The Christmas Story In Nine Words (John 1:14)Written by admin on Dec 16, 2018 in - No Comments
I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles this morning to the Gospel of John. We will cover just a single verse this morning (actually only part of a single verse), and that verse is John 1:14. If you do not have a Bible with you today, or if you would like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, I encourage you to make use of one of the pew Bibles where you will find this verse located on page 886.
A few days ago, I ran across an article entitled, “The True Meaning of Christmas.”1 And, I must admit that it was with a great deal of skepticism and cynicism that I clicked on the link and began to read the article. Truth be told, I probably went to the article for all the wrong reasons. But I went nonetheless because I wanted to see what the author had to say.
Now, my cynicism and skepticism about the article, before I ever began to read it, weren't entirely unfounded. You see, in addition to the title, “The True Meaning of Christmas,” the author tipped his hat to where he was going in the article by giving it a subtitle. And that subtitle was “Family Traditions, Giving, and Children.” And so, before I ever clicked on the article, I knew that I was going to be reading something that was probably going to miss the mark. And then, when the author's first sentence was, “I don't think there is any one True Meaning of Christmas—rather there are as many meanings as there are people,” I knew that my suspicions about the article were appropriate.
You see, while family traditions and giving and children are a big part of what Christmas has become in this country, those things have absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas. They are nice sounding things, no doubt. But that doesn't mean that Christmas ought to be defined based upon them.
This sort of view about Christmas is so popular, however, and these are such nice sounding themes to focus on at Christmas each year, that to question those who view the holiday as merely a time of giving and celebrating with family and spoiling children, lumps you right in with Dickens’ infamous character, Scrooge, in the minds of most people. And this makes sense because whether we know it or not, Dickens’ book, A Christmas Carol, has become one of the biggest influences on the way most Americans now think about the Christmas holiday. Yes, his focus on generosity and family and food and having a festive spirit has been one of the primary shapers of the modern version of Christmas observed by most people in this country today.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Dickens’ story as much as anyone, and there is nothing wrong with generosity and gathering with family and enjoying a celebratory feast during the Christmas season. But, if those things become the primary meaning of Christmas to you, you are missing the point. And so, this morning, I want to spend just a little bit of time, reminding us of the real "true meaning of Christmas."
The Bible Reveals the True Meaning
Now, because Christmas is about Christ, it makes sense that THE book about Christ—the Bible—would be the best place to look if we want to understand the significance of his birth. His birth is, in fact, what we are celebrating at Christmas.
Now, normally when we want to tell the story of Jesus’s birth, we look to the first couple of chapters from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. And that is basically what we did in our Nativity play earlier this morning. Our children acted out the story as it is recorded in those two gospel accounts.
But, the truth is, even when we read what Luke and Matthew have to tell us about the birth of Jesus, we can, if we are not careful, miss the meaning because of all the details. There are the angels and the shepherds, and Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, and the hypothetical innkeeper who put them in a stable with all the animals and the manger. Then there are the wise men and the gifts, and Herod and his plot to kill the baby Jesus. And, if we are not careful, all of this stuff can drown out the simple message of Christmas contained within the Bible.
And so, this morning, I want us to look, not at Matthew and not at Luke, but at the Gospel of John. It’s not that there is anything wrong with Matthew and Luke’s version of the story—in fact, that is exactly what we will read from at our Christmas Eve service next week. But, I want to give you John’s version of the Christmas story, which he tells with just nine words. And that's because John’s version really cuts to the heart of the matter. So, if you haven’t already, please turn with me in your Bibles to John 1 and follow along as I read John’s version of the Christmas story from John 1:14. In this verse he says,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14 ESV)
Friends, that is the Christmas story in its most basic form. Yes, this verse tells us what Christmas is really all about. So let’s spend some time discussing it in three parts.
First, let’s talk about what John means by “the Word.” Who or what is he talking about when he says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us?” Well, luckily he answers that question in the first verse from this chapter. Look back at it with me. What does he say? He says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 ESV)
So there is our answer. The “Word” is God himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Now, admittedly, that is a strange way for John to describe God. So, why does he say it that way? Well, we don’t have time to get into all the details this morning, but this term “the Word” was something that would have grabbed the attention of both Jews and Greeks. It would have been of interest to those who spoke the Greek language because it was a term that was very prevalent in Greek philosophy. And while the average person would not have completely understood it, they would have recognized that John was talking about something significant. It’s not that John was relying on Greek philosophy or building upon it, but he certainly would have known that using this term, “the Word,” would have gotten the attention of his readers. And it also seems very likely that when he wrote the first line of his Gospel that John was thinking of Genesis 1, which explains how God created the heavens and the earth, “in the beginning,” with nothing more than his words. Notice in verse 3 how John says that, “All things were made through [the Word],” and that nothing was made “without [the Word].” So, when John used the term “the Word,” he was using a term that would have resonated with both Jews and Greeks.
So, according to John, God is the Word, and the Word is God. But, he also wants us to understand that while they are one, they are also distinct. Yes, in addition to saying that “the Word was God,” John also says that “the Word was with God.” Do you see that in John 1:1? So while they are one, they are not the same. So, how can this be?
