Sermon Christmas Day 2022
Text: John 1:1-14
1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that hascome into being. 4 In Him was life, andthe life was the Light of mankind. 5 And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it. 6 A man came, one sent from God, and his name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 This was the true Light that, coming into the world, enlightens every
person. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.”14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
The word “Mystery” is defined in various ways. It can describe a thing as yet impossible to explain, as for example, astronomers who, we might say, explore the mysteries of deep space.
“Mystery” can describe a person whose identity or nature is unknown, as in the phrase “a man of mystery”.
Any mystery will, by definition, create questions. Questions like; What happened? How? Why? To what purpose or end?
But some mysteries are of such a profound nature those questions only open doors to other, deeper questions.
For people of faith in Christ, the word mystery describes a belief based on something God has revealed but it’s very revealing transcends our understanding.
And if we go with that definition, then Mystery is the right word to capture the essence of Christmas.
Because Christmas is about the mystery of the Incarnation. As John tells us in this prologue to his Gospel;
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; (John1:14a)
Christmas is the celebration of the mystery of God who became truly human in Jesus Christ.
So with your indulgence I’ll try to explore this mystery for just a little while through what the apostle John tells us.
And from what I’m able to see, John gives us an introduction to the mystery, the initiation of the mystery, the tragic irony of the mystery and an invitation into the mystery.
How does John introduce the mystery of the incarnation?
He starts by echoing a phrase that takes us all the way back to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1, “In the beginning” – which is a way to describe the time before creation started.
“In the beginning… (he says) was the Word” – the Greek term John uses is “Logos”. What does he mean when he says “the Word”? Well, in verses 1-4 John gives us several clues.
One clue is that the Logos is a person- look at verse 2, “He” was in the beginning with God” So the Word is a person. Personhood is an aspect of the Logos.
Another clue is this person is divine- he is deity- he is “with God” before creation and, (according to verse 1) the Word was God.
In other words, on equal footing with God. Another way to put it might be that the Word is not something created by God, but with God before creation.
That leads us into the Next clue, in verse 3, which tells us that the Word is the creator – “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being.”
And 2 final clues in verse 4,
- He is the source of all life.
- AndThis Life was the light of all humanity.
So The Word is the Person of God, Eternally Pre-existent, the Creator of all, the Source of all Life and the Light of all humanity.
But by using the term “the Logos” John wants his readers to know something else.
To the non-Jewish culture in John’s time, the Logos was a familiar term used to describe the cosmic order; the way the universe was designed;
the Logos was the structure or the “Logic”of cosmic reality: but “Logos” didn’t only describe the ultimate reality, it suggested that by conforming one’s life to the “Logos”, you would find the best way to live.
And as for John’s Jewish audience, the word Logos was also familiar but from a different angle. Jewish culture already understood that the best way to live was through obedience to God, specifically his word.
For example, First century Jews didn’t speak of the Ten Commandments like we do. They spoke of the Ten Commandments as the “Ten Words.” So their aim, whether successful or not, was to live according to God’s “Logos.”
This is amazing to me. Because in these first four verses, by using just one term, familiar to both Jews and Gentiles, John brings everyone to the doorstep of the Gospel, the Good News.
He says that whether Jew or Non- Jew, whoever we are and wherever we may be on the spectrum, all of the abundant potential for life as it should be lived begins with a Personal God, the creator of all, the source of all life and the Light of the world.
That’s the introduction- the first step that John takes us toward the mystery of the incarnation. Now what about the initiation of the mystery?
In verse 5, he says that the Logos, the personal creator, life giver and light of all humanity… shines. He radiates into our darkness. But the darkness fails to grasp it, (or overcome it.)
What is it that gets in the way of human flourishing? What prevents humanity from reaching as a whole race, the highest good?
We could say human sin and that would be right. We could say it’s that condition of spiritual death that resulted from sin and separates us from God, and that would be right.
But John uses a word to point to another result of that sin – “darkness”; or rather “blindness” – an arrogant ignorance of God.
Paul in Romans 1 says that the human race, darkened by sin, became “futile”. He said, “Thinking themselves wise, they became fools.”
