Christmas Day Evening
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 1:1-4; 14 Sermon
December 25, 2015
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"O Come All Ye Faithful"
"O Little Town Of Bethlehem"
"What Child Is This?"
"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night"
"Angels We Have Heard On High"
"Once In Royal David's City"
"Hark The Herald Angels Sing"
"Silent Night, Holy Night"
"Joy To The World"
A CHRISTMAS RECIPE
TEXT: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This evening, I brought something with me for a little “show and tell.” As you look at it, you can see that it is a pretty simple wooden box. There’s nothing spectacular about it at all. You might be able to tell that it is an index card box, made to hold standard size 3” x 5” index cards. But it’s old, as you can see. I think they still make wooden boxes like this, but I’ve seen more of them made out of plastic or metal in recent years.
What makes this box so special, is that it belonged to my grandmother, specifically my father’s mother—Grandma Schroeder, or “Nannie” as we used to call her. This was her recipe box, and it is something that I inherited from her.
So here’s how it came into my hands. Nannie passed away in January of 1978, so it has been almost forty years ago that this happened. After the funeral when the family had the task of sorting through her belongings, different people got different things. Most of the stuff didn’t have a whole lot of worth, so people basically just took the items they could use. When it came to the kitchen, there wasn’t much there that people wanted. I wound up with her green Iroquoi china, which I still use as my everyday dishes, along with some of her baking pans, utensils, and such.
The one thing however that everybody passed by was her recipe box. It just sat there on the kitchen shelf. Now I know that all of the family members had ready access to this box over the years and had copied all of her recipes they wanted, so most likely they didn’t see the need to take her recipe box. Almost by the process of elimination, it wound up in my possession. And if I know my grandmother, she would have known that I would appreciate it, and she’d probably be very happy that I wound up with it.
I remember opening up that box for the first time when I got it and reading through all of the recipes. Many are written in her own hand. Some were written by friends or relatives. Some she had cut out of a newspaper or magazine and pasted on a card. Some were even written with a pencil. And a lot of the recipe cards had greasy fingerprints or little bits of food crusted on them.
Figuring out some of her recipes wasn’t easy either. Some recipes were little more than a list of ingredients and their quantity, with no method given. She knew that in her head; so for me to use some of them, I had to locate similar recipes elsewhere to get an idea as to what the mixing instructions might be.
But all in all, it’s like a part of her came alive, because in that box are many of the good things I remember her making and me eating as far back as I can remember. That recipe box has a lot more than words printed on cards; that box contains a lot of Nannie herself, and her personality is woven through everything.
This evening, I have chosen for a text one of the Gospel lessons appointed for Christmas. In this Gospel reading, the apostle John takes us on a fast-forward journey. He starts things off before time itself began, and takes us right up through the time of Christ. And he does this all in just a very few verses.
John’s gospel begins at the beginning. He writes, “In the beginning was the Word…” The word existed long before anything was spoken. The word existed long before God inspired and directed the prophets, apostles, and evangelists to record it. Before anything existed at all, the word was there. The Word refers to God himself.
It only makes sense. When we think about our own understanding of words, we realize that we have to know what we are going to say before we speak it or write it down. Before we can utter a sound or move a pen in an understandable fashion, something has to be there to make it happen. It doesn’t happen all by itself.
King David realized this fact when he recorded the words of Psalm 139. In verses 1-4 he writes: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
David found all of this so completely awesome. The Lord knew his thoughts and words from their very beginning, before he could even speak or write them. To have a God who knows us that well is literally beyond our comprehension.
It makes a lot of sense to use the term “word” when talking about God. It takes us right back to the beginning of things. Furthermore, the Word as it has been recorded for us in the Bible is a lot more than just spots of ink on sheets of paper. This is God actually speaking to us, his very voice put into words we can read and understand; and with this, his personality literally permeates and shines through it all.
As we gather here on Christmas, we have something else to consider. This Word, which is God himself is now taking on a different form. As it says in verse 14 of our text, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us.”
This is why we have come here this evening. The Word has become flesh. It has taken on human form. What God wrote about through the prophets down through the ages has been fulfilled. This word can now be seen as more than just pen and ink recordings. This word now has flesh and bones and has become fully human, while at the same time being fully God. The miracle of God’s human birth on this earth is the very culmination of God’s will and personality. He is now Emmanuel; which, as the Bible says, means “God with us.”
