“Ten Fingers and Ten Toes!”
Text: John 1:1-14; Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ten fingers, ten toes. Or so the saying goes. When a child is born, the parents count and thank God for the gift of child. The parents count and wonder: what will this child be? What will this child do?
I don’t know if Mary and Joseph counted or not - I suppose they did. But they did not have to wonder what this child would be or do. They knew. The angel had told them. This child is the Son of God in human flesh. Or as we heard today: The Word who was in the beginning and was with God and was God . . . became flesh and dwelt among us. And He came to save His people from their sins. What those ten fingers and ten toes would do is fight . . . to the death.
But those ten fingers did not fight by being clenched into fists, but by being stretched out in mercy, fighting not against flesh and blood, but for flesh and blood. Fighting not against the men and women the Word came to save and came as a brother to, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And so those ten fingers fought this battle by reaching out and touching lepers, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead.
And those ten toes, too. They did not fight by rushing into battle, but by walking with the lonely, the outcast, the sinners. Walking the countless dusty paths in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and stopping to help wherever there were people in need.
But most of all did those ten fingers and ten toes fight by having the fight taken out of them, when they had those large, cold, hard, iron spikes driven through them, attaching them to the cross. This was hand-to-hand combat, you could say. Your God, your Saviour, fighting for you. Fighting to the death . . . and then through it.
It would have been easier to just drop a few bombs and be done with it. That’s what we do today isn’t it? And not just with wars. I mean in all of life. We keep our distance now. It’s easier. Less messy. And so we fly bombers over our enemies from 30,000 feet. We attack and criticize and vent our frustrations on the internet. We no longer leave our houses to pay our bills, buy our things, or get our news. If there’s a need somewhere, just send money. We fly drones from half a world away. And the next battlefield, we are being told, will be a cyber one. Hand-to-hand and face-to-face? Not so much anymore.
God could’ve done that too - dropped a bomb on our world and dealt with the problem of sin once and for all. Just nuke it. Nice and neat. Do away with it . . . and us.
But no. That wouldn’t do. God wants no one to perish; no a single soul (2 Peter 3:9). And so just as God specially created Adam from the dust of the ground, getting His hands dirty, if you will, so to rescue Adam He would do the same. He would get His hands dirty - His ten fingers and ten toes, to save us. The eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
That’s the miracle we rejoice in this day. That the God who created all things and still upholds the universe by the word of His power, has come in human flesh and blood to fight for you. You are simply too precious not to. Each and every person, worthy of His time, His attention, His blood, His ten fingers and ten toes. No matter who they were or what they had done, His ten fingers and ten toes were there for them.
But that wasn’t just true 2,000 years ago. Christmas isn’t just the celebration of history - it is more than that. It is the celebration that those ten fingers and ten toes are still here for you, fighting for your ten rebellious fingers, your ten wandering toes, and all the rest of sinful you. The fingers and toes of the baby in the manger and man on the cross are here now just as they were then, reaching out to save, baptizing, absolving, feeding. God doesn’t mail it in. He comes. He comes to homes, hospitals, and hospices. He comes to churches, cities, and countries. He comes to the wealthy, the weak, and the wondering. He comes, and He won’t stop.
And this coming . . . speaks volumes. The author of Hebrews told us that Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. The sending of His Son showing you how much God loves you and will do for you. The appearing of His Son showing you that God does stay away, far off, delegating, protecting His holiness, His honor, and His glory, but comes to embrace you and give you His holiness, His honor, and His glory. These His Christmas gifts to you. To restore what you had lost. To raise you from death to life. To bring light into the darkness, and joy into sadness.
So last night may have been filled with many Silent Nights, but today Isaiah says the watchmen lift up their voices and sing for joy, and he calls on all the Lord’s people to join together in singing! For today, God has bared his holy arm. He rolled up His holy sleeves and got to work. No less God than He was before, but now also true man, to save men. To save you.
Ten fingers with dirt under their nails. Ten toes all dusty and with dirt stuck between them. Two hands and two feet with holes punched through them. One back with too many lash marks, and one head with innumerable thorn holes. And one heart pierced for you, broken for you, but filled with love for you. Love that no spear, no death, no devil could take away. Father, forgive them.
The world may hold Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure (LSB #372 v. 6).
And with that gift, those gifts, given to you . . . well, take a look at your fingers, your toes . . . are they dirty? Maybe we can give a few gifts like this. That your feet be the beautiful feet that Isaiah spoke about. Beautiful not because they’re clean, but because they’re dirty, dusty, and grimy. In serving. In loving. In forgiving. In being there. Like Jesus’. Proclaiming the good news of great joy that has come to us this day - in words and deeds. Come this day, but for every day. Come to Bethlehem, but for every place. Especially every place today wrapped in sin, fear, pain, struggle, war, and death. For now, as then, ten fingers and ten toes can make a world of difference.
In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.