Well, it's Christmas again.
Everyone has memories of Christmas and Christmas day.
Sometimes these memories are good,
sometimes the memories are bad.
Of course there's the obligatory Christmas movie that comes out
- usually with some sort of Christmas themed message.
One such movie that came out recently was called "Grinch".
Now I've never seen the movie
but it seems to be about a horrible looking creature
that is trying to stop everyone enjoying Christmas.
Well let me be a bit of a Grinch for a moment.
Christmas - what is it that we actually celebrate?
In our society, like most western societies, the actual meaning of Christmas is distorted by images of Santa Claus
and a focus upon selling goods for Christmas presents.
Consumerism and Capitalism have replaced Christ.
But whenever Christ appears in Christmas stories,
we see him in the traditional image of lying meek and mild in his manger,
with a donkey and a cow looking over at him,
a very healthy looking Mary who doesn't seem to show any of the after effects of giving birth; Joseph, who everyone ignores;
and of course the three kings giving their gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The traditional image is so ingrained into our culture's mind that it seems to sit in the same mould as a fairy tale.
I once went to a shopping centre in Sydney a few years back that had a Christmas display
that included images of Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel,
and of course Jesus.
In many people's minds, Jesus birth is simply a fairy tale.
But of course the most serious problem with Christmas is that it was very unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th.
In fact, in ancient Rome, the 25th of December was the date when the birth of the Sun-God was celebrated in their pagan religious belief.
Sometime during the 4th century AD, the Christians started celebrating Jesus' birth on that date.
I could go further.
Yes, Santa is an anagram of Satan.
No, the Bible doesn't say how many wise men there were.
But let me stop being a Grinch.
After all, only the other day I got dressed up as Santa Claus for the kids at the church play group
- so I'm not as cynical and bad tempered as some Christian preachers get during Christmas.
I chose the passage from John as the text we'll be looking at today
because it is the most unusual of all the Bible's records of the beginning of Jesus' life and ministry.
Matthew presents the birth from Joseph's point of view,
Luke presents the birth from Mary's point of view,
Mark ignores the birth stories altogether,
while John talks about something quite different.
He talks about Jesus from the beginning of creation, and about Jesus' mission
- what he was born to do.
I've got three points about this passage to talk about this morning.
The first point you can see there is Jesus - the Eternal Word, and looks at verses 1 and 2.
1. Jesus - the Eternal Word (1.1-2)
Let me read verses 1 and 2 again:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
John starts off by saying "In the beginning".
John deliberately does this to bring to mind the first verse of the entire Bible.
In Genesis 1 verse 1 it says "In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Here in John, he says "In the Beginning was the Word".
So what we have in view here is the beginning of creation.
And in this beginning was something that John calls "the Word".
Now John is clearly referring to Jesus here
- Jesus is the Word.
In chapter one verse 14, John says "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us".
John doesn't say "In the beginning was Jesus" because he wants us to focus upon what and who Jesus is
- he is the Word of God.
When God created the world,
we see in Genesis that he says "let such and such happen", and it does.
When God speaks, something happens.
In the New Testament "the word" seems to refer both to the person of Jesus Christ
and the message spoken by the Apostles.
It doesn't take a PhD to work out that it is one and the same thing.
Jesus is the Word of God,
and when people preach the word they are preaching Jesus.
Whenever we read or hear the word of God,
we not only hear about Jesus,
we actually experience him
- obviously not in the same way as having him physically present,
but by having him present in the Spirit he sent to us.
The Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit.
But what else does John say?
He says that "the word was with God, and the word was God".
Nothing in all the Bible is more blatant than this verse when it comes to believing that Jesus is God.
"The word was God" says John.
Jesus is God.
But he also says that "the word was with God",
which indicates some sort of distinction going on.
What we're seeing here is the Trinity
- minus the Holy Spirit of course,
but the Trinity all the same.
Jesus is God,
yet he is distinct from the Father,
yet there is only one God and not three.
Today is not the time to examine this issue, but here it is all the same.
And of course just to make the case even more obvious,
John in verse 2 states "He was with God in the beginning".
So Jesus is God.
Jesus is the Word.
What should that mean for us?
It means that God speaks to us.
It means that we can hear God speak.
It means that we can understand what God wants of us.
God is not silent,
he speaks to us today,
and what he speaks to us about is Jesus.
even some Christians,
think that God constantly changes his mind,
or is changing how he deals with people on earth.
