Maybe you've heard the saying, "That's him...in the flesh!" or "Are you really so and so?" "In the flesh!" It means that it's really that person. They're not far away. They're not someone else. They are THAT person and they are RIGHT THERE in front of you and where you are. St. John teaches us that we can say the same thing about God when Jesus comes. Jesus? God? In the flesh! It's really Him. It's really God. Now, I suppose we can imagine lots of things about God and we usually do. We can sort of imagine a great big Guy up in the sky, that we can't see but who paints rainbows and sunsets. He can hear everyone's prayers at once, and He's all powerful and all that. We have that sort of abstract acknowledgement that God is everywhere and sees everything (though that never seems to stop us from doing stuff for the naughty list!) But it's maybe a lot harder to wrap our heads around the idea that God is in a manger. That He's wearing a diaper. That He needs to be fed and rocked and changed. That's...that stuff...is so...NOT like God. Or at least not like our ideas of God. But this is the mystery of the Incarnation. This is the wonder of Christmas: The Son of God has come...in the flesh. He was conceived in the womb of Mary and at Christmas, like we sing, He first revealed His sacred face. And then probably did cry because babies cry. He needed to eat. Needed to be changed. Needed to be held and rocked and burped. How's that for some God stuff? Baby Jesus, is that really you, God? In the flesh!
And His whole life will be doing fleshly, peopley, human things. Like walking around. Eating. Sleeping. Oh, sure, He often reminded His disciples that He was God in the flesh by turning water into wine or walking on water or feeding 5,000 or healing the sick or raising the dead. There was even that one time He went up on the mountain and went all supernova shiny! But all of that is just to remind folks: Jesus, are you really God? In the flesh! But the really super big deal about His being in the flesh is what happened to Him for your salvation. Your flesh is born infected with sin. Your flesh is born already dying. So He came in the flesh to have happen to Him what happens to us to save us. He came to suffer. Mocked. Spit upon. Beaten. Scourged. Pierced. Bleeding. Finally, death. Death. Cold, dead body. Blood poured out. Breath stopped. Head bowed. Body laid in a grave death. He's not just one of us until we start dying off and He can say, "Well, I'm God so I don't have to do THAT!" No, he stuck with us the whole way. Even to His own death. So that we can say about that Jesus on the cross: Is that really you, God? His answer? In the flesh! And with that, with His being in the flesh, because of His incarnation, we can say such wild and crazy things as "God died for us." For me. For you. For the whole world. For every mortal fleshly human, the Son of God dies. To make sin and death His own and take their power over you away. And when He rose? Still in the flesh. Still a body. Remember Thomas? Jesus' hands and sides. His flesh still had holes. Because the goal isn't to escape the flesh but raise it from the dead free from sin and alive forever.
And while we still picture God in some abstract way, because Jesus has ascended and we don't see Him with our eyes, He's still all about the flesh. His flesh. Your flesh. Take your baptism for example. That's a real, fleshly thing. Water which splashes on your body. Words that your ears hear. Nothing abstract or imaginary there! In the flesh of your pastor you hear the words of Jesus too. Words calling to repentance. Words absolving and forgiving. And then, the Supper. Bread and wine. Jesus, is that you? In the flesh! His flesh and blood for you to eat and drink. Everything about Jesus' gifts is fleshly, earthly, watery, bread and wine, body and blood. That's why when we worship God it's never off on our own just sort of thinking about God or pretending we believe. It's about actually being in the church, with our bodies. Our ears open, our mouths singing God's Words and receiving Christ's body and blood. It's life lived in the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who with their frail bodies, and sins, and faults, and foibles, have been made pure and holy just like you by the flesh of Jesus. Christmas is the vivid reminder that God is not just "out there" somewhere or "up there." It's a reminder that God is not some mysterious force or abstract divine whatever somewhere. It's a reminder that God is about more than just having the whole world in His hands. It's about God having hands. And feet. And flesh. That gets pierced. That bleeds. That dies. For you. For the whole world. Christmas is this holy and beautiful reminder that you can look at Jesus and say, "God, is that really you?" And He answers, "In the flesh!" Right here. For you. As your Savior. "For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Merry Christmas in the Name of Jesus! Amen.
Sermon Topics: John