Text: John 1:1-15
Title: What Child Is This
Theme: This Christmas child is God incarnate; therefore we welcome and celebrate his birth.
Among all the Christmas decorations, the Nativity Scene is the most controversial. You won't find it at schools or any government properties. Why? Or What is at the center of this decoration? The infant Jesus. I guess, if you take the baby out of the scene, then it should be ok, right? Who is he?
For over 2000 years, men have been asking this question: who is he? Every year or so, the major magazines will have a feature article on Jesus. The most recent issue of US News and World report's feature article is: The Jesus Code: America is rethinking the Messiah—again. So on this Sunday before Christmas, it will benefit us to explore this question: Who is this Jesus? Who is this child born in a manger about 2000 years ago, yet still creating such commotions today?
Earlier we sang a hymn with these words "Hail the incarnate Deity!"(#98, v2, line3). These are huge words. Simply put, it means, praise the God who came to us. This infant Jesus is the God who became man. This is what we read in John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwell among us…." The Word came and became flesh, became human as Jesus. Now, let's take a closer look at this word, "Word".
I. The Word is eternal (1-5)
In verse 1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This is a very simple yet pregnant statement. From the very beginning, even before the present universe came into being, the Word was there. This Word, Jesus, was with God from the beginning. This Word, Jesus is God. The Mormons claim that Jesus was created by God the father; the Jehovah Witness say that Jesus is not god. But here the Bible clearly states that Jesus is not created, he is God, and he exists even before the world's existence. He is active in the creation of the universe. He is the creator; he is God in every way and in every form.
Not only this, we are told that in vs.4, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." This Word, this Jesus is the source of life. He gives us our life. He is also the light of the world. He shines in the world so we can see and have direction and meaning in life. The second thing we know about this Word:
II. The Word is being introduced to the world. (6-8)
Every January is the President's State of the Union speech to the nation. Of all the people in that House of Chamber, I am always interested in one person, Mr. Wilson Livingood, the House Sergeant at Arms. Just before the president enters the room, he would open the door and in that booming, authoritative and flawless tone, announce: "ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States". His responsibility is to announce the entrance of the President.
Prior to the Word coming into the world, Jesus, the word has also been introduced. In the OT, beginning with Genesis, are many hints of his coming. Then we have that majestic passage in Isaiah 9:6, "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Several hundred years after these words were spoken, John the Baptist proclaimed, 1:23, "I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord'".
And then on the night when Jesus was born, the angels appeared to the shepherds, Luke 2:10-11, "And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." When the word, Jesus came, before the grand entrance, he was announced and introduced. The third thing we know about the Word:
III. The Word is being rejected in the world. (9-12)
When the Sergeant at Arm introduced the president, everyone in the room stood up and applauded. Some of them may not like the president, but out of their respect for the office, they stood and welcome him.
The Word became flesh; God became human and came into the world. How did the world receive him? John describes the world as in the dark. The world is covered by darkness. Darkness usually tells us about danger and hostility. In movies, stories, and often in real life, evil things happen in the dark. No one likes that 2 am phone call. This Word, Jesus, God, the light came into a dark world. Even though this world was created by him, yet the dark world rejected him. They did not like what he did and taught. He was rejected by his own.
However, on the other hand, if anyone receives him, he will give them the right to become the children of God. 1:12, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." You see, not everyone is a child of God. Yes, we are created by him, but not his children. Only those who receive him, who believe in him, are his children. The last thing we know about the Word:
IV. The Word became flesh and lived among us. (14)
Now let's zero in on this infant child who is God and became man. He did not appear like a man. He became man and lived among us. How does John describe him? Vs.14, "We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." That is, seeing Jesus is seeing the glory of God. In the original language, glory means heavy, weight. Its hard to explain glory, one can only try to illustrate. When you see the glaciers appearing before you; when you see Mt. Denali, Mt. Everest or Mt. Fuji towering against the blue sky; when you look out of the airplane window and see the top of Mt. St. Helen peeping through the clouds at sunset; when you see the whale, Keiko, soaring out of the ocean, or the NASA pictures of the distant galaxies, this is glory, isn't it?