He was been saying the same thing since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.
God's work on earth has not changed one bit.
The message is the same one - the message of Christ.
The image we have of baby Jesus in the manger may be nice and cute,
but it is not the image of what Jesus really is.
Newborn babies can't talk,
and they are only capable of only simple communication.
Jesus is not like that at all.
Jesus is God's word.
He is God speaking to us.
When you turn on the radio, what do you hear?
It depends on the radio station doesn't it?
Some people like music, some people like talk.
1When we tune in to God, what do we hear?
We hear the message of Christ.
It's important to realise that as the Word of God,
Christ has to be preached.
It is in the preaching of Christ that God speaks.
Now when I say "preach" here I'm referring to any circumstance when Christ is communicated to people
- it may be from a preacher in a pulpit,
or it may be when two people are talking about him together,
or it may even be when one person is studying the Bible and finding out the truth of Christ by themselves.
The message of Christmas is the same as any other day of the year
- it is the message of Christ.
But what is the content of this message?
What is it about Christ that we should proclaim?
What is it about Jesus,
the eternal word and God himself,
that we should listen to?
We must realise is that Jesus is our creator, and that is my next point.
2. Jesus - the Creator (1.2-3)
Let me read verses 2 and 3 again:
He (Jesus) was with God in the beginning. Through him all things we made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Christmas is a time when we are bombarded with images of the nativity scene,
and we might be tempted to think that Jesus' ministry on earth started when he was born.
The universe was created through Jesus.
Before Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit, he existed,
and, because he is God,
was not bound by the constraints of what we understand to be time and space.
In verse 3, John says that
"through him (Jesus) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
John is being poetic at this point.
Through Jesus, all that we see and hear and touch and smell was created.
More than that, even things we cannot see or have not yet discovered yet were created by Jesus.
When I was at university I did a course called "An introduction to world history".
It was a brilliant course, led by a lovely man (who was an atheist),
and in it we studied the entire history of everything.
One of the great memories I have of the course is when we were looking at star formation.
The lecturer had slides from the Hubble space telescope,
and we sat there in the lecture theatre looking at the most amazing and beautiful scenes that were millions of light years away.
Look up at the stars.
Look out to the sea.
You are looking at God's handiwork.
1God made it.
God owns it.
More than that, it was made through Jesus.
We are part of God's creation,
we are made in God's image,
and we too were created through Christ.
Nothing exists that was not created by Christ.
John says that directly in verse 3
- without him nothing was made that has been made.
So what is all this saying?
It's saying that we owe our very existence to Jesus.
It means that we owe him our lives
- he, as creator, owes us nothing.
We, his creation, owe him everything.
He is God.
He created us.
We exist to serve him and worship him.
Who am I talking about here?
Am I talking about us or everybody?
I'm talking about everybody.
Everybody who exists on this earth has a duty to honour and worship Jesus as God.
But, of course, how many people do?
Not many, unfortunately.
Most of those created in God's image are not honouring him.
Sin is when we tell God that we don't want him.
We, the created, are telling the creator to go away.
That, essentially, is what sin is.
All the horrible things we think and do,
those things we call sins,
stem from the universal rejection of God and Christ.
Sin is a disease that infects the entire human race,
and it causes us to reject God's rule over us.
Christ didn't set himself up us our ruler
and then command us to follow him
- as though he were some self-appointed King or political figure.
No. Christ created us.
He created us for a purpose.
We were created to serve him.
We owe him our honour and allegiance.
You see this is why sin is so awful.
It is a complete denial of who we were made to be.
But the problem with sin is that we can't deal with it ourselves.
Sin corrupts us,
it not only alienates us from Christ, it also makes us unable to turn to him and repent.
The New Testament speaks of us being slaves to sin
- and that is what we are.
We cannot escape the chains that are holding us captive.
Sin prevents us from truly honouring Jesus as our creator and king.
Sin brings death.
Death is the natural result of sin in the world.
Without sin, death would not exist.
Death and decay are the natural results of sin.
We may be living physically, but one day we will stop living and physically die.
Our physical nature reflects our spiritual nature
- we are spiritually dead because of sin.
So what has baby Jesus to do with this?
What has the story of Christmas to do with our sin?
In Matthew chapter one, an Angel speaks to Joseph about Mary's pregnancy.
He says to Joseph "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."
