Summary: Jesus, as the Word made flesh, is the one who makes God known to us. Only through him can we know God as He really is.
“Making God Known”
John 1:1 – 18
Introduction: John’s Christmas Story
And so it all comes down to this one day. All the preparation the last several weeks have been about this one day: Christmas Day.
And by the end of the day today, we will have unwrapped most of our presents, spent time with family and friends, and eaten lots of Christmas dinner and sweets. Some of you have already done a fair bit of celebrating, and some of you perhaps will start celebrating once this service is over. Perhaps even now your mind is wandering to that turkey cooking in the oven or to those relatives who will be arriving anytime. But, in any case, by the time the day is done, as my late grandfather said every year after Christmas dinner, “Christmas is further away now than it ever is.”
So far this Advent we have looked at the Christmas story through Matthew, Luke, and the prophet Isaiah. We have viewed Christmas through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and through ancient words written in anticipation of the coming Messiah. We have reflected on what it means to have a perfect Christmas. We have seen that the Good News announced to shepherds is for anyone and everyone. We have caught a glimpse of a Messiah who brings peace to our conflict-torn world one heart at a time. Well, today I want to look briefly at the beginning of John’s Gospel. John, too, has a Christmas story; and in comparison with the more familiar Christmas narratives of Matthew and Luke, his is unique. [Read John 1:1 – 18.]
“And the Word was God . . .”
In echoing the very beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis, John’s Christmas story starts in a strange way: “In the beginning was the Word.” Much of the first chapter of John uses abstract concepts like “Word” and “life” and “light.” How does this passage tell the Christmas story? Where are the angels announcing the birth of Jesus? Where are Elizabeth and Zechariah? Where is Simeon? Mary and Joseph are wholly absent from John’s account. There is no escape from a paranoid King Herod to Egypt. There are no Wise Men from the east. There are no shepherds. There is nothing here that we normally associate with the story of Christmas.
To begin, I want to focus on one word from our passage in John, and that is the word, “Word.” In Greek the word is logos and draws upon the concept of the Word of God in the OT. As I said, John’s Gospel begins by recalling the opening verse of the Bible in Genesis, “In the beginning.” God’s spoken Word governs the creation accounts in Genesis. God also spoke His Word through the prophets. The notion of “Word” also has associations with the Jewish wisdom tradition, especially in Proverbs 8 where wisdom has been with God since “before the beginning of the earth” and works alongside God to accomplish His plan for creation.
The most important thing, however, to note about the concept of “Word” is this Word’s eternal existence and relationship with God. We are told here that the Word is with God and, more than that, the Word is God. What we need to get from this is that this Word is the revelation and self-expression of God. What God says, this Word says; what God does, this Word does; and what God is, this Word is. This Word, through Whom God created everything, is one with God; and this is something we can hardly begin to comprehend. But Scripture here is not asking us to understand how this is true, but only to believe that it is true.
If this Word that John speaks of is God, then knowing this Word means knowing God. If only God would speak this Word to us, then we would know Him. And that’s where Jesus comes into the world, literally.
“. . . and became flesh and dwelt among us”
This Word, says our passage, then “became flesh and lived among us.” Another translation says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In our passage, therefore, we have two seemingly mutually exclusive statements: “the Word was God” and “the Word became flesh.” How can this Word be both God and human? Yet that is exactly what this passage is saying. This Word really is God and really became a flesh and blood human being. This very same Word that existed with God from all eternity, and is one with God, became a little child born in a manger. The true light that existed from all eternity was “coming into the world.” Jesus is not a mere human being. Nor does he only appear to be human. Jesus is both God and man. John leaves it at that. He leaves it to us to respond.