Texts: John 1:1-20;
Is. 9:2-7; Heb. 1:1-4
“WORD MADE FLESH”
And the Word became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth. — John 1:14
Long-time radio personality Paul Harvey used to tell a Christmas story that he said was his most requested story to tell. He used to tell it every year. Now, that Paul is retired, it deserves to be told every now and then. It is one of my favorite Christmas stories, too. I’d like to tell it to you this morning.
It is the story of a man who had a real problem with Christmas. It wasn’t an Ebenezer Scrooge type of problem. On the contrary, this man had always been kind and considerate to everyone. He was caring and sensitive, a good husband and father. In the eyes of others, he was a good and honest man.
No, this man’s problem with Christmas had precisely to do with the incarnation, the Word made flesh that we just read about. He couldn’t understand it. He couldn’t accept it. He couldn’t believe in it. God become a human being, born a small baby in a manger? What sense does that make?
Finally, one year he had to share these feelings with his wife more directly, telling her that he couldn’t go with her to Christmas Eve services this year. To be honest with himself, he just couldn’t go celebrate something he didn’t believe in. His wife reluctantly, sadly, packed up the children and left for church without him.
Almost as soon as they left, a winter storm blew up. Snow began to fall, and the wind began to howl its icy boding. The man sat down to read in front of a warm fire.
Suddenly, there was a thumping sound from the front window. It sounded as if somebody was pelting their picture window with snow balls. But he couldn’t imagine someone out in such a storm on Christmas Eve, with nothing better to do than to throw snow balls. With the porch light turned on, he opened the drapes. Through the driving snow, shimmering in the light, he saw several birds flopping around under the window. They didn’t look permanently hurt, mostly suffering the discomfort and pain of the harsh storm. Apparently, they were desperate to find some shelter and had flown into the window. Now, they flopped close to the house for any kind of shelter from the full force of the wind.
As I said, he was a kind man, and his heart went out to them. He wished he could help them. He remembered the pony shed out in back, a perfect shelter for them, if he could only lure them there. He put on his winter gear and went outside, turning on the backyard spotlight and opening the door to the shed. But how could he lead them there? They wouldn’t just follow him. So he went to get some bread crumbs and made a trail from the window to the shed.
It didn’t work. Nothing worked. He even tried catching them, in desperation, but it was no use. They were just too afraid of him. He tried and tried to help them, but they just couldn’t trust him. It was so frustrating! He even began to think to himself, “Gee, if I could only speak their language for a minute, I’d be able to convince them that I’m trying to help. Better yet, if I could only be one . . . of . . . them . . . .”
Just then the church bells began to ring out “Joy to the world, the Lord is come…” I could only be one of them.” He understood.
* * * * * * *
The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Jesus came to tell us the good news that God is preparing a place of shelter for us. There will be a time and a place when God dwells with us again, and this time there will be no more pain and suffering. Another John, called John the Seer, would later have a vision of this time and place:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” — Revelation 21:1-4
In the meantime? Well, this Jesus also showed us a way to glory through the suffering of the cross. But that’s another mystery that still lies ahead of us in this church year. Today? Today let’s celebrate the one who came into the flesh, shining the light of grace and truth, proclaiming the hope of a day when death and mourning and pain will be no more. Amen
Paul J. Nuechterlein
Prince of Peace Lutheran,
Portage, MI, December 25, 2011