This morning we celebrate one of the most profound wonders of life. We celebrate the day that God entered our world and lived in our midst for a little while.
The culmination of the passage we have been studying in John 1:1-14 is John 1:14. We read,
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.
There are a few points I want to draw your attention to this morning.
The Word Became Flesh
John tells us that the Son of God, the one who existed before the world began, the one who was actually a principle player in the creation process, became a living, breathing human being.
In Philippians 2 we are told that Jesus “humbled himself” and became a man. Think about it. The Son of God. The One who reigned supreme over the universe, now freely subjected himself to the limits of the flesh. But why?
In the movie, “Never Been Kissed” Drew Barrymore played a reporter who pretended to be a student so she could get the inside story on what teenagers were doing and thinking. She understood that before she could accurately write a report, she had to get into their world. So, she became a student. She went to class. She experienced the teenage heartaches and cruelties. She entered into the world of the teens, yet was still a reporter.
Don’t get me wrong; God didn’t become man because He needed help in understanding us. Instead we needed help in understanding Him. Since we couldn’t become God, He became a man to lift our sights and increase our understanding. He sought to build a bridge to us by becoming human.
Why does an intelligent and rationale adult all of a sudden start making faces and sounds when they are in the presence of a baby. Why? Because they are trying to connect with the child. They know the child will not understand their questions and statements. So, they use sounds with which the baby would identify. The adult is trying to communicate on the child’s level.
This is what God was doing by sending the Son to earth as a man. John Calvin says the Bible is God’s “baby talk”. That doesn’t mean it is nonsense . . . it means the Bible is the revelation of God’s profound and wonderful character in a form that we could understand. Jesus was God’s way of connecting with us.
Jesus didn’t, however, just come to connect with us. He also came to die for us. He came to be the appropriate substitute to pay for our rebellion. In the book and movie, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Aslan the Lion (who represents Christ) trades His life for the life of one of the children (Edmund). By the Lion’s death Edmund’s debt is paid to the White Witch (the Devil) and Edmund is set free. When the Lion is resurrected, the power of death (the stone table) is broken.
Jesus came to connect, to help, to guide . . . but also to die so that we could be forgiven and given new and everlasting life.
He Lived Among Us
The Greek phrase is that he “pitched his tent” among us. It is similar to the idea of the Old Testament tabernacle. As the Israelites (called Hebrews back then) traveled around in the desert for 40 years they had the tabernacle right in the center of the camp. It was the place where God met with the people. It was, if you will, a portable temple. This tabernacle included a place to offer sacrifices and a place where the priests could go and seek the Lord.
Often there would be visible evidence of God’s presence. There would be a pillar of smoke that would envelope the tabernacle. It reminded the people that God was in the camp. The tabernacle was right in the center of the camp so everyone could see that God was in their midst.
This is what the incarnation (the Word becoming man) was designed to do. It was designed to let us know that “God was in the house”. It was a way of letting us know some important truths.
God knows we are here. He knew where to find us.
God cares. He not only knew we were here. He came to meet us.
God loves us. The mission of Christ was not a mission to condemn us but to save us. Jesus came to die. He came to give His life for ours in order to open a way for us to live with Him forever.
God wants to help us. When we feel ignored, abandoned, discarded, we need only to look back to the manger in Bethlehem. Jesus came down from Heaven to extend His hand of grace. He reaches to us and offers us forgiveness and new life.
We Beheld His Glory
John gives His own testimony: “We saw Him! We sensed His greatness. We felt the touch of God. We testify to you that He was full of grace and truth. In 1 John 1:1-3) (the letter to the church written by this same apostle) we read,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.
John’s emphasis is on the fact that Jesus was physical. He was real. John saw him, touched Him, and was an eyewitness to all He said and did.
In the Greek text the sense if very clear. Jesus is unique. He alone is God’s son in this sense. He is not one of many . . . He is the eternal one who stepped into the world in a unique fashion in order to reach us and provide for us a way to become right with God.
Do you see what John is trying to get across to us? He wants us to know that this is real! There is a passion in John’s words. We don’t gather today to celebrate a wonderful myth. We are here today to celebrate the fact that God truly and actually entered into our world and gave us the blueprint for how we could walk with God and how we could know life abundant in the present and life incredible and eternal in the future.
The Big Question – So What?
The Big question every Christmas is this: “Are you changed by the truth of Jesus’ birth?” What difference does it make to you that God became man and pitched His tent among us? How do you respond to His invitation to be made new?
I encourage you to embrace Him. I encourage you to welcome Christ into your life and home. He calls us to trust Him, to turn to Him, and to follow Him. God has built the bridge. He has made the contact. He has come to the doorway of your life and asks you to follow Him. The question is, “will you?”
I can’t think of a better day on which to stop running away from God and receive Him. Make this Christmas Day the turning point of your life. If you have never put your confidence in Christ, please do so today.
Second, it is fitting that we bow in worship. I love the fact that Christmas is on Sunday. Yes, it changes some of our normal traditions. However, it is wonderfully fitting that we stop for worship on Christmas day. There is no better response to His love than to turn our heart to Him in gratitude. This is an attitude that should dominate our hearts all the time. We should constantly be in a state of worship.
Third, we should follow Him in our daily life and our everyday decisions. Again, in the movie Narnia, after the children meet Aslan, the children in Narnia are given a new strength, a powerful boldness and deep resolve to go into battle. It’s a good picture of what Jesus does for us. When we begin to grasp the depth of God’s love, we become willing, determined, and energized to trust and follow Him in our everyday living.
When we understand what God has done we should be willing to give up our stubborn refusal to do things God’s way. We should be eager to apply His counsel to our lives even when it disagrees with the crowd . . . why? Because God has proved Himself more trustworthy, loving, and wise than anything in this world.
Take some time today and search your heart. Are you holding back? Is there some part of your life you refuse to give to the Lord? Is there some act of rebellion you refuse to relinquish? The only gift the Lord wants this Christmas is your heart. He wants your trust, your obedience and your love.
To summarize this sense of wonder and joy, let me conclude by reading a wonderful section from Max Lucado’s book, GOD CAME NEAR
It All happened in a moment, a most remark-able moment.
As moments go, that one appeared no different than any other. If you could somehow pick it up off the timeline and examine it, it would look exactly like the ones that have passed while you have read these words. It came and it went. It was preceded and succeeded by others just like it. It was one of the countless moments that have marked time since eternity became measurable.
But in reality, that particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.
God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.
God had come near.
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty.
No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.
Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of star-gazers, there would have been no gifts.
Angels watched as Mary changed God’s diaper. The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons …
Jesus may have had pimples. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice-versa. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing’s for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.
He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable.
But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
Listen to him.
“Love your neighbor” was spoken by a man whose neighbors tried to kill him.
The challenge to leave family for the gospel was issued by one who kissed his mother good-bye in the doorway.
“Pray for those who persecute you” came from the lips that would soon be begging God to forgive his murderers.
“I am with you always” are the words of a God who in one instant did the impossible to make it all possible for you and me.
It all happened in a moment. In one moment … a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.
There will be another. The world will see another instantaneous transformation. You see, in becoming man, God made it possible for man to see God. When Jesus went home he left the back door open. As a result, “we will all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”
The first moment of transformation went unnoticed by the world. But you can bet your sweet September that the second one won’t. The next time you use the phrase “just a moment, … ” remember that’s all the time it will take to change this world.
May God use this day and this moment to change your heart and mine. May He use this moment to draw us close to Him. May God use this moment to remind us that because of His love shown in that moment in Bethlehem, THIS moment, the next moment, and the one after that, now matter forever.