Summary: This is the first sermon in a series on the Gospel of John and covers John 1:1-19. This is Christmas according to St. John, The central point of the sermon is found in verse 13 which states the purpose of the Gospel.
Christmas in July
Rev. Mark A. Barber
Several years ago during the Great Recession, several retailers in an attempt to increase slumping sales advertised a “Christmas in July” sale. They put out the Christmas decorations and even played “Christmas” songs in the stores to try to get shoppers in the buying spirit. To me, it seemed a silly act of desperation.
So some of you are probably thinking of what kind of gimmick the preacher is up to this morning. Is this just a gimmick to attract people to the church? The church seems to be doing a lot of these things today to revive slumping attendance and to try to get people to believe in Jesus Christ. Do we need to resort to such tactics today to draw people? Or does God have a different way?
I could try to get you into a Christmas spirit by saying that I saw a picture of snowplows in Santa Rosa, New Mexico removing a foot of hail from the city streets which had whitened the town. I am sure they did not appreciate the “Ho! Ho! Ho!. I could mention that we don’t know what time of year that Jesus was born. Who knows if Jesus wasn’t actually born in July and not December? The traditional celebration of Christmas at the shortest time of year seems appropriate in that during the time of the world’s greatest darkness, the Light of the World was born in a manger in Bethlehem. However, the days are only at their shortest in December in the Northern Hemisphere. In Australia, the longest days are in December and the shortest ones are in June and July. I always wonder how well snow and sleighs fit there in December.
The reason I am preaching a Christmas message this morning is that we are starting a series in the Gospel of John this morning on July 5th. The Gospel, like all the other Gospels begin with a Christmas story. Matthew presents the Christmas story from Joseph’s point of view. Luke presents the Christmas story from Mary’s. It is a little harder to find the Christmas story in Mark, seeing it starts with “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, and immediately introduces the ministry of John the Baptist. However, there is a Christmas story there as well. Christmas is when Christ is born in the heart of a new believer.
John begins his Gospel well before the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In fact, we don’t get to that until verse 14 where it says “and the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.” In fact, he begins the Gospel before time and the universe itself existed. “In the beginning” are the same words which Genesis uses at the start of the account of creation. John says that the Word was already in existence before creation itself, and that this Word was “with God” followed by the stunning statement “And the Word was God”. Just to be sure the reader got the message he repeats that the Word already existed at the beginning of the universe
This Word is the Creator of every single thing. To be sure this is understood, John goes on to state the opposite that not one single thing was made apart from this Word. Then John says “in Him was life”. Only God has life in Himself. In other words, God does not owe His existence to anyone or anything else. The life we live has its immediate source in our parents and ultimately comes from God Himself who is the source of all life. Genesis states that God breathed upon Adam and he became a living soul. It also states that He made male and female in His image. In the Gospel we read that this Word was the light of humanity. In other words, He has made us more than rocks or even the other animals. The Westminster-Shorter catechism states that the goal of human existence is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. We were created with a purpose and to have fellowship with God. The life of God in our soul is to be our light.
So this Word which became flesh is none other than the Creator of the universe. This Word is identified in verses 17-18 as “Jesus Christ” and the “Son”. This Jesus that was born in Bethlehem was no ordinary baby. The other Gospels emphasize that in one sense, Jesus was a perfectly ordinary human child who had to be nourished, protected, and had to grow up to adulthood. He was perfect humanity, of course, born without sin. But he was fully human as Adam was human. John here clearly shows us that Jesus was also fully God as well. Here we must understand that God is a Trinity, Father Son, and Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed informs us that God is One God in three Persons and that these three persons are equal. The teaching of the Trinity is beyond our full understanding, but one picture I could give is this. The Father willed the creation. And the Son, the Word, spoke creation into existence. And as it requires breath to speak, and the word “spirit” in both Hebrew and Greek can mean “breath” or “wind”, then the Holy Spirit provided the breath that the Word spoke.