

Nativity Icon (parents & child)

It’s easy to take our own births for granted, but if you were to write a list of the top 5 or 10 most significant things that have ever happened to you, your birth would have to be number one on that list.  Nothing we’ve ever done or experienced in life would have been possible had we not been born in the first place.

But why were you born?  And what’s the meaning of life?  The answer to that question is found in another birth, the birth of Jesus. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

That’s what Christmas is all about, the birth of Jesus–the Word became flesh and dwelt among uswhose birth bring life into a world filled with death.  As important as our own births are, there is no birth more important than that of the Christ child. Without Christmas, there’s only death.

Our lives are marked by death.Many people see life as adead end, finding no reason for their own existence.  Maybe life was vibrant and joyful at one time, but now you wish you could return to a better time and place. The grass withers, the flower fades (Isa 40:8a). Our bodies and all of the things we accumulate for ourselves eventually go the way of all flesh.

The tragedy of our existence is highlighted by St. John:

 [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 

All things were made through Jesus, yet, the world did not know him.  Life is found in Christ, the one whose birth we celebrate this day.  But sin has so damaged your relationship with God that it often seems as if life isfull of nothing but death.

And if your broken relationship with God weren’t tragic enough, there’s another tragedy here.  Your corruption runs so deep that it’s beyond repair.  Sin is an unspeakable evil and so deeply corrupting that nothing good or pure remains within you.  Sin has rendered you spiritually dead in God’s sight, and we’re often even blind to this. As Luther says:

“[Our sin] is indeed the utmost evil, that we are not only to suffer God’s eternal wrath and eternal death, but that we do not even understand what we suffer,” (LW 13:127–28). 

Sin has rendered our lives and priorities so backward that we often don’t even know why life can seem so hopeless.

But Jesus didn’t take on human flesh so he could come down here and rub it in.  Never did he say, “Remember what I told you about the fruit on that tree?  I told you so!” No—He came to bring you new birth. St. John continues: 

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

Jesus was born that you might have new birth. The apostle Peter says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). 

Without Christ, you are dead in your sin, without hope and meaning to life. But Jesus’ birth has brought life into a place of death, hope into the midst of despair, and meaning into an otherwise meaningless world. God has baptized you into new life, a life that has already begun and will never end.

The solution to death is not to try to return to a better time in your past, but in the life the Incarnate Lord gives to you now, in the present.  The sinful flesh is convinced that life is meaningless and is sick beyond all healing. Mercifully, God puts the sinful flesh to death through the preaching of His Word, by working contrition and repentance in your heart.

But Jesus doesn’t leave you dead. He raises you up to new life. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

New life is given in Christ. Meaning and joy are given in Him, in constantly being brought back to Him who has the words of eternal life. The sin that separates you from God and causes your hopelessness is forgiven you. Your forgiveness is as certain as the shedding of His blood. God’s favor with you is as certain as our Lord’s resurrection.

In Christ you have been born again, not of perishable or corruptible seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).  In Him is new life, now and forever.

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. John 1:1—14
The Nativity of Our Lord, 2013: “Life in a Place of Death”
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