Groping about in the fog, trying to navigate life successfully but getting hurt and harmed in the process.
I remember hearing comedian Mark Lowry say once that he discovered the hard way why God made the toes on our feet. “They’re for finding furniture in the dark.”
But God had no intention of leaving us blind and stumbling. John says that the Light shines. He radiates his unfailing light into our ignorance.
John gives us another clue to the mystery – the divine initiative. In the incarnation, God moves first to move into our darkness.
At the risk of oversimplifying, let me say that when it comes to the rescue and redemption of the human race, either God does all the saving, or we don’t get saved.
Either God empowers us to reach the highest human good or we don’t reach it. Our salvation, from beginning to end, is the work of God.
So, The Light shines. And by His Divine Initiative John says, the Logos enters into the world. But with God’s redeeming initiative comes something else.
In The last part of verse 5 and into verses 9,10 & 11, John points out that even though God initiates the shining of his light into our darkness, even though the brilliance of his life illuminates everyone, there’s a tragic irony at work.
The irony is that in the incarnation, the Word, the Creator God, takes the first step towards us, but we don’t get it. We don’t accept it. We won’t respond with a step toward Him.
Verse 9 says – “This was the true Light that, coming into the world, enlightens every person. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him.
How ironic is that? How tragic that Humanity loves the darkness more than the light. And yet we do. But it’s more than a tragedy. It’s at tragedy that condemns us.
You’ve heard I’m sure the story of the guy who’s rock climbing. He’s an avid rock climber but on one occasion he makes a crucial mistake and falls. But he somehow grabs a root extending from the cliff face. Helpless and weakening, he cries out, “Help! Is there anyone who can help me?!”.
Miraculously God answers; “I am the Lord and will help you. Just let go. I’ve prepared a safe place for you to land. You can’t see it, but it’s there. Just let go.”
The desperate man thinks a moment, then cries out, “Is there anyone else up there?”
That’s the tragic irony. Can’t there be someone else? I mean God cannot be the only Rescuer, right?
And yet – the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Word become flesh, took place for that very reason.
God became truly human in Jesus because there was no other way. Only the Word made Flesh would suffice.
Fairly early In church history there was a false teacher named Arius who proclaimed that Christ was the Savior but he wasn’t God.
He insisted that Christ was a creation of God, he was a lesser, small “g” god made by the Big “G” God.
Over against Arius was an Egyptian church leader named Athanasius who said that Arius’s teaching was false and dangerous on two counts.
First, We worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of All. We don’t worship the creation of God. We worship God alone. And if Christ is a part of creation, he’s not worthy to be worshipped.
Secondly- only God can save this fallen world. The Creation cannot save the Creation.
So for God to rescue and redeem His Creation then God must enter it, He must radiate into it. He must infuse it with himself. God must become truly human to effect the redemption of humanity.
That brings us to the final part, and that’s the invitation into the mystery.
John completes the prologue to the gospel like this;
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.”
14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In these opening verses of his gospel, John introduces us to the mystery of the incarnation of the Word of God.
And He tells us that God is the initiator of the mystery and that despite the irony of our rejection of him, yet in Christ Jesus, God made his home with us, to rescue and redeem us.
And he calls on us to receive Him, believe in Him, and receive power to be born of His Spirit.
The incarnation mystery connects humanity to the mystery of the Gospel.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul tells them,
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.
For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3-11) NASB
So how may we truly celebrate Christmas? There’s only one way. That way is to worship. In the lyrics of Hillsong’s “Arrival”
“The One who holds the stars In the creases of His hands;
Is the One who holds my heart Like a mother once held him.
The One who knows what lies Where space has run its course; Embraced a baby’s mind
And now I can know my God.
The monarch of the stars The King above all kings; The ruler of my heart And the Saviour for my sins.
The One who sees what lies In each and every soul; Embraced our finite eyes. And now we can see our God.”
“Oh come now hail His arrival
The God of creation! Royalty robed in the flesh He created; Jesus the maker has made Himself known; All hail the infinite, infant God!”