This Is My Son, Jesus (John 1:1-18)
Rev. Peter Heckert
+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.
The text for our meditation on blessed Christmas morning comes from our Gospel lesson, especially where John records, “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.” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …
A father’s relationship with his children is incredibly important to their emotional and social well-being. The negative effects of a child without a father can be seen in countless studies and reports. The statistics show the importance of a father figure in the majority of children’s lives. The statistics are clear: children from fatherless homes account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway youths, 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders, 71% of all high school dropouts, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, and 75% of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers. Simply put, children do best when they know and are raised by both a father and a mother.
But even when dad is present, it’s no guarantee that everything will go well. Authors and screenwriters have often recognized the complex relationship that often exists between fathers and sons and have used those tensions to create powerful stories. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Darth Vader revealed to Luke Skywalker while they were fighting that he was, in fact, Luke’s father. “The Godfather” is a story about sons trying to not disappoint father. “Finding Nemo” tells the story about an overprotective father and a wayward son.
These stories are popular for a reason: they’re relatable. Of course, there are biblical examples. Cain, the son of Adam, was not the promised Savior Adam and Eve hoped that he’d be. Rather, he continued in his father’s sin, becoming the first man among many who would strike out and kill his own brother, Abel. Absalom, the son of David, despite his father’s great love for him, ended up disappointing his father as well, rebelling against him and losing his life in the process.
Maybe the reason why we relate to these stories is because … well, they reflect the story of God the Father, and the children He created, the sons of men. This is … our story. Though we desperately need the presence of our loving heavenly Father in our lives, we reject Him time and time again through our sinful and foolish ways. Rather than trust our heavenly Father’s guidance, which is always wise and good, we place our trust in political figures or in military might or money or medicine or ourselves or any other false gods to find salvation in this life. Rather than listen to the truth that our heavenly Father speaks, we prefer to listen and place our confidence in the opinion of others, or worse still, we look within, to “listen to our hearts” – the place from whence all evil proceeds.
Ours is a story of wayward, stubborn children who have a Father who is even more stubbornly pursuing us out of His great love. It is a story perfectly captured by Jesus in His parable of the prodigal son. You know the story: the younger son of a wealthy and generous father demanded his share of the inheritance. He may as well have said to him, “I wish you were dead already so I can have your stuff!” More shockingly, the father gives his son what he wants. He allows him to walk away and out of his life.
But … the father never stops looking for his son, keeping vigil for him, hoping and praying that he’d return. Though he had every reason to be, he was not angry at his son. He simply wanted another opportunity to show him how much he loved him. And finally, when the son had wasted all of his father’s money and found himself at the end of his rope, his father got the chance to demonstrate just how great his love was for his son.
The prodigal son knew he did not deserve his father’s love or even a spot in the family again. He merely wanted to return as a servant. Perhaps he could work his way back in. But his father would have none of it. Before he can even speak, the son is embraced tightly, clothed in the finest robe and sandals, and given the family ring, a symbol of his status as a son of the father. A celebration is planned, a fattened calf is sacrificed, and the son who once was lost has been found. The son who once was dead is alive again. How could the father love his son like this? How could he just receive him back as if he had done nothing wrong? And would God do the same for us? These are questions that are answered by the story of Christmas.
The Christmas story tells the story of the only perfect Father-Son relationship that has ever existed. This relationship has existed since before time began. It will continue to exist throughout eternity. It is a story that is told in the first chapter of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. … 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. … No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”
God the Father knows how much we need Him, despite our rejection of Him. We need to know our Father. It is the only way to find true joy, peace, hope, and life. And in order to make us children of God, God sent His only-begotten Son into the world—the Son of Man and Son of God—to be the perfect Son that we could never be.
Jesus is the true Son of Adam who is the promised Seed foretold in Genesis 3 and who committed no murder with his thoughts, words, and deeds. Rather, he was murdered that we might live. He is the true Son of Abraham, the One who would bless all nations, by taking our salvation into His hands and giving to us His righteousness. He is the true Son of David, the King of kings, who remained perfectly obedient to His Father, and yet became a curse for us by hanging from a tree.
Psalm 146 reminds us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” But Jesus is both the Son of Man and Son of God, the Prince of Peace, and when His breath departed, God’s plan of salvation was complete—God and sinners reconciled.
Because of the gift of His Son, God reveals to us, in a shocking twist, that He is in fact our Father, who loves us and forgives us and gives us the right to become children of God. God adopts you and makes you part of His eternal family through your baptism into Jesus. What God said to Jesus at His Baptism, God now says to you through yours, “This is My son. This is My daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
You are not a fatherless child. You do not have an absentee Father. Though you don’t deserve it, you have a perfect relationship with your Father who has given up His only-begotten Son for you and who will always love you and care for you and shield you with His presence, just like a good Father should do.
+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.