Summary: In Christ the glory from the tabernacle and the temple has come down.
Incarnation: God Comes
Rev. Brian Bill
December 24, 2016
Here’s a question on Christmas Eve. How can we be certain that what happened on that holy night is not a hoax? How do we know that the news about the nativity is factual and not fake? Can we be sure this is “good news of great joy for all the people?”
We’re hearing a lot recently about fake news stories. While bogus reporting has always been around, it now spreads like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter. These scam stories are often sensationalist and extreme, designed to inflame passions or prejudices.
Just this week, Forbes Magazine ran a story with this headline, “Americans Believe They Can Detect Fake News. Studies Show They Can’t.” From August to November, fake stories earned more shares, reactions and comments on Facebook than real news stories. I guess we should be encouraged that Facebook is now flagging fake stories but I’m not sure if this story is factual or fictional.
I experienced some fake news last Thursday afternoon when I read a breaking story on my newsfeed regarding a mother in Rock Island who killed her three children and then stabbed herself. My eyes filled with tears and I immediately prayed. I then sent the link to the staff team and our deacons and asked them to pray. I even contacted a couple pastor friends in Rock Island to see how we could minister together in this tragedy. And then I found out it was an unholy hoax…and then I was grieved that someone would make up a story like this.
Oxford Dictionary has just released its 2016 term of the year – post-truth. Here’s how they define it: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, truth takes a backseat to emotion because feelings have effectively replaced facts. Relativism is more relevant than reality.
That can certainly happen on Christmas Eve when sentimentality and the “spirit of the season” can cloud the truth of the incarnation.
We’re going to focus on facts, not our feelings because it’s not a fable that Jesus was born in the stable. In this time of “fake news” and “horrible hoaxes,” you can trust what the Bible has to say because it’s true. Listen to these words written by a very bright physician under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:1-5: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
So how do we know if the Bible is phony or factual? Is it a hoax or a Holy Book? Like a good reporter, the learned Luke did some fact checking with eyewitnesses and followed up with all leads, writing an orderly account so that we can have “certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” We just heard the Christmas narrative from Luke’s gospel. Let me point out that this account is anchored in history – the events took place when Caesar Augustus was emperor in Rome and a guy with a hard name to pronounce (Quirinius) was governor in Syria. These were real rulers so this is clearly not a fable or fake news.
Here’s our approach today. We’re going to set up camp in one primary verse found in John 1:14 and focus on three main points related to the coming of Christ at Christmas – the reality of His coming, the relevance of His coming and finally, our response to His coming.
Let’s look first at the reality of the coming of Christ.
The Reality of Christ’s Coming
While the Gospels of Luke and Matthew give the details surrounding the birth of Jesus, John provides us with the back-story, or the theology behind the nativity. John 1:14 is startling in its simplicity but also incredibly deep: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The first part says that the “Word became flesh…” This is the single, most unique quality of Christianity that makes it different from any other religion: God became flesh. The miracle of Christmas is the infinite becoming an infant.
The whole superstructure of Christianity rests on this truth. Jesus is fully God and fully man. A theologian described it this way: “…God must be able to come over to our side without leaving his own ‘side.’”