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 with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 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.
Today we contemplate and celebrate the most extraordinary event ever to take place in the history of the world. We’re so familiar with the story of Emmanuel – God with us – so it is good to be reminded of this miracle once more. James Irwin is one of the twelve men to have walked on the moon. He was a committed Christian and wasn’t afraid to use his celebrity status to share his faith. He once said, “The most significant achievement in history is not that man stood on the moon, but rather that God in Christ stood on the earth.” There are many questions asked at Christmas time. Some are not that important, while others are deeply profound and searching.
Some of the less important ones are: What do you want for Christmas? Have you been good? What are your plans for the holidays? And of course, one we all want the answer to: Can reindeer really fly? In the Bible there are many questions about Christmas too. Mary, when told by the angel that she would give birth to this child asked, “How can this be since I have no husband?” That’s an excellent question. The wise men, when they arrived in Bethlehem after following the mysterious star in the sky asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” That’s another very good question. We’re not told what the shepherds had to say when a whole host of angels suddenly appeared to them, but they must have had more than a few questions too. But there is one question which overshadows them all. It’s a question which was asked then and continues to be asked today. It’s a question on which eternity hangs. And more importantly, it’s a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves. It is the greatest Christmas question. We asked it a little earlier this morning as the worship team led us: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping. Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds’ watch are keeping?”
What child is this? That’s the most important question of Christmas. It’s a question that was both asked and answered at the very first Christmas. Mary asked, and the answer to her was, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Joseph asked the question, and he was told, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” The shepherds asked. Their answer was, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” What child is this – really? Each year we hear the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Yes He is, but what does that really mean? Just who is this child who is the heart and soul of Christmas? The song we sang earlier answers those questions like this: “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. This, this is Christ the King, the babe, the Son of Mary.” I have nothing new to tell you today about the mystery of Christmas that you haven’t heard before – many times. What I can try and do though is to urge us all to just stop for a moment among all the festivities and fun of this day and to try somehow to get to the bottom of such a simple, yet profound question: What child is this? And what effect is He going to have on your life today and for the rest of your life? When we begin to ask this question “What child is this” at a deeper, more fundamental level, we soon realise that this is not really a Christmas question. It’s a life question.
We need to ask ourselves just who this Jesus is, and what, if any effect is He going to have on our lives. It’s good that we’re here on Christmas morning to acknowledge the mystery of God with us in Christ, but what God is more interested in is what this child means for every day of your life. How does a child born in a stable 2000 years ago change every day of your life? That’s why our reading earlier was from John’s gospel, rather than the usual Christmas stories we find in Matthew and Luke. John doesn’t speak about any of the details we are so used to. No angel visitations, no traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem, no manger scene. Instead he gets right to the point of Christmas as he summarises the Christmas message by saying, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Jesus is the Word, and what John is telling us is that Jesus, the Word, existed long before the child was laid in the manger. In fact, there has never been a time when Jesus has not existed, as He is the eternal God. Yet, He came in the flesh. He became one of us. This is such a mystery, and it forces us to ask the question, “What child is this?” God came near and He walked among us, and in His humanity He experienced the same ups and downs we do, the same temptations, the heartbreaks, even to experience a brutal death on a cross. Again, we’ve heard it all before. We know the story so well, so maybe we should be asking not what, but why. Why would God do this? Why would He leave the splendour of heaven where He is worshipped by the angels and come to the darkness of this world, only to suffer abuse, hatred, and ultimately, a form of execution reserved only for the worst of criminals? Why would He do that? He did this because He loves us. God knew that if He didn’t do what He did, we would never be able to experience a truly full and abundant life, and worse still, we would be separated from Him for all of eternity. Jesus coming into this world achieved many things, and I’d like to look very briefly at just three results of the Word becoming flesh today.
