Christmas Sermon by the Rev. Craig Stephans

Living into the Gift of Christmas

At Christmastime, Christians reflect on the story of the Creator of all things becoming a created person conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit.  The Son of God, fully God, becomes also Son of Mary, fully human.  The One through whom all things were created and are sustained became the least of humanity – a tiny human life dependent on his mother.  God lived and dwelt in Mary’s womb for nine months like any other baby would.  Mary became God’s temple, his ark, his home.  Jesus became humanity.

The condescension of Creator to become creation demonstrates two things: the value of humanity to God and the loving humility of God.  The incarnation of Jesus (God becoming flesh and dwelling among us) inspires reflection about the first man Adam.  Was Adam so beloved by God and so valuable to God that the Creator would be so committed to him and to his offspring not to let sin and rebellion undermine their relationship?  Is humanity really such a treasure to God that he would suffer to become a child and to mature in this world to die a horrible death on a cross?  According to Scripture and Christian teaching the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The conception, birth, life and death of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, proves and emphasizes the sacred value of humanity in God’s eyes.  The love of God for persons must be greater than we can imagine – from the first person to the last person, he or she has astronomical value to God.

When God became conceived in Mary’s womb and dwelt there for nine months and was born into and lived in the world as a full human, he demonstrated the sacredness of life from conception to death.  He demonstrated the sacredness of life in the womb.  He demonstrated the value of the least of people by becoming the least of people.

Jesus was bringing joy to people already while he was yet in the womb.  His presence while only days or weeks old inspired Elizabeth’s son John to leap for joy in his mother’s womb; his mother was already called “Blessed.”  Then at his birth, heaven and earth rejoiced at his entrance into the world from his mother’s womb.  Here was Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Psalm 139 has been a treasured prayer to God since it was written by king David 3,000 years ago.  It comforts readers to know that we are God’s handiwork and that he has known us before we were born.  Imagine the significance of these words now that they are the truth of Jesus prayed to his Father:

Psalm 139:13-16   13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jesus became the work of his Father’s hands, being fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb…formed in that sacred place.  Now God the Son approaches God the Father from our place, so that we will be able to approach the Father from the Son’s place in holy and intimate communion.

In the story of the judgement of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25, Jesus says whatever we have done or not done to the least of one of his brothers and sisters, we have done or not done beneficially unto him.  He took the place of the least of these, and he made that place sacred and forever identified with himself.

This Christmas, I encourage you to contemplate the sacredness of humanity demonstrated in Jesus from conception in the womb to death in displayed today in the face of all people – family, friends, strangers, enemies and even yourself.

We like to think of the Christian walk and journey being from glory to glory and from strength to strength.  It can only be that because Jesus took the journey from the weakness and smallness of conception and birth to the weakness and humiliation of suffering and death on the cross.  He became human and exalted humanity again to sacredness by his grace and through our faith in him.

He has never ceased to be Lord and God.  He has never not been worthy of all of our worship.  This Christmas and beyond, worship him.  Follow the examples of the angels in heaven, the shepherds at his nativity and those who have known him best: worship him.  Then you will know him and yourself and truly live into the gift of Christmas.