Summary: Christmas is a time to reach out and love one another
Last year while at the mall with his Mom, a seven-year-old boy watched as children lined up excitedly to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a little boy that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of God’s Son, with the innocence that only a child can have, he asked his Mom, “Where’s the line to see Jesus? If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, why don’t we see him more?”
So where is the line to see Jesus?
The Gospel of John begins differently than the other three Gospel writers. As we read from John this morning, here just before Christmas, let’s remember that John was referred to as “the one that Jesus loved, His beloved.” But he didn’t start out that way. He was one of two sons known as the “Sons of Thunder”, along with his brother James, not to be confused with Jesus’ half brother James. John was from a wealthy family and he gave up all his riches to follow Jesus. Would we do the same? In the beginning he was certainly rough around the edges, but at the end of Christ’s ministry, he was filled with compassion and love. He learned how to love without conditions. I love you even though you have hurt me deeply. I love you even though you said those words. I love you no matter what. As I have always said from the start, there is a huge difference between love and approval. We may not approve of someone’s behavior, lifestyle or choices, but we still can love them. And John learned this. When we read of the crucifixion of Jesus, John was the only disciple present. John was entrusted to care for Jesus’ Mother Mary. John went on another 60 years to preach the Gospel message and continue to be a witness of what Christianity really stands for, what Jesus taught him and what he experienced firsthand. Why? Because of love. Jesus taught him how to love, Jesus transformed his life and He can do the same for us today.
Let’s look at the beginning of the Gospel of John. We spoke at the start that his Gospel begins differently than the others. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus and leads up to the birth of Jesus. Mark begins his Gospel telling of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah. The Gospel of Luke explains the Christmas story with the account of Elizabeth and Mary up to the birth of Jesus in the manger. Luke, chapter 2 is what we all read at Christmas time. Yet the Gospel of John begins differently. The first 14 verses lead up to the ministry of Jesus but these opening verses explain why He was born here on earth in the first place. It is the salvation message, that Jesus is the Son of God and was sent to save all of us yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is the message of hope for us. Why? Because of love. God’s unconditional love for each of us and this is really the Christmas message isn’t it? Because of the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago in that tiny village of Bethlehem, we were given hope, peace, joy, and especially love.
Let’s read together chapter 1, verses 1-14 of this firsthand account of the Gospel of John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light; that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I read of a story by the famous Danish philosopher from the mid 1800’s, a Christian theologian named Soren Kierkegaard. It is a familiar story, a story rewritten by many over the ages in many different forms, yet it is still relevant today. Here’s what he wrote: