The First Sunday of Advent November 30, 2014
1 Samuel 2:18-20,26
64, 370, 427, 657
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 were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 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 His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, 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 beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ—the Word made flesh—dear fellow-redeemed:
For weeks we anticipate Christmas and relish each sign of its coming: decorations and lights and greeting cards, Bing Crosby crooning “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” colder weather, the scores of holiday programs on TV…and then Christmas is over. With each day that passes beyond Christmas, maintaining the Yuletide spirit grows harder. By late January, even the most festive among us are asking, “When will those people get their manger scene off the front lawn?”
It’s possible to have a similar reaction to the Christmas message even before the Christmas celebration. How long will the church keep the Christmas message on the front lawn? There are four Sundays in Advent devoted to preparing for Christmas, and then Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day, and then the two Sundays after Christmas. Even Pastors may begin to wonder, “What more can I say?”
Today’s text reminds us that the great truths of Christmas are not seasonal. They are eternal. They are meant to bring joy, comfort, hope, light, life, and fullness of grace throughout every season of the Christian life—whether youth or age, poverty or wealth, sickness or health, good times or bad.
Imagine what comfort, hope, and joyful expectation we will have in 2015 if we leave this current Christmas celebration in the confidence that “I know my Savior is true God and there is no problem He cannot fix in my life. I know my Savior is true Man and as such, He understands what I go through in my everyday life. I know that my true God and true Man Savior is the only Source of true grace. To Him alone I will look for forgiveness, salvation, and blessing after blessing.”
The first great truth of Christmas: “I know that my Savior is true God and there is no problem He cannot fix in my life.”
How do we know that Jesus is true God? The Bible tells us so in many places and nowhere more emphatically than in our text for today. John writes in verses one: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all open with the appearance of Jesus at a point in time. Matthew and Luke open with the birth of Jesus, and Mark opens with the baptism and ministry of Jesus. But the Gospel of John is different. It does not begin with the appearance of Jesus at a point in time but with the existence of God the Son in eternity.
Many religions today are willing to call Jesus of Nazareth a good man, a powerful prophet, even a son of God—a son, not the unique, “only begotten Son” that John refers to in our text. Among such religions are Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Eastern mystic religions like Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. But such a Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. From the first verse of the first chapter of his Gospel record, John testifies to the deity of Jesus Christ. John states that He was both with God as a separate Person of the Trinity, that He himself was God, that He “became flesh and dwelt among us,” [v.14], and that this Word was none other than the historical “Jesus Christ,” [v.17]
In other words, that baby lying in the manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes was the very same one of whom John writes in verse 3 of our text: “All things were made through Him; and without Him nothing was made that was made.” That baby was the eternal Son of God who created the universe in all its vastness—infinite in His wisdom, unlimited in His power. That 12-year-old boy who taught in the temple was true God. That man who controlled storms and calmed seas and healed diseases and raised the dead was true God. That despised, rejected man who carried our sins to the cross, who died on Good Friday and rose triumphantly on Easter Sunday was true God.
Jesus is “God with us”—Immanuel. This is the first great truth of Christmas, and it has nothing to do with a season of the year. Do we understand the importance of this Christmas lesson? Do we see that if God Himself came to be with us, we have no reason to doubt His willingness to help us; no reason to doubt His love and compassion for us; no reason to doubt His involvement in our lives—our families marriages, careers, finances, faith, salvation—in everything we are, have, and do? Do we see that we have no reason to doubt the God who was willing to be born in a stable and die on a cross?
We need no more evidence of God’s compassion, love, and willingness to help us than these familiar words of Philippians 2, another Bible passage that clearly states the deity of Christ: “[Christ Jesus] being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Soon a new year will be here. I don’t know what challenges or problems we may face in 2015. But if such challenges and problems come, what do they really matter when we know that our Jesus is true God? Why should they frighten or worry us when we know that our Jesus made the universe? Call to mind the words of this text “and the Word was God,” [v.1] “all things were made through Him,” [v.3] “and the world was made through Him,” [v. 10] Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). All authority. All power. Is there anything in your life He cannot fix?
The second great truth of Christmas: “I know that my Savior is true Man and as such, He understands what I go through in my everyday life.”
A few years ago, I attended a Christmas concert. Truthfully, I didn’t feel like going. I had gotten up at 5:00 AM. I had driven the two hours to North Port. I had conducted a worship service. I had driven the two hours home. About 4:00 PM my sister texted me and said, “You are coming to the concert tonight, aren’t you?” I texted back, “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I’m really too tired.”
Ten minutes later, riddled with guilt, I texted her again and said, “Never mind. I’ll be there.” So I went, fighting the urge to doze off. I watched, listened, and clapped politely in the appropriate places. Then halfway through the program, a seven-year-old boy named Chase—cute, slightly chubby, red hair, freckles, and with a slight child-like lisp—stepped to the microphone and sang a song called “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” The musical notes were not always accurate, but that song came from that child’s heart. Afterward, there were not many dry eyes in the building.
