Behold, what love the father has shown us, that we should be called children of god

Behold, what love the father has shown us, that we should be called children of god

Look, what a love the Father has shown us, that we should be called God’s children – and we are too! Therefore the world does not recognize us; for it has not recognized him. Dear ones, we are already God’s children, but it has not yet been revealed what we will be. We know: When it is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him as he is.

You are sent by heaven

"You are sent by heaven!" What wonderful words of welcome! Who is received in such a way, knows: I was eagerly awaited. And even more, not only longingly, but also with the hope of help or salvation. And so on this Christmas morning I say:

"You are sent by heaven" – You child of God, you brother and sister of all people on earth. We have been waiting for you eagerly. And we hope that with you salvation, help and salvation will come into our world. That a new light shines, the light of your love and mercy, that makes our lives bright, despite fear and need, despite threat and danger. – This is how the old and new Christmas carols sing it, this is how we sing it to the Christ child. For example, with the words of probably the oldest Christmas carol in the German language: "Now be welcome to us, if you were not born to us, we would be lost here on earth."

You make the world shine

With the birth of the Christ child, God makes a new beginning. Every human life that is born anew means the possibility of a new beginning. For new ways to discover, understand, change the world. Also with the Christ child something new begins: It is God’s declaration of love to us humans, to his creation, to our whole world. God does not keep this world and us humans, who do many things in it right and well, but also let so many things become wrong and ugly, at a distance. He does not remain at a distance, with a few wise sentences here and some moral appeals to the situation there. But God considers this world and us humans to be valuable – so valuable that he honors us, that he honors us with his presence and becomes a human being. A person who makes new beginnings possible for all of us.

For we do not celebrate Christmas to express our delight and wonder at a newborn baby. We celebrate Christmas because the newborn Christ child is the beginning of the life of Christ Jesus. Christ who embodies and lives what this means: love, mercy, compassion, peace in the midst of a world that is anything but loving, merciful, compassionate, and peaceful. Who stands for it with his life. With the birth of the Christ child all this takes its beginning. A ray of hope comes into our world. "From God comes to me a shining of joy…" – "You make the world shine"!"

You are a gift from heaven

God comes into the world as we come into the world and becomes a human being, like us: dependent on love and care, on enveloping warmth, protective security. A human being full of horror of suffering and violence, with fear of abandonment, dying and death.

The pandemic and the burdens, restrictions and worries associated with it weigh heavily on all of us. The vast majority of the population deals with it responsibly, patiently and in great solidarity, especially with those who are particularly vulnerable. And of course we are all looking for a way out of this long lasting pandemic. As always in difficult and complex situations, desires for quick and easy solutions also flourish. There are people and groups who want to take advantage of this to promote uncertainty, to stir up mistrust and thus to destabilize our democracy. We have to confront this decisively. As a church, we stand for the fact that in our democracy and our social coexistence, we can endure differing opinions and resolve conflicts peacefully. Decisions made by democratic parliaments and institutions elected for this purpose can be criticized and discussed in a democracy, but they must also be respected.

When we look into the manger at Christmas, we understand what unites us beyond all our different views: we all need each other. Everywhere in the world. In our ordinary everyday lives. In the burdens and sorrows of the pandemic. In intensive care units and in slums. At the border fences of Europe and on swaying boats in the Mediterranean Sea. Everywhere people long for comfort and help. The view of the human child in the manger is therefore also the view of ourselves. On the humanity of all people. Looking into the manger helps us to look more at what unites us. And less on what separates us.

When we look with wonder and emotion at the child in the manger, we see before our eyes what elementally unites all children and adults on earth: our humanity. Our human life may be wonderful, and yet it is threatened. Our life may be strong and secure, and yet it is vulnerable. And however infinite it may seem, it is finite and mortal. Like the child in the manger, therefore, all people need caring closeness, sheltering community, protective solidarity.

You rock even the barest hut

For, as the sermon text says, we human beings are all to be called children of God. And then follows the defiant, self-confident sentence: "And so are we!" Exclamation mark! This means: We will not be God’s children in the distant future, but we are God’s children now! Because God sees us like this, looks at us like the newborn child in the manger. Despite all that we humans do to one another, all that we fail to do to one another, all the suffering and pain we inflict on one another – God looks upon us with his creative, transforming love. Martin Luther once described it this way: "The love of God does not find what is lovable to it, but it creates it"." [1] … "Sinners are beautiful because they are loved, but they are not loved because they are beautiful." [2]

Heaven sends you

God does not give up on us and our world. With the birth of the Christ child, he shows us that being human is possible in a whole new way! Liberated, redeemed, given. Not imprisoned in what we were, but fulfilled by what we are and can be, in which we give space to the Christ child in our lives.

For we humans have the possibility to change, to begin anew. The philosopher Hannah Arendt described this with her concept of natality, the nativity of man: We humans are endowed with the gift of beginning [3] . And as beings gifted to begin, to begin again, we are also given the freedom to act.

But to act means "to begin anew – as distinct from continuing, managing, or reacting. Man is born to act, so that with him something new can come into the world." [4] Or in words of Hannah Arendt: "Because every human being, by virtue of being born, is an initium, a beginning and a newcomer to the world, people can take initiative, become beginners, and set new things in motion." [5]

You make the world shine

God comes to the world and promises with his birth to never ever leave this world and us humans again. But to be present in this world and for us. Present and future.

But we are to be called children of God – and we are! Therefore, in every act of kindness, charity and humanity, we help to build the new world of God that Christ embodies. In every help we give to others in need, in every moment we understand that love, fragile, vulnerable love, is the real power in this world, we are helping mercy and justice to take root. As children of God. Children of God who stand for the world to change. That love and mercy gain new weight. That differences do not have to be unbridgeable. I therefore pray and I ask: Let us help to ensure that divisions and splits do not become even greater. But let us also stand up for love and mercy, for responsibility for one another. In spite of all suffering, all hopelessness. Let’s keep a loving eye on each other and support those who suffer the consequences of the pandemic. The way out of the pandemic is not fear and violence, but mutual respect and support.

The Christ child is God’s declaration of love for us and our world. So that we understand when we look at the newborn child: We are all God’s children and human brothers and sisters who can live truly humanly, united in love and mercy. And so make the world shine – with God’s help, the baby Jesus, whose name means just that: God helps, God saves.

[1] Martin Luther, Disputatio Heidelbergae habit (1518), WA 1, 365,2f: "Amor Dei non invenit sed creat suum diligibile."

[2] Martin Luther, Disputatio Heidelbergae habit (1518), WA 1, 365,11ff: "Ideo enim peccatores sunt pulchri, quia diliguntur, non ideo diliguntur, quia sunt pulchri."

[3] "This beginning-being confirms itself in the human existence, in so far each human being comes again by birth as ever completely new into the world, which was before him and will be after him."Hannah Arendt, Freedom and Politics, in: this., Between Past and Future, Munich/Zurich 1994, 201-226, 220.

[4] Karin Ulrich-Eschemann, On the Birth of Man. Theological and Philosophical Explorations (Studies in Systematic Theology and Ethics vol,. 27), Munster/Hamburg/Berlin/London 2000, 32.

[5] Hannah Arendt, Vita activa or of the active life, 9. Aufl. Munich 1997, 215.

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