The Word Became Flesh
Well, look back with me at verse 14. What does John say there? He says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” So, we know from verse 1 that, according to John, “the Word was God.” And, now in verse 14, John tells us that “the Word became flesh.” And so, it ought to be very obvious to us now, that when John uses the term “the Word” he is talking specifically about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Because it was Jesus who came to Earth, right? And, isn't that what Christmas is really all about?
Yes, here and in many other places, the Bible makes clear that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who came to Earth as God in the flesh. And that explains how that “in the beginning… the Word” was both with God while at the same time being God. So, when John says in verse 14 that “the Word” became flesh, he is talking about Jesus who came to Earth, being born as a human baby with human flesh while at the same time remaining God. In the beginning, the Word was with God, the Word was God, and about 2,000 years ago, the Word came to Earth as a human being. Yes, friends, in the person of Jesus Christ, God became one of us. That is what happened on the night of Jesus’s birth. And that is what we ought to be celebrating at Christmas. It’s not a holiday about family and food and human generosity. It is a holiday—a holy day—where we celebrate the fact that God became a human being to save human beings.
The Word Dwelt Among Us
But, Jesus didn’t just become a human being, he also lived the life of a human being. Notice that John also tells us in verse 14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Now, I suppose that God could have accomplished his saving purposes for the world in and through Jesus by just sending him to Earth as a baby and allowing him to be killed as a baby. Yes, baby or no baby, Jesus was still God in the flesh and could have served as our sinless substitute. And God certainly had a willing party in the paranoid King Herod who killed every male child under two years old in his attempt to do away with the baby Jesus. So, why not just go that route? Why was it important for Jesus to grow up?
Well, because in God’s plan, it was not only necessary for Jesus to become a human being, but it was also necessary for him to become a human being who would dwell among us. You see, by dwelling among us, God’s revelation to us about himself has become complete. Yes, because Jesus grew up and dwelled among us, we know more about what God is like than the Old Testament people of God ever knew. Because Jesus grew up, we have the Gospels which tell us all the details about his life. Because Jesus grew up, we have the rest of the New Testament which helps us to understand the significance of his life for our own. Because Jesus grew up, we have a teacher and someone to follow. And, because Jesus grew up and dwelt among us, we have a great high priest who can sympathize with us in our times of weakness (Hebrews 4:15).
Friends, because Jesus grew up and dwelt among us, he knows what it is like to face temptation. He knows what it is like to be sick. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one. He knows what it is like to feel stressed. In other words, because Jesus grew up, he knows what it is like to be a human being. And the reason he knows what it is like to be a human being is because he “became flesh and dwelt among us.”
In the Old Testament, the people encountered God in his Tabernacle and then at the Temple. But, now God has come near to us in Jesus Christ. And because we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). And because we have known Jesus, we have known the Father (John 14:7). Jesus really is our Immanuel. Jesus really is God with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
So, my friends, no matter how nice it sounds to say that Christmas is all about gathering with family and showing love for others through our generosity, don’t allow yourself to be satisfied with that alternative meaning of what Christmas is about. That’s right, don’t settle for a definition of Christmas that makes it all about us. Christmas is about the coming of Jesus Christ. It is about God coming to Earth and taking on human flesh so that he could save human beings.
That’s not to say that we cannot enjoy this yearly celebration with our families. And it is not to say that we can’t demonstrate God’s love for the world through our generosity. And don’t make your children sad by not buying them any presents. And certainly, don’t blame it on me! But do remember, that Christmas is about so much more than those things. As much as we have come to love our traditions, Christmas is not about Christmas trees. It’s not about decorations. It’s not about big meals with big families. And it is certainly not about big credit card bills to be paid next month.
Christmas, my friends, is about celebrating the wonderful news that God has given us the greatest gift that has ever been given. He has given us himself in the person of Jesus Christ. And through Jesus Christ, he has given us the gift of salvation and eternal life to everyone who believes that Jesus’s death on the cross paid their price for their sin.
Friends, the greatest gift you can give anyone this year, is to share that news with them. Regardless of what the marketing machine in this country tells us, the truth is, all the other Christmas gifts we have ever given and ever received, and all the other Christmas gifts that we will ever give and ever receive, will be distant and long-forgotten memories 10,000 years from now—no matter how special they seem to be right now. But the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ will be the one gift we will celebrate and enjoy for all eternity. So, if you have not received this greatest of gifts—a gift from God himself—I want to invite you to receive it today. All you have to do is believe.
And if you have received it, and know what a wonderful gift it is, then I want to encourage you to share that gift with someone else. It is by far the greatest gift you can ever receive and by far the greatest gift you could ever give. And best of all, it will cost you nothing because the bill was paid in full on the cross.
Friends, Dickens’ Christmas story was pretty good. But I want you to know that God’s Christmas story is much better. It is much better, in fact, than any story that has ever been written and better than any story that has ever been told. In Jesus Christ, God came to Earth and put on human flesh and lived among us so that we could live with him for all eternity. That, friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.
- https://holidappy.com/holidays/true-meaning-of-christmas-family-traditions-giving-and-children ↩︎