How about God's glory? Since he is totally holy, just and loving, no human being in his sinful state can see God. No words can describe his glory. He is heavy. We can only explain his glory by illustration. In the OT, the Israelites and Egyptians saw God's glory when he performed the 10 miracles against the Egyptians and brought them out of Egypt. They saw God's glory when Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted. They saw God's glory at Mt. Sinai in fire and thunders, and no one could get near to it because God was there. When God came to them in the tabernacle, it was glorious. When Solomon dedicated the temple, and the people saw its splendor and wonder, it was glorious.
Now, when the apostle John saw Jesus, he saw the glory of God. When the angels appeared to the shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus, it was glorious. When Jesus took the 3 disciples onto the mountain top; there the appearance of his face changed and his clothing became dazzling white, and he talked to Elijah and Moses, this was glory. When Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, delivered the demon possessed, walked on the water, calmed the storm, this was glory. When he died on the cross; 3 days later rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, this was glory.
1. Full of Grace.
Not only is this glory evident in Jesus, but this glory is also expressed in grace. Vs.14, "….full of grace and truth." Grace is receiving something that we don't deserve. Today is the due date for your paper. You ask the teacher to give you one more day. He agrees, and this is called the grace period. You receive the credit card statement and it gives you 20 days to pay. This is called the grace period.
While Jesus was on earth, he reached out to the Samaritan woman and others that the society despised. He reached and touched the children and blessed them. He touched and healed the lepers and the blind. He looked into the face of the crushed and broken woman who was caught in adultery, and said, "…Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." He did not say, stop sinning then I won't condemn you. No, I won't condemn you, I accept you as you are. Now, go and sin no more. He stopped at the sycamore tree and said, "Zaccheaus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today." Not, Zaccheaus, you change first, than I’ll come into your house. No, now, I will stay at your house. None of these people deserve Jesus' attention, love and healing. Yet he reached out to love, accept and heal them. This is grace,
We only know punishment and merit. I buy you this present because you have been a good boy this year. This is your bonus because you have done well for the company. This is not how God works. He is full of grace towards us He never tells us that you have to behave first, you need to change and become a better person, and then I will love and accept you. You need to perform better first, then I'll accept you. No, none of this. He loves and accepts us as we are. In our sinfulness and brokenness, he first comes to us and embraces us, inviting us to come and follow him. He constantly shows his compassion for us. When we are down and out, rebelling against him, yet he has never left us, always patiently waiting for us to come back to him. And for this reason, John in vs.16, "and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." This is how our relationship with Jesus is to be described: grace upon grace, full of grace. In our sinfulness, we are recipients of his grace.
2. Full of Truth.
In this infant child, Jesus, the Word, God, not only we see grace, we also see Truth. "….full of grace and truth." In Jesus one sees truth. Truth means that which never changes, it is the absolute standard against which all else is measured. We see truth in him because he is the truth. He later proclaimed that, "I am the way, the truth and the life…" He himself is the truth. Do you want to know what truth is? Look at Jesus, Listen to Jesus' teaching. This is truth.
It is only 4 Sundays ago that we just celebrated Thanksgiving. What was the great surprise during this past thanksgiving? Out of nowhere, President Bush showed up in Baghdad. Of course the soldiers had heard of him. It was his order that they were there in the first place. But now, in army uniform, he came to them and stayed with them for a few hours. They got to see him first hand and he served them a thanksgiving meal.
This is quite close to what we have been speaking this morning, isn’t it? That infant in the manger is the God incarnate. God became man and lived among us. Because of him, we can know true truth. Not just personal subjective truth, but objective truth. The absolute standard by which all else is measured. Moreover, by seeing this child, we also begin to understand grace, that unconditional love and acceptance God has towards us.
This is what the Nativity Scene is all about. It's about God himself becoming man.