Christmas from eternity's point of view
John 1:14-18 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
A few weeks ago we heard the Christmas story from Joseph’s point of view through Matthew. On Christmas Eve we heard the Christmas story from Mary’s point of view through Luke. Today we hear the Christmas story from eternity’s point of view through John.
When we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ we usually think about the story of the first Christmas passed down to us by Matthew and Luke. We listen in as the angel Gabriel tells the lowly Virgin Mary that God has chosen her to be the mother of His eternal Son. We watch Joseph the carpenter wrestle over the question to divorce his betrothed wife who is pregnant with a child he knows is not his, until an angel in a dream tells him to take Mary as his wife for the Child is God’s own Son. We follow the couple to
, and see the newborn Jesus
wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there is no room in
the inn. Bethlehem
We hear the angel proclaiming the “Good News of great joy” to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. We listen as the mighty angel chorus offers its praise and glory to God in the highest, expressing the peace God’s Son has come to bring. We join the shepherds as they visit the Christ Child, and we journey with the wise men as they follow the star and bring their gifts to “the one who has been born King of the Jews.”
But the Gospel of John shows us Christ’s birth from a different point of view. John takes us to the beginning of time and introduces us to the Word, the mighty Son of God who created all things. The Gospel of John begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). For the next 12 verses, John describes the Child of Christmas according to His divine nature, as the Son of God. He is the mighty Word of God, the eternal Son. Everything in heaven and earth was created through Him. He is the light of men. Now, as John reaches the pivotal moment in all human history, he tells us in verse 14, “The Word became flesh.”
In that great, unfathomable mystery, Jesus takes our human nature into His divinity: He is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
That is the mystery of Christmas—the majesty of God’s gracious plan. To save us from our sin, God’s Son became human just like us. As a human He could place Himself under God’s Law and earn our place in heaven by His perfect life. As a human He could take our place under God’s wrath, suffering and dying for our sins and disobedience. Being God His shed blood was able to pay for the sins of the whole world. Being God He could — and did — defeat Satan, sin and hell for all of us.
Being both the Son of God and the Son of Man, through faith in the God/Man, we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters (Ephesians 2:5).
John continues in his Gospel: “And the Word … made his dwelling among us.” Jesus birth in
was not the first time He
dwelt among us in our world. He appears for the first time in the Old Testament
as the Angel of the Lord ministering to Hagar in her distress. He makes the
unseen God known by loving the unloved, caring for the abandoned, and helping the
helpless. He appears to Moses in the burning bush to give him direction in his
life as the chosen leader of God’s chosen people. He is at the edge of the
Israelite camp, guiding and protecting them for 40 years of wandering as a
pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Bethlehem
But now this will be how Jesus appears for all eternity. As both God and Man, He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. As God and Man, He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead (Nicene Creed).
Verse 14 continues: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How would you like to lift up your eyes any time of day or night and look upon the glory of God? The Israelites who left
enjoyed that privilege for 40 years. The Lord
revealed His glory in the pillar that led them across the wilderness to the
Promised Land. By day it was a pillar of cloud, by night a pillar of fire.
After Egypt settled into the Promised Land the pillar disappeared.
God was still present in their midst, but their eyes could no longer perceive
His glory. Israel
On that first Christmas, God’s glory shone briefly around the shepherds in the fields outside
. But when they ran into the little town they saw
nothing special, just an ordinary-looking baby who was “wrapped in swaddling
cloths and lying in a manger.” No halo shone around His head. The fullness of
the deity was concealed within the dwelling of Jesus’ infant body. Bethlehem
His glory as the Son of God would not be revealed until His Baptism at age 30. Only then did He begin revealing His divine glory through the epiphany of His words and miracles, demonstrating His power over disease, accidents, nature, demons … even death.
Today His glory is hidden in common, ordinary things like the words of the Bible, the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. But it is through these common, ordinary things that we will one day gaze upon the glory of the One and Only.
John then sets the record straight that John the Baptist was not the promised Messiah. Though he stirred up a lot of excitement, his job was always and only to point people to the true Messiah. That’s why he cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”
The Baptist’s words line up perfectly with what the apostle John has been writing all along. Jesus of Nazareth is no mere human. He is the only begotten Son of God who has existed from eternity. Now He dwells among us in human flesh.
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” The fact that God became human and actually lived here among us is the mystery and wonder of Christmas. But how often do we lose sight of that mystery after we celebrate Christmas, put away the decorations, and go back to our normal day-to-day lives? It’s almost as if Christmas never came, and everything goes on the same.
If Christmas is merely recalling God’s Son becoming human and being born in
we are missing something truly significant. The important thing is to remember
why He came and what He accomplished in those brief 33 years He dwelt among
Unless we look in the right place, it looks as though His life really didn’t change much of anything. There is still suffering, sickness and death. There is still misunderstanding, fear and hate. There is still crime, violence and war. And much of that within our own homes.
All of these evils flow from our first parents’ sinful disobedience when Adam and Eve ate the fruit God had forbidden, and continue today through all our sins.
Jesus came to deal with that sin, and the wrath of God it stirs. Jesus came to take our place, carry our guilt and sins to the cross, and suffer God’s wrath that we deserve, paying the debt we can never repay. He did it all out of pure, undeserved love and mercy. And He is always here to give us the fullness of His love and grace.
When you read John chapter 1, it is extremely interesting that though John is writing about Jesus, he waits until verse 17 to actually name Him. The Word, the Son of God has remained unnamed. But finally the Word emerges from the shadows and is revealed in the spotlight: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John points out that Jesus came to replace the Old Testament Law given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Knowing that neither the Israelites of old or we in the new year of 2014 cannot keep God’s laws perfectly, God sent His Son as the fulfillment of His Laws.
As great as Moses was, he was merely the instrument through which God gave His people the knowledge of His laws. Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem was different. He was the Son of God Himself, and He came into our world bringing grace and truth. He fulfilled the laws of Moses, and completed the salvation first promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From the cross His truth and grace pours out like an unending fountain for all time.
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” Is John correct that no human has ever seen God? Scripture describes Moses as the friend of God (Exodus 33:11), still, Moses could only gaze upon God’s “back” and not God’s “face.” The gracious God was protecting His servant Moses when He told him, “You cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.” Like staring into the sun, the sinner Moses could not tolerate looking upon the full expression of God's holiness and glory, only a portion of it. So John is correct, no sinful human ever sat gazing upon the fullness of God's glory.
But Christmas marks the birth of a new Man, One who is holy and spotless – the Word who has spent all eternity looking upon the beauty of God’s glorious face. For the first time in his Gospel, John names the first person of the Trinity: he calls Him the “Father.” The Word has come to make His Father known to us.
None of us has ever seen God. Left to our own experience and imagination none of us even comes close to knowing what God is really like. The struggles and difficulties of life distort His true image. He comes off looking angry and vindictive on one hand, or unknowing and uncaring on the other.
But Jesus came at Christmas to make God known to us. He revealed Him as our merciful, gracious, loving Heavenly Father – the God who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.
This, too, is the Christmas story. Not from Joseph or Mary’s point of view, but from eternity’s point of view. For the Christ Child is God in the flesh, the Word dwelling with us, the fullness of God’s grace. making the Father known to us. Amen.