Bible Passage: John 1:1-14 Pastor: Pastor Berg Sermon Date: December 25, 2017
It’s like a well written story. It comes full circle. “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh.” All Advent long we’ve been waiting for Jesus to come. Now on this Christmas Day, the day that we celebrate his birth, he’s come. He Came and Became Flesh just like John’s Christmas story says. He Came and Became Flesh. But what does that mean? We’re left with all sorts of questions, aren’t we? Why did he come? What happened when he came? What does it mean for you and me today? We could sit and ponder those questions for an eternity and never plumb their depths completely. And John plumbs. Where Matthew and Luke start their stories of Jesus’ life with his birth, John digs deeper by lifting us higher, to the heights of heaven, with his lofty style—his simple vocabulary explaining incomprehensible mysteries. It’s why the early Christian Church assigned John as the eagle. Today, let’s ride on the eagle’s wings and ponder what God has done. He Came and Became Flesh.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made.” The words are not hard to understand, but what John says here we can’t—at least not fully. In the beginning—and our minds drift as we remember the beginning of the Old Testament, where God told Moses to start the same way. In the beginning before time was, before anything was, the Word was. Who is the Word? The Word is Jesus. The context of these verses make that clear, even if we can’t pick it out right away. And it must have been clear for John’s original audience too, because he doesn’t go out of his way to explain it. In the beginning, Jesus was and he was with God, literally, he was face to face with God. Again, we can’t begin to understand it—how two persons of the Trinity can interact in that way—but John tells us that in the beginning, Jesus was, Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. He was with God from before time began and he was an active participant in creation. Wow! Enough to make your head spin! And while that’s important, that’s not our focus for today. What else does John tell us about Jesus?
“In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” In Jesus was life. This does not mean just the ability to live and breathe; this is talking about life eternal. John uses this same word 36 times in his gospel to talk about the life that is in Christ: eternal life. It’s the life everlasting that comes from Jesus, who is the light of men. When did that life of Jesus shine in the darkness? Only after the darkness existed did the life enter, and that was only after the fall into sin. You recall what happened don’t you? Adam and Eve were created to live forever. But Satan, the master of darkness, led them into his dominion by convincing them to believe his lies instead of God’s truth. Once Adam and Eve left perfection for the darkness of Satan, darkness enveloped them completely. But God intervened. He promised to send life into the world. He promised to send the head crusher who would bring them life once again. And that light shines in the darkness of sin. Those who live in Satan’s realm cannot overcome it nor can Satan himself. He couldn’t defeat Jesus no matter how often or how hard he tried. The light shines in the darkness for all to see. This promise of God has been shining forth ever since the fall into sin. But God wasn’t going to just leave that promise hanging out there.
“The real light that shines on everyone was coming into the world.” Jesus, the real light, was coming. We’ve been preaching that all Advent! He’s coming. And notice what he brings when he comes: light to everyone. God wants all people to be saved. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. On this Christmas Day, he’s come. So what does John tell us about his coming?
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him.” Can you believe it? What a world to live in, one that doesn’t even know its Creator, its LORD. But that’s the world we live in. Turn on the news for proof. Drive around. Listen to the music that sells, the shows that bring ratings, the books that become bestsellers. How many give glory to God by expressing harmony with him? How many agree with the Bible’s teachings and encourage obedience to them? How many treat sin for what it is and prescribe the only treatment? The proof is in the pudding that we’ve lost our anchor as a world, that we are a creation that’s forgotten its Creator, that we don’t know why we are here or where we are going. Yet this is the world that Jesus came to, to break the darkness, to be the light that gives life. And so we sing, Joy to the World! But the world still does not know him. And that’s not the worst part.
“He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not accept him.” Jesus was born of Mary, legally descended from Joseph. He was an Israelite through and through, just as God had promised. Jesus came to Israel, his Old Testament people, the people he had led out of Egypt into the Promised Land, from slavery to freedom, from misery to hope, and they did not welcome him. They didn’t want anything to do with him. He came to his own people, his own adopted children and they had better ideas or things to do. No, not all outright rejected him. Not everyone shook their fists and shouted mockery. Many just walked by too busy to notice. Many just didn’t care. “He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not accept him.” And the very sad part is that they had no excuse. They were doubly guilty, doubly deserving of God’s punishment because they knew better. They had the promises. They had the truth. And so do you.
“He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not accept him.” We are his own, his adopted children, the people he led from slavery to sin to the freedom of forgiveness, from the misery of the law to the hope of the gospel. We are his own, and yet how often aren’t we too busy or too indifferent? How often don’t we have better ideas or things to do? Too often, for even one time is too often. One sin leads us away from God and condemns us forever. But that’s just why he came. He Came and Became Flesh so that we might become children of God.
“But to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. They were born, not of blood, or of the desire of the flesh, or of a husband’s will, but born of God.” We know that all too well that we often resemble the world and Old Testament Israel who didn’t know him or receive him. So how do we become children of God? Let’s first look at how we don’t. “He gave the right to become children of God. They were born, not of blood…” Not by blood, John says. God doesn’t care who your relatives are. He doesn’t take into account if your whole family has been baptized, confirmed, and buried in this church. When the Jews claimed they were good with God because of their DNA, because they were descended from Abraham, Jesus told them, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did…and if God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.”
“He gave the right to become children of God….not of the desire of the flesh…” Our human flesh wants nothing to do with God by nature. Inwardly we are dead, blind, spiritual enemies of God. We cannot submit to God’s will nor do we want to! We could never choose to believe in Jesus nor would we want to. We can’t become children of God by ourselves. That’s why Paul said, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord!” except by the Holy Spirit.”
“He gave the right to become children of God….not of a husband’s will…” As much as I want you to believe what God says here in his Word; I can’t believe for you. I can’t argue you into believing. We can’t be badgered into the Light, into salvation. If people only come here to get Mom or Dad or Pastor off their backs, that isn’t going to save them. No man or woman can save the life of another. So how then do we become children of God?
“But to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. They were born, not of blood, or of the desire of the flesh, or of a husband’s will, but born of God.” It’s by God. It’s by God alone. James wrote, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth…” And what does John tell us, “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. We have seen his glory, the glory he has as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus came and became flesh. Jesus came and pitched his tent among us for a short time, 33 years. And in those 33 years we saw his glory, we saw the Father, we saw his grace and his truth. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Word of truth displayed God’s glory by following God’s will perfectly. Jesus displayed God’s glory by fulfilling all of the promises God made concerning him. He brought peace to the earth and joy to the world by bringing the light of life that the darkness could not overcome. Jesus came and became flesh so he could live in our place. He came and became flesh so he could display God’s greatest glory by dying in our place. He came and became flesh so he could rise again in glorious triumph, proving once and for all that the darkness had vanished, that light had triumphed. He came and became flesh that we might have the right to become children of God!
“Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light, and usher in the morning!” In the darkness of the night, into the darkness of this world, the Real Light broke forth and Isaiah’s promise was fulfilled: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” It’s the most amazing promise! Receive it with great joy! “To all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Faith, like this holy Child, is a gift. Don’t toss that gift away! Receive it! Receive him! For he came and became flesh for us and our salvation. Receive him and remember again what your Baptism has made you: a child of God! Amen