Dear nations and peoples,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are quite fond of putting the words of the nativity Gospel into a picture. There are pictures on Christmas cards and nativity creches in our homes. We long for the children’s Christmas pageants with costumed shepherds and angels. We search out the Christmas specials to watch every year. It is easy enough for us to do it with the details that Luke gives in the Christmas Gospel we heard last night (Luke 2:1-20) and with the intervening details that Matthew’s Gospel gives to us about the star and the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12).
But what do we do with John’s Christmas Gospel? “The light shines in the darkness... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:5, 14)? We light candles and observe how the darkness flees away from the light, how the light penetrates the darkness. Beyond that we have to see with eyes of faith in order to picture the divine God of majestic glory coming into the world and into the darkness of our own lives to radiate the light of His holy peace.
It is easier to picture the shepherds gazing up at the glory of the heavenly host. It is easier to picture Mary gazing upon the face of Jesus. It is easier to picture Joseph standing by silent and faithful. It is easier to see the wise men laying their gifts down on the floor as they bow down to worship the Infant King.
We can even picture those not directly in the scene: Caesar Augustus waiting for the tax money to roll in; Quirinius pouring over census figures and developing an economic strategy; the scribes of Jerusalem scratching their heads and searching their scrolls with puzzled looks; and King Herod must be scowling, perhaps pacing about his palace.
And what of God the Father? Even the art in the chapel shows us that it is impossible to capture a picture of God the Father. While the Son is beautifully sculptured in evoking detail, and the Holy Spirit portrayed as the one time the Scriptures tells us He took on bodily form like a dove, God the Father is simply radiating light.
What was God the Father doing during the events of the nativity? Today’s psalm opens our eyes to see a figure not usually displayed in the nativity scene. What is He doing and what does it mean for you? Well, what do fathers usually do when their children are born into the world? Stereotypical portrayals have them pacing hospital hallways, or fainting in delivery rooms, or tragically absent altogether. Is that what the heavenly Father was doing?
What does the psalm say? “He who sits in the heavens laughs” (Psalm 2:4). Can you picture God the Father sitting and laughing? That is what I would have wanted to do at the birth of all of my children. But I wasn’t sitting. I was standing, even when I was told to sit down. And I wasn’t laughing. I was in wonder and awe. I was afraid for the health of mother and child. I was trying to give off an air of strength and reassurance when I was shaken and worried. Later came the sitting and laughing, after all was well, after everyone was home, after we had some rest, when the visitors and well wishers came by. Then there may have been some sitting and laughing.
We don’t see Joseph portrayed that way, do we? He is usually seen standing guard or kneeling in prayer. And it turns out that is what he needed to be doing. It wasn’t too long after that the angel warned him to take the child and flee to Egypt because King Herod sought to destroy Him (Matthew 2:13). What was God the Father doing then?
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed...” (Psalm 2:1-2). And still, “He who sits in the heavens laughs” (v. 4). God the Father doesn’t even bother to get up off of His throne. He sits and laughs at Herod and Augustus, later at Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, and now at whoever would seek to usurp the reign of His Anointed Son, King Jesus.
He can sit and laugh because He knows what will happen. He knows the futility of their opposition. He knows that their plans will come to nothing, that whatever they try to do, it will be the King that the LORD has set on Zion who will reign forever. I didn’t know that my wife and children would survive childbirth. Joseph didn’t have the whole picture revealed to him. He had a job to do in preserving the Child’s life so that life could be given on the cross, and raised victorious defeating death for all.
Herod tried to stop it with deathly force and God the Father sat and laughed, not in callous indifference but with absolute divine omniscience and almighty power, knowing that nothing would get in the way of the completion of His plan of salvation for you. The religious leaders, the political leaders, Jews, and Gentiles could all conspire together, the nations could furiously rage all they wanted. This Child would be King and no one could stand in the way. This Child would reign forever and no one could stop it.
The LORD had made a decree from His heavenly throne. It was His Almighty Word spoken which does whatever He says. He once said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1) and there was light. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... 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” (John 1:1-5, 14).
That Word of God, which happens as He speaks it, is what happened when His Son came into the world. The Word became flesh, the unchangeable Word, the unstoppable Word, the almighty irresistible Word. Like a light, a lit candle which the darkness cannot overcome, God’s Word came into the world and Herod and all the kings of the earth and the rulers could not overcome Him. The LORD had spoken and so He could laugh at all attempts to try to stop the Word from happening.
Our family nativity scene sits on the little table by the front window and beside it is a rocking chair, the rocking chair that used to be in our cry room at church. Perhaps some fathers of newborns sat in it there. I didn’t plan it this way, but in our home it gives a picture of God the Father sitting on His heavenly throne and laughing at any and all satanic attackers who try to disrupt the divine plan for our salvation. I sit in that rocking chair to relax and I can relax when I see the nativity scene right there in the shadow of the cross. I remember God’s plan for my salvation is set and fixed. He has spoken. It is accomplished and anyone who would try to interrupt it or derail it or bring it to ruin, will face His wrath.
He spoke: “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6). That is it. There is no undoing it. The incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, reigns. They can kick up a fuss all they want but they won’t be able to change it. They cannot defeat Him or dethrone Him. The LORD said to Him, “Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (vv. 8-9). They cannot even approach His light, but He will shatter them like brittle pottery. No wonder the Father sits in heaven and laughs.
Anyone who would try to take my salvation away from me will have to deal with the One who sits on His throne and laughs. Through Holy Baptism He has decreed that I am His child, and a co-heir of the Anointed in His glory. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind: “to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
So, when you became children of God, when you were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God... He sat on His throne and laughed. He has no fear that you will perish. He has no reason to worry about any enemies. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). By His almighty, unchangeable, eternal decree all who believed on His name have been given the right to become His children.
We do face enemies. They are real. King Herod was real. His pursuit of the Christ Child was real. Joseph really had to take the Child and flee to Egypt. But the certainty of God’s decrees are real too. He works in and through us for our salvation and for the salvation of those around us. We have real callings to stand up to real enemies. But we do so with a very real victory.
There are many enemies of the church today seen and unseen, attacking from without and within. We don’t even know who they all are, but we do know who our heavenly Father is. We do know what He has spoken to us. We do know that His Word became flesh and dwelt among us, that He died for our sins and rose again from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. We confess that this is most certainly true and it is true for me. “He who sits in the heavens laughs,” at the vain attempts of my enemies to undo what He has done for me.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.