Think about it. What did you think God was like when you were growing up? Was he someone to be feared, watching your every move, or was he a good friend walking with you in good times and bad, or was he somewhere in between those two models? And what do you think God is like now?
I think many people don’t get how God works. Actually, to be honest, none of us does: we do our best and we learn every day, which is good. But sometimes people either think that God is a capricious policeman who’s always looking for some kind of way to catch them in a trivial sin so that he can send them to the place downstairs, or they think he’s a friend who overlooks all their faults and doesn’t mind if they never give him a second thought. Both positions are not how God works!
And if you asked a lot of people why Christmas is so important, if they have any religious answer at all, they might tell you that probably God finally found the right answer after so many years of failure. That all along, from the time of Adam and Eve, people had been doing whatever they wanted, and so God was at his wit’s end and finally just sent his only begotten Son down here to straighten things out. But that’s not how God works!
The truth is, as we see in today’s Gospel, that God had always intended to save the world by sending his own Son who was with him in the beginning. The Word – God’s Son – was with him in the beginning and everything that has ever been made has been made through him. Not only that, but in the fullness of time, the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. The Greek here says literally that he “pitched his tent” among us. That was the plan – from the beginning – for God’s own Son to become flesh so that we could become like God. It’s a marvelous exchange!
And when he became flesh, he lived as one of the people in that time. He walked among them and had all the same concerns they did. He was like us in all things but sin. When the appointed hour came, he took on our sins and was crucified for our salvation. He died like we do, but so that sin and death would no longer be able to hold us bound to the earth, he rose from the dead and attained eternal life. Now we can do that, too, one day, if we believe in God’s Word and live the way he taught us.
Because, friends, that’s how God works. He loves us and can’t do anything but love us. I always tell our school children that, if they remember that God loves them, that will take them very far. I even go so far as to tell them that writing “Jesus loves me” on a religion test will get them at least half credit! The teachers love it when I say that! But God is, as we have always been taught, love: love in its purest and most authentic form. And because of that love, he will never turn away from us, and always desires our good. He wants us to come live with him some day, and for all eternity. That’s how God works!
Jesus became one of us, pitching his tent among us, so that he could gather us all up and bring us back to heaven with him, to the kingdom of God for which we were created, in the beginning. That was always the plan. But sin and death keeping us from friendship with God is obliterated by the saving act of Jesus. Sin and death no longer have the final word, because that’s not how God works!
May Christ our God, born in the flesh on that holy night, find a dwelling place, a manger, in our hearts, and may his presence in our lives bring us joy this day and every day of our lives. Blessings to you and your families this Christmas Day and every day.