Jesus came in flesh to save us from our sins.
Jesus came to deal with our sins.
Jesus came to rescue us from death and give us life.
And that is my final point.
3. Jesus - the life Giver (1.4-5)
Let me read verses 4 and 5 again:
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.
Anyone who has any understanding of the history of the church will tell you that the most important festival in the Christian calendar is Easter, not Christmas.
Now why is that?
Well it's because Easter celebrates the culmination of Christ's work on earth
- his death and resurrection.
The cross is central to understanding Christ.
So when we look at Christmas,
when we examine what we are celebrating,
we have to always understand it in context with Easter.
Christ's birth cannot be understood unless we understand his death and resurrection.
The little baby boy born in a manger ends up a grown man, crucified on a cross.
Jesus died because God loves both justice and compassion.
When Jesus died, he died in our place.
God punished him and let Jesus suffer death
because he decided to punish Jesus rather than us.
But why did he do this?
He did this because he is compassionate to us.
He did this because he loves us.
And Jesus, because he is God, defeated death and rose again,
proving he is God and giving us new life.
John says that in Jesus was life, and that life was the light of men.
Jesus, who brought us life because he created us, now gives us life to recreate us.
When sin entered our hearts we died spiritually
- and because of this we also die physically.
But Jesus makes us alive spiritually
- which means that one day we will live physically and eternally
- when we are in the new heavens and the new earth.
Jesus died for us.
He gives life to us.
He is the light of men - that is, us.
Jesus' primary mission on earth was die and rise again, so that we may have eternal life.
John says that this light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
What this talks about is the world of sin and hatred towards God.
Those who oppose God do not understand who Jesus is or what he has done.
What John is saying here is that there are two sorts of people in the world
- those who understand and accept the light,
and those who remain in darkness.
Who are these two sorts of people?
Those who understand and accept the light are those who
recognise Jesus as creator and God,
who worship him
and trust in him to deal with and forgive their sins.
Those who remain in darkness are those who
refuse to acknowledge Jesus as creator and God,
who do not worship him,
and who have their sins unforgiven.
I remember when I first heard an explanation of the gospel message.
It was as though someone had turned the light on.
I hadn't realised it, but I was in darkness.
When I first understood the gospel,
the light came on,
and I was able to see.
Much is often made of the star that guided the wise men to their destination.
Was it a distant supernova?
Was it a comet? Was it an angel?
Whatever it was, it was a light that guided those who searched for the truth.
And when they arrived they found Jesus.
King Herod, on the other hand, saw Jesus as a threat to his reign.
He tried to murder the true king even before he grew old,
such was his desire for power
and his rejection of Jesus as the only true king and ruler.
What sort of people are we?
1Are we like the wise men, who accept Jesus as king and worship him?
Or are we like Herod, rejecting Jesus' rule and wanting things our own way?
Let me finish.
I've heard it said that Boxing day is the best day of the year
- it's the furthest day from the next Christmas.
Christmas takes a lot out of us. the presents, the family, the food.
It's special. It's exhausting.
Easter may be more important for the church,
but Easter is far more relaxing than Christmas isn't it?
Christmas reminds us that God sent us Jesus.
He sent us Jesus because we needed him
- he came to save his people from their sins.
You see Jesus is God's word to us.
If we want to hear God speak then we should listen to and understand Jesus.
This is because Jesus himself is God.
When Jesus speaks, we hear the voice of God.
Whenever the message of Jesus is proclaimed, God is speaking.
And what is Jesus saying to us?
He is saying that we owe our very existence to him.
The whole world we live in was created through Jesus.
We ourselves were created through him.
Jesus is our rightful king and ruler,
but we have rebelled against that rule.
But rather than destroying us, Jesus offers us forgiveness and freedom.
Through his death and resurrection we have new life.
But we have a choice of accepting his rule or rejecting it.
If we reject it then we remain in darkness and sin.
But if we accept it we are living the way God intended us to live
- honouring Jesus as our saviour and King.
Christmas will be over in less than 24 hours.
But the message of Christ is one that should be proclaimed all throughout the year.
We need to proclaim that Jesus came as our creator and our God to bring us life.
Almighty God and Father,
We thank you for sending your Son to us. Thank you that, he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross. We pray that this Christmas day as we give presents, eat food and speak with family that we will honour you in everything we do, both today and everyday. Amen.
From the Kerygmatic Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.