Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas According to John: The Word Became Flesh

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 came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Over the last few weeks I've been preparing to preach a sermon on Christmas -- on the subject of the incarnation of God in Jesus. And I spend a good amount of time thinking about how I might present the Christmas story to the congregation. And before coming to the Gospel of John, the first passages that came to mind were Luke 1 & 2 and Matthew 1 & 2. And I have to admit that there was an air of familiarity about those stories as I read them. My heart wasn’t affected as it should be. And as I read them I realized that we Christians are used to seeing Christmas and thinking about Christmas from a historical perspective. We all know the story. Even the most committed atheist can recite the story of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, there being no room in the inn, and the baby Jesus being born in a manger. That’s the story recorded in Matthew and Luke. And the majority of our Christmas services and sermons are founded upon the accounts of Matthew and Luke. And that’s good! They should be!

But in John’s account of the Christmas story, what is amazing, what is unique, is that John gives us the theological perspective of Christmas. Matthew and Luke give us the historical perspective, but John gives us a look into the Christmas story that you wouldn’t know anything about even if you were with Mary and Joseph that night. Considering Christmas from the theological perspective helps us battle against familiarity with some of the loftiest of truths.

We see the heart of Christmas in John 1 verse 14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

There is a wealth of truth in that one little sentence! It is a treasure chest so deep that we could spend weeks mining out all of its implications for the way we should understand Christmas, and for how we live our lives throughout the rest of the year as well.

James Montgomery Boice, the long time pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, now with the Lord, wrote this in his commentary on this verse:

I wish it were possible to approach John 1:14 as though reading it for the first time. The verse contains something that was new and quite startling when it was first written, and yet for us who read it nearly two thousand years later it has become commonplace. … This was the great sentence for which the Gospel of John was written. It tells us – inexplicable as it may be – that God became man. Nevertheless, because we have heard that verse from childhood, we read it and are often strangely unmoved.
And he’s right. We read this and are unmoved. But as we take an extended look at this text together, I want this to move you! I want you to perceive the full weight of what John is teaching us about Christmas! I want you to be affected by the declaration – and by the reality – that this Word...

  • this Word that was in the beginning (1:1-2)
  • this Word that existed before the world was (1:1-2)
  • this Word that was with God in the beginning before creation (1:1-2)
  • this Word that actually was God Himself (1:1)
  • this Word through which everything in the universe was created (1:3)
  • this Word who had life in Himself (1:4)
  • this Word who was the Light of men (1:4, 9)
  • this Word that gives sinful human beings the right to become children of God (1:12)

this Word became flesh, and dwelt among us!

And so as we seek to be affected by the truth in John 1:14, I want to take a couple of posts to look into this treasure chest of a verse and focus on three key words that John uses – words that give us breathtaking, worldview-shifting, life-altering insight into the significance of Christmas, insight into the significance of the incarnation, insight into what was really happening when God Himself took on human flesh, and became man.

Those three key words are "dwelt," "glory," and "only." We'll look into the truth they teach us as we look forward to Christmas.

Christmas According to John

  1. The Word Became Flesh
  2. The Tabernacle: The Word Dwelt Among Us
  3. God's Glory in His Temple: We Saw His Glory
  4. The True Temple: Glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father
Update: Audio now available.

No comments: