Next Sunday’s message will unpack Mark 1:1-13, with reference to 2 Kings 1, especially 2 Kings 1:8. Today’s brief sermon was a part of a service of readings and carols. The readings were as follows (though not completely in this order): John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18, 3:16-17, 17:1-18, 20:21-23, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7, 8-21, Matt 1:18-25, and 2 Cor 8:1-9. I read John 17:1-18 after the introduction to the sermon. The theme of these readings is the incarnation and the idea that as the Father sent Jesus into the world, likewise Jesus is sending us into the world. The sermon audio is available here.
Every year you celebrate the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You hear the familiar words of this old story and you rejoice for you know that His birth means that God is with us and for us. But then you may wonder what practical difference the conception and birth of Jesus makes in what you do the rest of the year. What does the incarnation—when the eternal Christ took on human flesh—mean for how you live? The Scripture readings today suggest that the answer lies in how you are sent into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world.
I. Jesus took on flesh not to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through Him.
A. Not only did Jesus explain the purpose of His incarnation this way to Nicodemus and in other words throughout the Gospel of John, but this is the good news of the whole New Testament. Jesus did not come in power and judgment. Jesus humbled Himself. Jesus came as a helpless and dependent baby in the womb of Mary and then born of her. He came so that you who lived in a land of deep darkness might see the light. He came with a message of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. He glorified the Father on earth and did the work that the Father gave Him to do. He fulfilled the longing of God to be with His people without them having to die for their sins and He humbled Himself even to death on a cross. Jesus came not to condemn the world but to take the condemnation deserved for your sins upon Himself on that cross so that you would be saved.
B. Jesus came so that you might be born again as children of God. He explained to Nicodemus in John 3 the need to be born again. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus did not understand. So he asked, “How can these things be?” Mary expressed more faith when she asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” In Luke we hear Mary get the explanation, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” In John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” So Jesus brings up His own incarnation to Nicodemus, a story showing that nothing will be impossible with God, in order to explain how it is not impossible with God for you to be born again. The point here is that Jesus came not to condemn the world but to die for your sins so that you would be born again to everlasting life. (And now…)
II. You, born again, have been sent into the world so that the world might be saved through Him.
A. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” The Father sent Jesus not to condemn the world but to save it, and so Jesus is sending you into the world not to condemn the world but to point to Jesus who saves. Just as the incarnation was the eternal Christ humbling Himself to take on flesh, so too you are to humble yourselves as servants of others and enter into their world. Jesus prayed not for you to be taken out of the world but that you would be protected from the evil one while you are in this world telling others about Him. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin and born so that He would save the world. You have been born again and are sent out into the world not to condemn the world but to humble yourselves before others in the world. (For…)
B. You have been sent out into the world with a message of the forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ – forgiveness for those who have been complicit in the taking of life in the womb, forgiveness for those who have taken the name of God in vain, forgiveness for those who have stolen from others, forgiveness for those who have practiced idolatry. This is a message that we have been sent into the world to share – that there is forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. What does the incarnation—that Jesus took on human flesh—mean for how you live? As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus has sent you into the world. Glory be to God. Amen.