Sermon Series: “Romans: The Purest Gospel”

Sermon Titles / Texts


Dec   4    The Assurance of Our Salvation                Romans 5:1-11

Dec 11    The Sufficiency of Jesus’ Death                  Romans 5:12-21

Dec 18    Death, Resurrection, and New Life           Romans 6:1-14

Dec 25    The Greatest Gift                                          Romans 6:23

** Dec 24  Newness of Life     Romans 6:4; John 3:3-6

Fear not... I bring you good news!

December 2022

 

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:9-10, 14)


       Last year I shared with you how December (for many, if not most people) invokes the two images of snow and Christmas. The vast majority of people do not even think about the real “reason for the season.”  In fact, many are not even aware of the origin and dating of the earliest ‘Christmas’ celebrations. Sadly, I do not even think that we realize just how commercialized Christmas has become.

     Most agree that since we are not told the date of Jesus’ birth, the early Church sought one by combining calendar speculations with the study of biblical numbers. The earliest evidence for a celebration (called the Feast of the Nativity) comes from the Depositio martyrum, with the Feast being celebrated on Dec. 25 by the year 336 in Rome. By the late fourth century, Christmas had started to surface as a holiday in its own right, though in its initial stages it was more of a prelude to the more established celebration of Epiphany. Much of what has today become ‘common’ Christmas imagery (such as Santa Claus and Christmas trees) originated in the early modern era, with some traditions emerging as late as the 19th century.

     I shared Sunday how it is a tossup between Mark and John as to which is my favorite ‘Gospel.’ Interestingly, neither have any account of Jesus’ birth and childhood. Yet, John’s statement, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” is one of the most significant and memorable sentences in Scripture. The applications and implications are limitless. In fact, it represents the heart and climax of the John’s gospel, as the remaining twenty and a half chapters will be spent unfolding its significance.

     As John’s account begins “In the beginning…” (just as Genesis begins, by the way), the Word is present “with God” and John quickly adds “and the Word was God.” Jesus appears as the divine Word, who is one with the Father in divinity and now one with us in humanity (v.14). I especially like the word John chooses, even though it is a bit startling. John could have chosen to use ‘man’ or ‘a body,’ but bypasses these for the word “flesh.” He chooses a word that stands for the whole person. He chooses a word that refers to human existence in its frailty and vulnerability. For instance, Isaiah 40:6: ‘All flesh is grass …’, LXX). Jesus identified with us to that degree. He made our creaturely weakness his very own form of being. So it is that Paul would write in Rom. 8:3 that God sent ‘his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.”

     As you prepare for and celebrate Christmas this year find time to focus on the greatest gift that could ever be given. The Apostles’ Creed quickly jumps from “and born of the virgin Mary” to “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” But much of the ‘gift’ has to do with the important teaching in the Gospels regarding how Jesus lived in ‘creaturely weakness’ on our behalf. Let’s work hard to focus on the life of Jesus as move into ‘the Christmas season.’ Think about this, even the gifts of the Magi were not traditional baby shower presents but gifts that prepared us for his life and death – as prophet, priest, and king.