TEXT: John 1:9-14,17-18
Christmas Day – December 25, 2022
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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 man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Our first scripture reading is called the prologue, or introductory section, of the Gospel of John. John provides an account of Jesus’ birth, like Matthew and Luke, but it is from an entirely different perspective than their angels, shepherds, wise men, manger, and swaddling clothes. John tells the story of Jesus’ birth from an eternal and godly perspective. John also gets at some of the questions of ‘WHY’ alongside Matthew and Luke’s ‘WHEN’ and “WHERE’ perspective. John’s prologue also talks about Jesus’ involvement in creation and the LIGHT and LIFE he brings into the world. John describes the human situation of sin as darkness to describe how, from Adam to the present, men and women have turned away from God and closed their eyes to God’s plan and purpose.
All that is the context John gives us for the birth of Jesus into the world. With today’s text, especially verses 14, 17, and 18, John explores with us the meaning and the mechanics of that birth. Let’s look at that briefly, and we will end with God’s gracious invitation through His Son, Jesus.
Incarnation (v. 14)
John has given us the “big picture” overview. Now, in verse 14, he tells us how that eternal, life-giving, light-bringing Word meets humanity in the dark world and circumstances in which they live.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…
The Word is Jesus, the eternal Son of God who is at the same time God, who was in the beginning creating the world. In him is light and life. And THAT is the Word that “became flesh.” With that one phrase, John covers all the narrative in Matthew and Luke about Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s conversation with an angel, the ride to Bethlehem for the census, no room in the inn, and the birth in the manger! The Word “became flesh.” He was born into the world as a tiny baby, made of human skin and bones, with blood, cartilage, hair, fingernails, and a hungry tummy. Matthew and Luke want us to revel in the narrative details, though they don’t at all shirk his divinity – after all, angels sing and kings bring presents. But John wants us to see the bigger picture – God has put on human flesh! God has come down – all the way down, to be one of us.
Let us not miss the enormity of the Word becoming flesh – theologians call it the Incarnation, which simply is a Latin word for “putting on flesh.” But the meaning of the event – that is full of mystery and weight. Throughout the history of God’s people, God had appeared as Spirit, or fire, or cloud, or wind, or voice. But now, this was God with skin. You could touch Him, speak to Him, and hug Him. In fact, in the mystery of this birth, Mary would swaddle and cuddle the baby close and nurse Him.
Let us also not skip over the second phrase of the verse:
… the Word dwelt among us.
With that, John covers a lifetime of God-in-the-flesh living in the world. For thirty-three years Jesus would live and walk among us before he was crucified. John will go on to give us details about that, but all his accounts of Jesus come back to these few verses. Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, come from eternity and heaven among us, not just to visit, but to live… and to make His home with humanity.
Revelation (vv. 14b, 17)
If those few words in verse 14 describe the incarnation to us, the rest of verse 14 and verse 17 point us to the meaning of the incarnation. Jesus came to show us the God the Father.
(v. 14b) … we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth… (v. 17) grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
There are several new words (to this passage) here: glory, grace, and truth. Glory only comes from one source: God. We say a sunrise is glorious, or a mountain range… but we only say so correctly because those things are a creative work of God. They reflect a bit of God’s glory just like hearing a piece of music I wrote tells you a little something about me. But Jesus – John tells us that he shows us God’s glory, glory that only the Son of God could show us. Jesus bore the glory of God more than any human being (though we are created in God’s image). Jesus is not “in God’s image” – he IS the image-bearer!
This illustration is inadequate, but nonetheless the best I have. Often people will point to Elizabeth and tell me how much she looks like me… or reacts like me… or in some way reminds them of me. Only a person’s child can quite accomplish that. If I am a teacher, my students might bear the mark of my teaching. If I am a coach, my players might demonstrate my imprint. But, Elizabeth bears a quality that causes people to say, “Wow, she is just like Robert.” In fact I also have the privilege of being pastor to many parents and their children and I see it all the time: Mira or Lucas or Karla or Millie will have a look or a response or a reaction that reminds me of one or another of their parents.
Well, Elizabeth and I are still two different people. But Jesus is both God’s only begotten Son and is at the same time God Himself. So, uniquely, Jesus shows us God the Father! He carries the authority, power, presence, and compassion of God in His person. And so, kings come to worship him. Angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” When he is an adult, even demons will bow down and obey him. In Jesus, we see the glory of God.
John also says Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” In John 1:4 we read that Jesus was the “life and light of men.” In very important ways, grace and truth are the same as life and light. We were created to have life – life in relationship with God and for God’s glory. The light of Christ was the illuminating presence of God by which we were made to live. We lost those things when Adam and Eve sinned against God. We lost those things when we were born into a darkened world. We missed out on the life we were created to have and the light with which we were meant to live.
Grace and truth are how God restores what He intended for us to have in creation. Grace and truth are life and light extended to us in Jesus through the darkness of human sin and unbelief. Grace is God coming to us in the flesh, offering us life where we deserve death, offering us a home when we are lost, and calling us His children when we are completely alone. Truth is God’s light spoken in ways we can understand and believe – through the Bible, through the words of Jesus, through the testimony of God’s Spirit to our spirit.
The story of Jesus’ incarnation is the story of God’s revelation or revealing to us and offering to us what we lost from creation. In Jesus, God reveals Himself, His will, His plan, and His salvation. That is grace and truth – and they are realized through Jesus.
Explanation (v. 18)
Finally, in verse 18, John writes something that simply amazes me. He reminds us that no one has seen God (in all His glory) except for the Son – Jesus. And then the last part is this:
[Jesus] has explained God.
It is not enough that Jesus shows us God, for who among us could understand or accept what we see? Who among us could handle the glory of God? But Jesus has also come among us to explain God to us… not exhaustively, but sufficiently. In other words, Jesus doesn’t tell us everything there is to know about God. But Jesus does tell us everything we need to know about God. He tells us what we need to know to have eternal life. He tells us what kind of life God wants us to live; more than that, the purpose for which God has given us life!
So, John goes on in his Gospel to tell the story of God-in-the-flesh, living and making a home among us. He writes of the same miracles and teachings as the other Gospel writers, but John always has this eternal context and perspective that God has come down to be with us, to show us His face and explain Himself to us.
I commend the book of John to you this week – especially if you are taking time off of work or school. Jesus is God’s Christmas present to you – that you might see and know Him in a personal and saving way. Make sure not to leave that present under the tree or in the closet!
I’d like to end with God’s invitation in John 1:12.
To as many as received Jesus, God gives the right to become His children, to those who believe in His name.
Christmas presents have a card on them marked ‘To’ and ‘From’. This Christmas present of God’s Son is marked similarly…
To: my children
From: your Heavenly Father
Jesus would never stop issuing that invitation, so neither will I.
Come, believe, and receive God’s gift to you in Jesus Christ, His Son: peace, salvation, purpose, hope, and calling.
Have a blessed Christmas! Amen.