Sermon: God and Man

Please pray with me:

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

These are the very words of God from the book that we love:

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 came into being through him,

without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in Him was life,

and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

He came as a witness to testify to the light,

so that all might believe through him.

He himself was not the light,

but he came to testify to the light.

The true light,

which enlightens everyone,

was coming into the world.

He was in the world,

and the world came into being through him,

yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own,

but his own people did not accept him.

But to all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born,

not of blood,

or of the will of the flesh

or of the will of man,

but of God.

And the Word became flesh

and lived among us,

and we have seen his glory,

the glory as of a Father’s only son,

full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out,

“This was he of whom I said,

‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me,

because he was before me.’”)

From his fullness we have all received,

grace upon grace.

The law indeed came through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God.

It is God the only Son,

who is close to the Father’s heart,

who has made him known.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

There is no manger in the gospel of John. As a telling of the Christmas story, the opening of the Gospel of John is sparse on details. All we hear is and the Word became flesh and lived among us. Matthew tells us of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her she would give birth to the Messiah. Matthew shares how the Spirit overshadowed Mary and, though a virgin, she became pregnant. He tells us about Joseph’s doubts and the angels appearance to him, reassuring him that this child was the promised Messiah and he should stay with Mary. Matthew tells us about the trek to Bethlehem, the lack of room in the inn, and the low circumstances of Jesus’ birth. He recounts the coming of the wise men to pay homage to the infant Jesus. But John has none of this information. All we hear is and the Word became flesh and lived among us.

Luke tells of Mary traveling to meet Elizabeth and the child John leaping in the womb in the presence of Jesus. He recounts how angels appeared to shepherds and sent them to see Jesus and tell everyone what they had seen. But John has none of this. All we hear is and the Word became flesh and lived among us.

The Gospel of John does not contain what we would usually call the Christmas story – no angels, no manger, no shepherds, no wise men. Instead, all of that is captured in line: and the Word became flesh and lived among us. And around that Christmas line swirls some of the most beautiful poetry in the whole of the Bible. Images of Word, light, life, glory, grace and truth. Swirling around this one Christmas line are the Spirit’s words telling us who Jesus is.

The Gospel of John doesn’t look like the other Gospel accounts, because through John the Holy Spirit has a different agenda. The Spirit is placing at the forefront of our vision the very person of Jesus.

John reminds us that the heart of the Christian faith is Jesus. The heart of the Christian faith is a person. The gospel is not a set of facts we need to learn, though there are plenty of facts in the faith. The gospel is not a system of truths we need to comprehend, though it is certainly filled to the brim with truth. The gospel is the person of Jesus – not only what he did in dying for our sins and rising for our justification, but who he is.

The story of Christmas is shrunk down in the Gospel of John, in order to shift our attention completely to the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the Lord.

John reveals that not only what Jesus did, but who Jesus is matters.

So, who is Jesus? The Spirit reveals in these opening verses of John that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human, which is central to our salvation.

First, Jesus is fully God.

Verses 1-4:

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 came into being through him,

without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in Him was life,

and the life was the light of all people.

The Son of God was there in the beginning. In the beginning was the Word. He was there as the Word through which God spoke the world into existence. And the word was with God. He was there with the Father and the Spirit, in intimate, eternal relationship. And the Word was God. The very child who was born in a manger in God himself come down to earth for us.

The story of Christmas is shrunk down in the Gospel of John, in order to shift our attention completely to the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the Lord. And Jesus Christ is fully God. God himself in the flesh.

Jesus is not simply an angel, or a prophet, or an amazing spiritually sensitive person. He is not a guru, a moral teacher, or your homeboy – as the T-shirts say. Instead, Jesus Christ is God himself come in the flesh. When we believe in Jesus Christ, when we place our trust in him, we are not moving away from the one and eternal God, but, in fact, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are believing in the one, true God.

The very God who spoke and created the world has come down to, by the Word, bring about new creation. As Paul says, If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed, behold everything has been made new.

Let me pause for a moment and do a little doctrinal teaching. In these verses we get a glimpse of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One God in Three Persons. We see the equality of the three – Jesus, the Word, is equally God with the Father. He is, in the language of the Nicene Creed, ‘of one being with the Father.’ We see the unity and intimate connection between the three – He was in the beginning with God. Jesus is the one who is close to the Father’s heart. He is God the only Son. Yet they are distinct. The Son is not the Father and not the Spirit. They are distinct – three persons – yet there is only one God.