At the same time, a video began to play on the screens in the front part of the auditorium. The video was of a little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, moving tiny hands and fingers, smiling. For one instant, that baby turned his head and looked at the concert-goers with wondrously large brown eyes. Suddenly, the meaning of Christmas swept over me anew. God, the Almighty God, came to us just like that little baby, wiggling his toes and fingers, and smiling in wonder at us.
Now think about John’s words “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [v.14] What a remarkable, miraculous sentence. Not only does the Gospel, or “Good News,” tell us about Jesus Christ. In the strictest sense, Jesus Christ Himself is the Good News—the embodiment of that Good News, the Word and will of God who came to us in real flesh and blood.
God didn’t just send us inspired writings and letters. God didn’t just send us prophets and apostles. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the fullest revelation of who God is, what God is like, and what God has done to redeem us. “We beheld His glory,” writes John—the very glory of God in Jesus Christ. [v.14] Can we not hear the wonder and awe in John’s words—a man who walked with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee and saw the real footprints God the Son left in the sand? This is what “The Word became flesh” means. This is what John meant in verse 18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him.”
Jesus said of Himself in John 12:49-50:“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
Or remember the occasion when Philip, one of the Lord’s twelve disciples, said to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” And Jesus told him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9). In other words, through Jesus Christ, God the Son, we clearly see what God the Father is like; that He is the God of truth, a God who hates sin; but also a God of love, tenderness, forgiveness, salvation, and miracles.
I remember seeing a cartoon once in which a wife and husband were sitting at the breakfast table. The husband had his face buried in the newspaper. The wife finally said, “Why don’t you ever tell me that you love me anymore?” Without looking up from the paper, the husband replied: “I told you, ‘I love you,’ thirty years ago. Do I have to keep repeating myself?”
Funny—yet it would be funnier still if it were not also sadly true. As human beings, we crave to know that we are loved. We crave to know that we matter. We crave to know that we have a sense of worth, purpose, and belonging. God tells us these things repeatedly in his Word, the Bible. But when He really wanted us to get the message, to know how much He loves us, He sent his Son as both the Messenger and the Message. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
If you doubt God’s love, look at Jesus. If you doubt that God cares, look at Jesus. If you doubt that God is involved in your life, look at Jesus. If you doubt that God really understands what you go through day after day, year after year, look at Jesus. This too is a comforting aspect of “the Word became flesh.”
I’m not the most mechanically-gifted person in the world. My crowning mechanical achievement was installing an automatic garage door opener. I can’t begin to describe the satisfaction and relief I felt when I pushed the button and watched that garage door go up. Getting to that point, however, was another matter. For hours, unassembled parts were everywhere. I couldn’t understand the directions. I couldn’t find the right tools. A half-day into my adventure, I was hot, sweaty, covered with grease, and more than a little irritated. It was at that point that a well-meaning relative peered into the garage and said, “Wow, what a mess. What’s taking so long?” To which I replied, “Yeah, well, if you think this is so easy, get out here and do it yourself.”
But we can’t very well say that to God, can we? We can’t say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, God. You don’t know what I’m going through. Your word is fine for Sunday services and church buildings, but not Monday mornings and the real world where people lose their jobs and get sick and go through painful divorces and deal with unreasonable bosses and lose loved ones.
We can’t very well say “Get here and do it Yourself God,” because God did come and do it Himself. Not only did Jesus Christ experience all the realities and heartaches that human beings experience—birth and death; poverty and homelessness; rejection, tears, ridicule, suffering, and betrayal. Not only did the Son of God experience these things Himself, He experienced pain, sorrow, and suffering to an extent we ourselves, thank God, will never know. When Jesus Christ carried His cross to Golgotha, God Himself was carrying the sins of the world on His own beaten, bloodied shoulders.
Presidents live in the White House, not on Main Street. Congress enacts laws with no knowledge and often no concern for how those laws will impact the average citizen. CEOs demand improved revenue without knowing firsthand how hard it is to make a sale or deal with an angry customer. Generals give orders without setting a boot on the battlefield. Yet, the God who created the universe and governs all things came to us as an innocent infant, as a humble servant in order to share in our humanity and save us from our sins. And to think all the misery of this world started with humans aspiring to be God.
The third great truth of this Christmas: “I know that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is the only source of true grace, so to Him alone I will look for forgiveness, salvation, and blessing after blessing.
On that first Christmas—now more than two thousand years past—God gave us a gift we had no right to expect—the gift of His Son. It is a gift that is absolutely priceless in its value and eternal in its nature, as the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle: “…knowing that you were not redeemed corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The apostle John tells us in our text that Jesus is the only Christmas gift that keeps on giving. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace…” [v.16] Jesus is our never-ending source of grace. Jesus is our never-ending source of blessing upon blessing. It as the apostle Paul stated: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
These then are the great truths of Christmas: 1) I know that my Savior is true God and as such, there is no problem in my life that He cannot fix. 2) I know that my Savior is true Man and as such, He understands what I go through in my life. 3) I know that my Savior, Jesus Christ, is the only source of God’s grace.
To Him alone may we always and only look for forgiveness, salvation, blessing—a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.