1. We become adopted as God’s children. John 1:12 says, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” God wants every person on earth, including each of you sitting here today, to be His child. That is why you exist, and why He created you in the first place. The problem we have is that because of our sin, we are not automatically God’s children. We are born with three strikes against us, and that is why we must be born again, born of His Spirit to become one of His children. That is why God, who is Spirit, became a human child, so that we could be one of God’s spiritual children. As we put our faith in Jesus and believe in what He accomplished at Calvary, we are given the rights to become children of God. When we believe in Him and accept Him, we are adopted into His family and we receive all the benefits of being children of God. Romans 8:17 gives us a glimpse of some of those benefits. “Since we are His children, we will share His treasures, for everything God gives to His Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.” When we are adopted as children of God we receive treasures. These treasures include forgiveness, eternal and abundant life, light, blessings of love, joy, peace – the list is quite literally, endless.
2. We receive His life. The second result we experience because God came to earth is life. Verse 4 says, “In Him was life.” In this child was life. Here was the Creator of the universe who brought life to the earth, and now He has come in the flesh to bring life back to us. In fact, John repeats this over and over in his gospel, that Jesus has come so that we might have life. At the end of his gospel John writes, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life.” (John 20:31) God came to earth because He wants us to experience life, and by that He means two things. Firstly, He wants us to experience eternal life. He wants us to live forever with Him in heaven. Jesus repeated many times that no one would experience eternal life without Him. In John 14:6 He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Secondly, having life not only refers to the eternal future, as wonderful as that promise is, but also to a present reality. We can live a full abundant life here and now because of Jesus. We don’t need to live our lives without hope and without purpose. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) The point is that despite what the non-believing world tells us, a life lived without God will always have something missing. Without Jesus, we cannot live the abundant life here, and we certainly will not receive eternal life beyond the grave. God came in the flesh two thousand years ago so you could experience His joy, His peace, and His love right now and forever. That was why He came. There is no other way for us to receive His life except for Him to come in the flesh. Are you able to say that you’re truly living the abundant life? If not maybe it means your Christmas is only one day a year, and not all year round.
3. He lights up the darkness John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” The truth is that our world is shrouded in darkness. It has been shrouded in darkness since the very first man and woman walked the earth. We like to think the world is getting better, but the reality is darkness remains and will always remain until we receive Jesus, who is the light. There is only one way to eradicate darkness, evil, sin or whatever you want to call it, from our own lives and from our world, and that is Jesus, the Word made flesh. He came to into our world to offer us an escape from the darkness, even the darkness which is inside of us. There is no other way. There is no power inside of us strong enough to resist evil and the temptations all of the time. We will always fail, but God loves us too much to allow that to happen to us, so the light came into the world so that we who receive the light need never to walk in darkness ever again. Part of receiving God’s light into our life is allowing Him to enter and light up all areas of our life, including the ugly stuff. The power of the darkness is when it stays in the dark. Once it comes into the light it loses its power. One of the ways we open ourselves to the light is to ask God for forgiveness by admitting to Him the dark areas we struggle with. It’s no mystery to Him. He won’t be shocked because He already knows. All He wants is for you to allow Him to free you from those things. Light always overcomes darkness. Light a candle in pitch darkness, and what happens? On the other hand, open a box of darkness in a brightly lit room and what happens? Does the darkness spread, or does it just simply vanish? That’s the power of light over darkness. That’s the power of Jesus over sin. Living Christmas everyday means we receive the light of Jesus as we follow Him daily. And His promise to you is that the darkness will not overcome us, because darkness cannot overcome light. “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping. Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds’ watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing. This, this is Christ the King, the babe, the Son of Mary.” “What child is this?” This is a baby born in a barn, destined to be ridiculed, called a failure, and defeated. “What child is this?” This is the Prince of Peace of whom angels sing, who will teach the whole world what love means. “What child is this?” This is the one who not only taught us what love is, but He demonstrated it in the most dramatic and graphic way possible. This child gave His life for you.