Christians believe in only one, true God and that God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, but there are not three Gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Spirit is Lord, but there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

Christians have often been accused of not being able to do math – 1+1+1=1. However, what we are confessing and wrestling with when we speak of God as Trinity is how we pray and worship. The Holy Spirit speaks emphatically in Scripture that there is only one God, beside him there is no other. Yet, Scripture speaks of the God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit all as being God. All are to be worshipped and all do things that only God can do. So we confess this beautiful mystery that God is three and yet one. This is the doctrine of the Trinity, which Christians confess to be the true understanding of God.

In the opening of John, the Spirit is fixing our eyes on the person of Jesus. The story of Christmas is pushed to the edges, so that the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ – could come fully into view.

In Jesus Christ, we have God with us. God come for us. The God who saves.

John wants to leave us with no doubts about who Jesus is, because if Jesus is God, not only should he be worshipped and prayed to, but if Jesus is God that only he can save us.

Jesus’ status as God from the beginning – in the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God – Jesus as God is important, because Jesus came to save and only God can save.

John tells us that From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. From Jesus and through Jesus, we who receive him and believe in his name receive grace. Only God can give grace that saves. If Jesus is truly to be our savior, to truly rescue us from sin and pour out the blessings and grace of God, he himself must be God. Jesus’ divinity is not an abstract teaching, but the core of our confession. In this Jesus, we have the Lord God of Israel. In this Jesus, we have the Lord who saves. In this Jesus, the same God who rescued his people from Egypt by his mighty hand has come down to rescue all humanity from the greater Egypt – sin and death. No mere man could do this. Only God – only Jesus Christ, the Lord.

The story of Christmas is shrunk down in the Gospel of John, in order to shift our attention completely to the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Jesus Christ who is fully and truly God, but who is also fully and truly human. Verse 14: and the world became flesh and lived among us. The Son of God became fully human. In being born in the manger, the Son did not give up a part of his divinity or take only a part of humanity to himself. Jesus is not half-God and half-man. He is not Hercules, he is not Percy Jackson. Instead, he is fully God and fully human. In being born in a manger, the Son of God gave up nothing of what he was from eternity, but remained fully God. And in taking on flesh, he took on all that we are. He became like us in every way except for sin.

The person of Jesus is so significant because of the mission of which he was sent into the world. “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became truly human.”

The Word became flesh – the Son of God took all of humanity to himself because he came to save all of it. The Church Father, Gregory of Nazianzus, put it this way, “What was not assumed, was not saved.” Whatever of humanity the Son of God did not take on in being born in a manger was not saved. So Jesus Christ has a human mind, because our thoughts need redemption. We have impure thoughts, prejudices, and errors in our thinking. We believe lies and speak them regularly. So The Word became flesh – including a human mind – so that all of our life might be redeemed. Jesus had a fully human heart, because our hearts desperately need redemption. The loves of our hearts are often twisted, broken, and conflicted. We love God and yet our loves can so often be out of order. We love things we shouldn’t or too much or too little, or love things over people, or both of them over God. We need our hearts redeemed, so The Word became flesh – including a human heart – so that we might be healed and love rightly. The Son of God took on a human will so that it might be redeemed, he took on a human soul because our sin separates us from relationship with God and we need reconciliation, he took on a human body because our bodies groan along with creation for redemption. The word became flesh – the Son of God became fully human. He took on all that we are, everything that makes us human in order to save all of it.

He came taking on every square inch of human flesh, because every square inch of us needs a savior and Jesus came to do all of it.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

The story of Christmas is shrunk down in the Gospel of John, in order to shift our attention completely to the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the Lord.

God took on human nature in order to reconcile human nature back to God. Not only in his work on the cross and the empty tomb, but in his very person, Jesus is the reconciliation between God and humanity. All of humanity, every square inch of the globe and every square inch of us, needs redemption. And we cannot do it. So God came down to do what we never could. Fully God and fully human, Jesus Christ is the salvation of God.

The Gospel is a person – Jesus Christ. The Spirit proclaims that

to all who received him,

who believed in his name,

he gave power to become children of God,

who were born,

not of blood,

or of the will of the flesh

or of the will of man,

but of God.

To receive Jesus is to receive the gospel, to know Christ is to know the Father. This Advent season, the call for each of us is to receive Jesus, all of who he is and what he has done for us. May our hearts continually be open, not only to the story of Christ, but to the person of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the Lord.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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