“You shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Tonight we reflect upon the second article of the Nicene Creed, in which we confess: “I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” Dear friends in Christ: C.S. Lewis, one of the most significant Christian laypeople of the twentieth century, always became very frustrated when people told him that they thought of Jesus as some kind of great teacher, but nothing more. He thought such a perspective refused to take seriously what the New Testament actually says about Jesus. In the four Gospels (not to mention the Epistles), Jesus is quite clearly identified as God in the flesh, by Himself and by others. Lewis believed that there were only three ways to explain these claims: either Jesus is a lunatic, a liar, or He is the Lord. He either thinks He is God, when He isn’t, or He knows He isn’t God, and still claims the title to deceive the masses, or else there is the tantalizing possibility that Jesus is actually telling the truth, and He’s right.
What kind of Jesus do you follow? Do you follow the Jesus that gives good advice, who can help you get along with your kids, be successful at your job, and have a happy marriage? Do you follow the Jesus who is an ancient Dr. Phil, full of tips and pointers, who gives you the tools you need to have your best life now? If you are simply following a Jesus who is a ‘good teacher’ but nothing more, who isn’t really God as He claimed, then you are following the advice of a crazy person at best, and the world’s most successful con-man at worst. What kind of Jesus do you follow? He had better be the Jesus of the Nicene Creed, or else you’re really just wasting your time. You can find good advice anywhere, but salvation is found in no one other than the Jesus of the Scriptures, the Jesus of the Nicene Creed, the Jesus who is neither lunatic nor liar, but Lord.
We confess together that we worship “one Lord Jesus Christ.” This world tries to fit Jesus into almost any mold, but there are not many Jesus’s, there is only one Jesus, the Jesus who is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds.” This means that Jesus is the Son of the Father from eternity, He is eternally the Son. The phrases that follow unpack that reality, describing the Son in terms that are hard to mistake: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” All these words boil down to one truth: the Son is true God. He is of one substance with the Father, begotten, not made. He was not created, there was never a time that He didn’t exist; He is God, of “one substance with the Father.” That phrase says it all. A Mormon cannot confess that, nor can a Jehovah’s Witness or the followers of a whole host of ancient heresies. The Son is of one substance with the Father; together with the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son are together one God.
This Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who is outside of time and space, entered both bearing our human flesh. Saint John puts it this way: “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.” We confess it this way in the Nicene Creed: “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” In those few words, we express a great mystery; indeed, of all the mysteries of Scripture, the incarnation, the taking on of flesh by the Son of God, is the most amazing. Because of the incarnation, we can say of the man Jesus, ‘This is God;’ we can say of Mary, ‘She is the mother of God.’ The God who created all things has Himself joined His creatures in their flesh and blood. Therefore Saint Matthew say about the events of Christmas: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Jesus is God with us, God amongst His creatures. The timeless one inserted Himself into time, He who is outside of history placed Himself within it. He who fills all things localized Himself within a human body. What kind of Jesus do you follow? It had better be the Jesus who is true God, “of one substance with the Father,” and also true man, “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.” Why? Because apart from that Jesus, you are doomed to eternal destruction.
The eternal Son of God didn’t become man simply to ‘walk a mile in our shoes,’ to experience life on our terms. Certainly a wonderful result of the incarnation is that our God has been ‘one of us,’ and can therefore sympathize with our weaknesses and sufferings, but it is not the reason why He became man in the first place. In fact, the Nicene Creed skips over all of Jesus’ teachings and miracles, taking us to the reason for His taking flesh in the first place. He was “crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures.” He came to us in the flesh in order to die, to be crucified ‘for us’ under Pontius Pilate. The Nicene Creed doesn’t tell us at this point what Christ’s death and resurrection did for us; it waits until the third article to speak about things like the “remission of sins” and the “resurrection of the dead.” Here we simply confess that He was crucified also “for us.” But while brief, these two little words say it all. Jesus was crucified for us, bearing our sin, standing in our place; His crucifixion and resurrection was God’s solution to the problem of our sin. The eternal Son of God entered our time and space to give up His life as the price to save us. Only as true God could He offer a price sufficient for the sin of the world; only as true man could He live and die in our place. What kind of Jesus do you follow? Salvation is found only in the Jesus who dies on a cross, true God from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary.
We believe in “one Lord Jesus Christ”—one Jesus, true God and true man, not two. And He remains one Lord for eternity. He never leaves His humanity behind, but instead enthrones it, glorifies it, and exalts it to the right hand of God. We confess in the Nicene Creed that He “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” He assumes our human flesh in the womb of Mary, and having finished His course upon this earth, He takes that human flesh to the very throne of God, from whence He will return on the Last Day as our judge and king, dividing those made righteous by His blood from those who rejected Him, establishing His Kingdom forever. There we will live in our bodies, glorified as His body is glorified, forever.
That is what Advent is all about: waiting for and anticipating that glorious Day. On Christmas, we celebrate that the only-begotten Son of God has taken human flesh, for when God becomes man, it is man that is changed, forever. He sits in the flesh at the right hand of the throne of God, the pledge and guarantee that our flesh will one day stand before God’s throne as well. This was the Father’s plan for our salvation all along; that is why He protected the precious line of the Messiah throughout the generations, removing every obstacle, defeating every attempt to snuff it out. Christmas is the long awaited gift of God’s Son, it is the gift of Jesus, given to you and to me for our salvation. What kind of Jesus do you follow? You follow the Jesus who is true God and yet true man, the Jesus who is God’s gift to you, bringing you forgiveness, life, and salvation. In the Name of God in the flesh, Immanuel, our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.