v.14 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.
Beloved in Christ, today we are brought to the final examination of the 5 solas of the Reformation - Soli Deo Gloria - To God Alone Be the Glory. If we think of the 5 Solas as a screw that is turning, then Soli Deo Gloria is the final turn of the screw. For it encapsulates what all the others point toward, and drives the matter home. For we see in this Sola that To God Alone Be the Glory because we can make no claim at all of any merit; no claim at all to worth or worthiness. For salvation is from beginning to end God's work--and God's work alone--so God alone gets all the glory. Indeed, the only thing that we poor sinners contribute to our salvation is our sin.
This Sola, which emphasizes so beautifully the others that we are saved by God's grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, which is proclaimed to us by the Scriptures alone, fills our hearts with joy and gladness. Particularly on this Christmas Day when we are mindful of the glory of God made manifest in the incarnation of His Son, our Saviour Jesus. For the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, revealing the glory of God, full of grace and truth.
Now, we may wonder about this at first. After all, a newborn squalling baby with a poopy diaper doesn't really seem all that glorious, nor even worthy of glory and honour. But this child is God in the flesh! He brings with Him all the glory of heaven, but hidden for our benefit so that we might learn to trust the Holy Scriptures and what they say about Him. For He is the One who has come bringing the full grace of God--God's umerited favour--for sinners such as you and me. In this tiny little baby born in Bethlehem is the Light of the world--the Light shining in the darkness and dreariness of this broken world--the Light that shatters the darkness and breaks the bonds of death--for you and me! For in Jesus is life, and the life is the light of men. From Jesus, and Jesus alone, we receive grace upon grace. And He has revealed to us the heart of the Father for His people.
You see, beloved, nothing good dwells in us, that is our sinful flesh, as the Apostle says. We have nothing in us that would make God kindly or favourably disposed toward us. There is no merit or worthiness in us of any sort. For apart from Christ we are born sinful and unclean. All of our good works--our very best deeds--are but as filthy rags before the holy and living God. We can make no claim to come into His presence. In our sin we would be utterly destroyed--consumed by His holiness.
Therefore, God has come to bring us into His presence. God has come to shine the light of His life and love into our hearts and set us free from sin, death, and hell. For all those who believe in Jesus' name have been given the right to become children of God. He makes us His children! By the power of His forgiving Word--by cleansing bath of Holy Baptism--by the eating of His own body and blood. As a child has no claim to the glory of being conceived or born (having absolutely nothing to do with either), neither do we have any claim to glory for being born again children of God. It is all His work--all His doing--and so He gets all the glory.
This is why we sing hymns at Christmas time and all through the year that emphasize the power and work of God in our salvation. We do not glorify ourselves--not even in our funerals (as we've been talking about in Bible Study). For we recognize that our forgiveness and life is all a direct result of Christ's work on the cross for us--and nothing else.
For there on the cross was the glory of God truly made manifest. There in the suffering of Jesus--whose birth we celebrate this day--was the glory of God revealed. Jesus was not born in glory in a King's palace, surrounded by marble and the finest oak furnishings. He was not wrapped in velvet and furs and placed in a golden cradle, but rather was snuggled in strips of rough cloth and placed in a wooden manger filled with hay. His birth was welcomed not by kings and princes and courtiers, but lowly shepherds and His own humble family, along with the household animals. One could look at Jesus' birth and think that it was anything BUT glorious. However, God's glory is revealed in His humble act of sacrifice for those whom He loves.
Therefore, beloved, no matter what we do--no matter how many gifts we possess and enjoy--no matter the good things that we do to serve our neighbour in love with our time, talents, and treasures--to God alone be the glory! He is the One who has formed you and made you and given you all good things. He is even the One who puts it in your heart to serve others before yourself--having changed your heart when you were born again by water and the Spirit. It is God who deserves--and must only--receive all the praise.
One of the greatest composers of western civilization was a devout Christian--a Lutheran in fact. You may have heard of him--Johann Sebastian Bach. His music is so powerful--so beautiful--so transcendent--so incredible at conveying the truth of God's Word--that Bach's music is responsible for many Christian converts in Japan today. At the end of every piece of music, Bach would write the letters S.D.G.--Soli Deo Gloria--to God Alone be the Glory. Bach recognized that even as he used his remarkable talent in service to his neighbour and his church by writing and performing beautiful music--yet it was God alone who deserved all the glory, honour, and praise, not him.
Such is true for you and me, dear friends. On this Christmas Day in which we are so richly blessed to have been able to give and receive so much goodness and love, let us never forget that it is all due to our merciful Father in heaven, who in loving-kindness sent His only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth--to pull us out of the depths of our sin and death--and lead us into the light of His love and life.
We repent when tempted to heap glory and praise on anyone or anything other than God alone. We repent when we covet the glory and praise of others, rather than giving it to God alone. We rejoice when we consider that our entire salvation is wrapped up in His work for us--His grace--His mercy--His peace. We celebrate His glorious Word given to us in sermon, Scripture, water, bread and wine. We shout with gladness at the birth of this baby boy--the Word made flesh--who would bear in His flesh the burden and guilt of our sin--who would be pierced for our transgressions and die the death we deserve. Indeed, for all of these, and so much more--Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory. Forever and ever. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.