Summary: In the Anglican Church, we do not have altar calls, spelled “A-L-T-A-R”, but Jesus always issues an altar call, spelled “A-L-T-E-R”. He calls on us to change our lives for a better fit. He calls on us to change habits that drag us down.
John 1:1-17 is John’s version of the nativity story. It doesn’t begin with shepherds and angels and a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. John’s nativity story takes us back to the beginning of creation and time, and it echoes the creation story in Genesis. In John’s Gospel, the very God who created the heavens and the earth and who breathed life into Adam was the same God who became flesh and lived among us. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature because he is God himself. This fulfills the purpose of John’s Gospel; namely, to prove that Jesus and God are one and the same.
Prior to Christ’s birth, there had been 400 years of silence since God spoke through the prophet Malachi. During this period of silence, the people were straining to hear a word from God, so God sent the Word. But first, he readied the world for the gospel. Because of the influence of Alexander the Great, the spreading of the Greek language made communication much easier. Also, because of the roads and general peace of the Roman Empire, missionaries could travel everywhere with less difficulty. Finally, with all of the Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire, evangelists had many synagogues from which to preach the Good News throughout the known world.
The first Christians were Jewish, but the Gospel spread quickly to the Greeks, who knew nothing of the messiah or the fulfillment of prophecy. John had to translate these concepts into language that the Greeks could understand and appreciate. The Greek idea of “word” was “the mind of God”, or reasoning. In their minds, everything that exists was made by God. John is saying to the Greek world, “Jesus is the mind of God in human form”.
It is a concept that is so big our finite minds have difficulty understanding it. Jesus was in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but he came down to earth in the form of a human being. He walked among us and subjected himself to our human weaknesses even though he was God in human form. He walked on the earth for 33 years, but most people never even recognized him. They thought of him as being the carpenter’s son.
Whatever Jesus does, he does with grace. Whatever Jesus says, he says in truth. If we want to understand what God is like, all we have to do is look to Jesus. God came to us in Christ. When hostility and enmity exist, we can break the silence because of Christ and offer what God has offered us-a word of Grace. The true light came on the first Christmas-the light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. This does not mean that darkness won’t attempt to overcome the light; however, its efforts will be unsuccessful because the light of God always prevails, even in the darkest hours of history.
Light equals life. The Light of Christ has come into our lives. Do we see it as a disturbance, or do we see it as the Light of life, like the shepherds did? This light brings peace, comfort, reconciliation and joy into our lives. The light came into the world where he could be seen and enlighten human understanding, but in spite of all that, the world failed to recognize him-did not understand him-rejected him-crucified him.
There is a story about two brothers, named Tom and John, whose father had died. He had willed the farm to the two of them to keep his sons together. It had not worked that way. John had married and lived in a small town with his family. Tom, who remained single, lived alone in the old farmhouse. "John is always preoccupied with his family," Tom thought. "I do more than my share of the work." He began to resent his brother. "Tom is always so grouchy," thought John. "He is jealous of my wife and children."
A wall of resentment built up between them. They would hardly speak to each other. They attended the same little church in town and sat on opposite sides of the nave during the Christmas Eve service. John was troubled because they had hardly acknowledged each other's presence as they sat in church. On the way home John said to his wife, "Tom is alone and has no one to share Christmas. I know he won't come here. Maybe we can take a warm dinner to him." His wife prepared a delicious meal and John put it into a sleigh and started from the small town to the farmhouse in the country. Meanwhile, Tom, sitting alone, said to himself: "Life is too short for this. John is my only brother and he has it hard with his wife and family. I will load my wagon with wood for the fire and gifts for the children." So he loaded his wagon and drove toward town.