The Word in a Manger

By Paul Koch

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“In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

While we give thanks today for the birth of our Lord and Savior in the little town of Bethlehem, let’s also consider our celebration of Christmas to be a celebration of the journey of the Word of God. Throughout the pages of Holy Scripture we find that the Word is not only something we read. We hear about that Word breaking into history to do amazing things. The Word humbles the proud and lifts up the poor. It breaks kingdoms and establishes mercy. The Word of God kills and makes alive. On Christmas, the Word makes the most surprising move. The Word takes on human flesh and breaths the air of its own creation.

As the eternal Word of God becomes flesh and dwells among us, it materializes the firm reality that the Word exists outside of ourselves.

The Word which gives the gift of faith, the Word which proclaims our freedom, the Word which delivers to us the salvation of the cross and empty tomb is an external Word. The journey of Word to the manger in Bethlehem means that we are not left to look within ourselves for the Word and assurance of God. Instead, we look to the child born of Mary. We look to the Word made flesh. In Him alone we have hope and confidence.

Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the MountGustave Dore

I can still remember the days when I first fell in love with my wife. I remember the feelings and emotions and passions. Most of these feelings are still present; in fact they’ve only grown deeper with the passing years. But those strong feelings at the beginning were accompanied by a certain amount of torture. When you love another, but you are unsure of their love towards you, it can send your head spinning. You stay awake at night wondering, trying to figure it out attempting to decipher her facial expressions and actions. Does she feel the same towards me as I do her? Does she love me? Does she really want to begin a life together? Uncertainties and doubts and worries filled my mind. The only thing that brought comfort is a word from the outside, a word from my wife. The external word of “I love you” changes everything. The word “yes”, when I knelt with a ring in my hand asking her to be my bride, turned the torture of my uncertainty into joy.

And such is the case with our confidence in our salvation. We are people who have been given faith, who have read the Word, and who have sung the praises of our Lord. But we still have this desire and ancient longing to turn within ourselves to find assurance. Sin still clings to us. Satan is still at work to cause doubt and send us looking within for hope. Recall how Eve, in the garden, began to doubt the Word of God. Within herself, she began to see that the fruit was to be desired for wisdom. Since the fall, we also default to focus on ourselves. When we are faced with our sin and shame, when we struggle to live as we ought to live, we begin to turn within to sort it out. Perhaps we need to pray more or give thanks more or volunteer more. Maybe, if I just take care of this area of my life, then I will know that I’m okay and that my eternity is sure.

When we can’t find the assurance, we dig even deeper. But there is no assurance found within. Looking within ourselves for hope and security, we will always find holes. Oh, we may have done some great things but what about our motives? What about the people I haven’t helped? What about the things I said in anger? What about the shame I feel in my heart? How do I fix that? How do I overcome those deficits? Down and down we go, deeper and deeper, without any confidence and without any assurance that we are indeed secure in the grace of God. While the terror of unrequited love may be difficult to bear, the terror of eternal condemnation makes it pale in comparison.

Eve - Anna Lea Merritt

“In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

Our God has not abandoned us to the prison of our own thoughts and works. He has not left us curved in on ourselves to find the word of hope we so long desire. The Word of God comes from outside of us. It is the Word of assurance and confidence. It is a Word from the Almighty, himself, about you. This Word bends us from looking within to holding fast to what we hear. And what we hear is simply amazing. The Word made flesh; the Word born of Mary declares to you, “For you I have come, for you I bore the frailty of humanity. I have journeyed from the foundations of creation, through the mouths of the prophets to the manger in Bethlehem to bear your sin, to be your savior, to die and rise for you. And I say to you this day, I forgive you, I love you – you are free!”

Our God speaks to you today! He doesn’t speak through the ambiguities of your own heart but in the clear and powerful voice of his Son. We celebrate this day the wonderful journey of the Word of God. A Word that did not wait for you to meet his demands; He did not sit on the sideline until you cleaned up your act. No, He came while you were still in your sin and shame and gave himself for you. And that same Word declares us all to be his brothers and sisters, we are this day the very saints of God! Now that is a cause of celebration: merry Christmas!!

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