Into the Chaos: A Sermon for the Nativity of Our Lord on St. John 1:1-14
Glory be to God on high, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!
But instead of peace on earth, chaos often reigns. We long for the peace of this silent, holy night. All too often, the chaos disrupts the sacred silence and robs us of the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Chaos is not a good thing. Genesis describes God’s work of creation as victory over chaos.The earth was without form and void before God brought about light, life, & order. The earth was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, as the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2 says. This תֹהוּ, this chaos, is not a good thing. The bible uses the word תֹהוּ to describe exile in a desert wasteland (Deut 32:10). תֹהוּ is the word Isaiah uses to describe the wasted, broken down ruins of the city after the destroyer comes. תֹהוּ describes moral and spiritual confusion (1 Sam 12:21). In our lives, instead of שָׁלוֹם, (tohu) תֹהוּ often reigns.
Maybe it’s the chaos of failure and guilt. Maybe it’s chaotic weather or the chaos of your checkbook. Maybe it’s the chaos of a diagnosis or death. Maybe it’s the chaos of the sin other people have committed against you. Maybe it’s the chaos you’ve brought upon yourself by your own sin. Probably it’s a little bit of everything.
Haydn does a masterful job of musically depicting the תֹהוּ, the chaos that God overcame when He created all things in his oratorio, The Creation. Have a listen.
Like our lives and like the state of creation before God brought about order, Haydn’s piece is filled with tension. There’s a sense of anticipation, of building toward something, alternating chords followed by growing volume. Then: silence.
And into the silence, into the chaos, God spoke:Let there be light (Genesis 1:3). But the first word, this first light wasn’t enough. So God spoke again: Go forth My Son, the Father said, and free My children from their dread of guilt and condemnation.
And then Jesus spoke: Yes, Father yes, most willingly I’ll bear what you command me. My will conforms to Your decree, I’ll do what You have asked me. As St. John says:
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… 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 1:1-5, 14).
Into the chaos of your life, God speaks: Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10a). The Word became flesh and entered into the chaos of this world. Jesus does not stand off and look upon the chaos of your life from afar. He has entered into the chaos of this world and has endured it like none other. For your sin He endured being cast away from God’s presence (Matthew 27:46).
Into the chaos of this life, the Word became Flesh. O wondrous Love! What have you done? The Father offers up His Son, desiring our salvation. In the midst of the chaos, Jesus is with you. He brings peace in the mystery of His holy incarnation, His Holy Nativity; in His baptism, fasting and temptation; in His agony and bloody sweat; in His cross and passion; in His precious death and burial; in His glorious resurrection and ascension; in the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to you in Word and Sacrament.
On this holy night, let us together with Luther ponder the joy that is found in mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation. To paraphrase what he says in his sermon on John 1:14:
Is it not amazing that the Divine Majesty assumed every aspect of this bag of worms, our human nature, except sin and guiltiness and death? He ate, drank, slept, awoke; but He was not born in sin as we are. To be sure, this is so indescribable and inexplicable that anyone really believes it must wonder. Yes, heaven, earth, and every creature must be awe-stricken at the thought that God should regard man dearer and nobler than an angel, although man is really a wretched creature by comparison. God’s preference for the human nature over the angelic might well arouse envy. But all this should make us meditate on the great glory that is ours. For the angels in heaven rejoice over the incarnation. This is why they constantly surround the Lord and serve Him. This is why they were about His grave when He arose from the dead.
Therefore we have every reason to contemplate these words deeply: “And was made man.” It would not be out of place for us still to weep for joy. Even if I should never be saved—which God forbid!—this thought would still fill me with joy: that Christ, who is of my flesh, blood, and soul, is sitting in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, and that such an honor has been conferred on my frame, flesh, and blood.
As St. Bernard further deliberated on these words, he derived some very comforting thoughts from them. He said: “Now I can see that God my Lord is not angry with me; for He is my flesh and blood and sits at the right hand of the heavenly Father as Lord over all creatures. If He were ill-disposed toward me, He would not have taken on my flesh and blood.” We, too, should contemplate these words, “And was made man,” with reverent awe and sing them with long notes as is done in church. This is proper and right, since all our comfort and joy against sin, death, devil, hell, and despair revolve about them and nothing else…
In the beginning, God spoke into the chaos. When the fullness of time had come, God spoke once again, sending forth His Word, born of Mary, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4). And on the third day, God spoke again. He did not abandon His Holy One to Sheol Psalm 16:9a), but has raised Him up, seated Him at His right hand, and has made His enemies His footstool.
All things were made through Him, and behold, He is making all things new (John 1:3; Revelation 21:5). Jesus has made you a new creation in Holy Baptism and has seated you with Him in the heavenly places (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:6). The Word became flesh and is with you always (John 1:14; Matthew 28:20). He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38—39). Peace has come into the chaos, and the chaos could not overcome it.
Soli Deo Gloria
+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. John 1:1—14
The Nativity of Our Lord, 2013: “Into the Chaos”
Pastor Andersen’s blog: http://seelsorge40.com/
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