The Swaddled God
Friday of Christmas 1
4 January 2019
The God who is easy to know is not the God for us. It is easy to know the God who is Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. The apostle Paul tells us that the creation testifies to God's power, and thus testifies against our sin (Romans 1). That's easy. Even Antony Flew, the Oxford philosopher famous for his principled atheism, changed his tune, saying that the latest biological research "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved." But this is not yet faith of a Christian sort, as Flew, who became a Christian, pointed out. This is merely the admission that there must be a creator. That's so obvious as to be an easy bit of knowledge, like shooting fish in a barrel. But this is not how God wants to be known to us. This is not how God gives Himself for us. Only in the God made flesh are we to know the God who is for us. This is the God who can be known only through faith: "I believe in Jesus Christ... born of the Virgin Mary, who is my Lord."
We must approach this God like the Shepherds of Luke 2, seeking a Child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Lk 2:12). In other words, we are seeking God wrapped in the signs of humanity and lowliness. These are the "contrary" signs with which God is cloaked, concealing Him from the perverted gaze of curious humanity. We expect God to be wrapped in effulgent glory and seated on the eternal throne; instead we find Him wrapped in stinking baby nappies and laid in a stone feed trough lined with moldering straw. We expect to discover Him surrounded by angelic courtiers; instead we find Him worshiped by the shepherds reeking of the sheepfold. We expect Him to be guarded by the crack troops of a security detail, instead He is overseen by a few mangy household animals. No, He will have none of the glory fallen humans expect!
He is revealing Himself to us in precisely the garments of mortality received from His little mother, the shirt tail relative of a long decrepit royal line. And yet for all that and in all that, there is a new revelation of God through this Son. It is precisely in this lowliness that God condescends to give Himself to us and be for us. He will reveal Himself to us in no other way and we will receive Him in no other way than through His abased humanity. We must not seek to ascend to Him except through peering into the manger, seeing in the piercing black eyes of the Child the look of complete compassion for us. The pudgy little hands reach out to possess us. Though they cannot hold a single thing, they reach into our hearts grasping our filth and depravity and they take this onto Himself. This dollop of humanity is very God of very God. We only know Him as the swaddled God. In that way He can be for us. There is no other God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"One must approach and hold to the divinity of Christ without overlooking His humanity or acknowledging only the divine nature. Otherwise, in the name of all devils, we tumble from the ladder that leads to Christ. Therefore, beware of that! You must not know of any God or Son of God but Him who was born of the Virgin Mary and became incarnate, as the Christian Creed affirms.
"And if any preacher wants to separate Him from the Son of God and erect a wall between God's Son and the Son born of Mary, do not accept him; do not listen to him, but declare: The only God and the only Son of God I recognize is the one of the Christian Creed: I believe in Jesus Christ, etc. If he is not the Man born of Mary, I will have none of him."

Martin Luther, 
Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, 6.47
Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (ESV)
I ask You, dear Father, keep me from now on to the end of my life in the true and pure faith in Jesus Christ my Lord, who was born of the virgin Mary and became incarnate for me. Amen.
For Joyce Schilke, that her eyesight would be restored
For all preachers of the Christ, that they would never be separated from the Son of God who is born of Mary, but preach God's greatness in the mist of His humility
For all those who have deserted the church, that the Lord Christ, the God who is for us, would call back the lost sheep to his sheep fold
Art: MARATTI, Carlo  The Holy Night (1650s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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