What does that mean for people like you and me? Just a bit ago, I quoted David in Psalm 139 when he said: “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.” We can be assured that God has searched each and every one of us, and he knows us only too well.
When he looks at us, what does he see? He sees all of our sorrows and joys. He sees our successes and our failures. And what’s more, he sees our lives full of sin and he knows that we’re living in a world full of sin. Our lives aren’t pretty pictures, but they’re an open book to him.
Through the word God has given us, his personality comes shining through. From the beginning of history, he promised to send a Saviour. Throughout the Old Testament, God used the inspired words of the prophets to keep reassuring his people of his unfailing love, and to keep pointing ahead to the Messiah who would come. Through the promised Saviour, sinful mankind would become holy and righteous, and then would ultimately be completely forgiven and reconciled to God.
Yes, through the words of the Bible and the word made flesh, Jesus Christ, we can get an accurate picture of God’s personality. The first three chapters of Hebrews 1 put it very well: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
God’s love for us is the key ingredient in his personality. Jesus came to this earth because of this love. God sent his only begotten Son, conceived in a virgin’s womb, and born in a manger in Bethlehemout of nothing but pure love for us. And when we ponder about all of this, it would do us well to remember the very famous words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he have his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Tonight as we gather again in spirit at Christ’s manger inBethlehem, we need to do so with an honest self-examination. We come to him as weary sinners seeking forgiveness and rest. We come with a heavy burden of sin seeking relief. We come seeking God’s word made flesh, with the sure hope that we will receive what the Christ Child has come to give us.
Through faith we accept Jesus as our Saviour, our own personal Saviour. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God works that miracle of faith in our hearts this Christmas. Through faith, we can see God’s personality acting amongst his people down through the ages. Through faith, and faith alone we find forgiveness according to his promise.
God doesn’t care what our past looks like. He doesn’t care how bad we have been, or what we have done. All he wants now is our hearts and lives. He loves us and forgives us. This is ours right now for the taking, and it comes only through faith in our new-born Saviour and King, the Word made flesh.
At the beginning, I showed you my grandmother’s recipe box. In the terms of dollars and sense versus raw materials, it isn’t worth very much at all. It’s just so much wood, metal, paper, and ink.
But those recipe cards contain so much more. In there are my grandmother’s recipes for her lemon cake, which I’ve made several times and brought to church. There’s also her recipes for Stollen, and Streusel Kuchen, and Springilis, and Pffefernusse, and even chocolate chip cookies. These are so much more than words on paper. These recipes are a reflection of her and her personality; and in some small way, my Nannie’s memory still lives on in my kitchen. The recipe box has value beyond any dollars and cents, and I’m not about to part with it.
As good as these recipes are, and as fond as my memories are, they are of no real benefit unless they are prepared and cooked. Every year while my dad was alive, I would make him her Stollen recipe for Christmas. I know that brought back very pleasant memories for him and his mother’s kitchen. Thankfully I was able to make it turn out pretty much the same way she did. It was a lot of work, but definitely worth it.
If we look at the Bible, God’s inspired and inerrant word recorded for us, we find a lot of value beyond the few dollars of paper, ink, and cardboard contained in the raw materials. God speaks to us and tells us of his love for us. His personality comes shining through in those recorded words.
But those words are of no value unless something happens in our lives. Through those words, God the Holy Spirit works the faith in our hearts necessary to accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Jesus compares faith in him to food in John 6. In verses 50-51 Jesus says about himself: “But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
This Christmas, may you find this heavenly food in the Christ Child in the manger. This Word made flesh is there for you so you may eat of it through faith, receive the forgiveness and life it offers, and therefore live forever.
This evening, I’d like to close with a couple stanzas of an old German Christmas hymn, which is hymn #81 in our hymnals if you'd like to follow along: “O Jesus Christ, thy manger is, my paradise at which my soul reclineth. For there, O Lord, doth lie the Word, made flesh for us; herein thy grace forth shineth. Thou Christian heart, who e’er thou art, be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee! For God’s own child, in mercy mild, joins thee to him; how greatly God must love thee.”