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John 1:(1-9), 10-18

Christians from every walk of life, from all over the world, and from incredibly diverse cultures and societies, celebrate the culmination of the advent season on Christmas.  Together, we commemorate with one another the birth of Jesus Christ.  God himself, becoming incarnate in his own creation and taking on the flesh of a crying, vulnerable infant⎯it is the incredible, powerful, cosmic, and even mysterious union of God and humanity.  The totality and the hard-to-believe gravity of what has occurred in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, I hope, puts Christians around the world in awe.  This wonder comes regardless of age, time as a Christian, depth of education, or number of Christmases celebrated.  I am convinced that we, as created beings of the creator⎯and John tells us that the second person of God actually is the agent of our creation⎯can only begin to understand the utter magnitude of this event.

In writing about the great importance of God becoming human, Karl Barth wrote the following: “He is the Lord humbled for communion with man and likewise the Servant exalted to communion with God. He is the Word spoken from the loftiest, most luminous transcendence and likewise the Word heard in the deepest, darkest immanence. He is both, without their being confused but also without their being divided; He is wholly the one and wholly the other. Thus in oneness Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler, between God and man.”[1]

As John opens his gospel in John 1:1-14, he puts words to the powerful significance of God’s incarnation, describing Jesus Christ as the Word and light shining into darkness. These are descriptions that John’s original audience, Greeks and Romans with Hellenistic influences, as well as Hebrews, would have understood. For the Greeks, the Word, or logos, was associated with reason and order. For the Hebrews, God spoke creation into existence through words. Moreover, Jewish readers would have associated wisdom with the Word.[2] The challenge for us, as pastors and leaders in various contexts, is to translate the reality of the incarnation into words and concepts that our own diverse congregations and audiences will understand. As John sought to do justice to the birth of Jesus Christ, we must also share the incarnation in a way that reveals the profound reality of God becoming a person as we preach the Christmas message to the people we lead.

John’s introduction gives his readers three important points regarding the incarnation. First, John tells us who Jesus Christ is, in the greater sense of the the cosmos, creation, and in the relationship of the trinitarian God. Second, John writes about the the role of John the Baptist. Finally, John describes what the implications are of the second person of God coming to live among us a flesh-and-blood person.

Jesus Christ, as the second person of the trinity, existed at the beginning. He was not a created being at creation; rather, he was there with God at the beginning. Depending on one’s philosophical understanding of time, then Jesus Christ was with the Father outside of and before a space-time continuum even began to exist. And it was through Jesus Christ, or the Word, as John designates the pre-incarnate second person of God, that the space-time continuum, and all that inhabits it, exists⎯galaxies, stars, solar systems, countless worlds that we will never even know about, and our own earth and everything our earth is made of.

Finally, it is life itself that happens by the Word’s love. It is an outflowing of the holy love that occurs within the trinity. Life itself is brought into being by the Word’s power and love. John’s opening verses put in perspective the vast, incalculable, and supreme love, power, and sovereignty of who Jesus Christ is. Furthermore, John poignantly shows that, just as the Word first brought life, the incarnate Jesus Christ comes to redeem and restore that life to what it is truly meant to be. Jesus Christ is, without a doubt, the powerful light shining into and overcoming the darkness that sin has brought upon the creation and people. This fact alone should bring us to sense of immense awe and hope on Christmas⎯the agent of creation has come to his creation because of his deep love for us.

John describes how the other John, John the Baptist, fulfilled his role to prepare people for the coming of Jesus Christ. There are still numerous people all over the world who have not yet become aware of the light of Jesus. Moreover, depending on where you are in the world, there are myriad people who have forgotten about the light, choosing to turn away from it. Christmas is an opportunity to share and remind people of that light. As John the Baptist did the work to prepare others for the light, we must also work to prepare others for the light as well. The light lives in us through the regenerating, saving, and sanctifying work of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. It also reflects from us and onto others as Jesus Christ shines his light through our own hearts. As Christians, we must live, act, and speak to others in such a way that we work to prepare the soil for the seeds of the gospel.

The implications of Christmas and the incarnation of the Word are clear: Jesus Christ came for all. However, John reminds us that there will be some who accept and some who reject this light. I’ve spent most of this past year living and working in a part of the world where it is extraordinarily clear that there are many who accept the light of Jesus Christ, yet there are many who not only reject the light, but actively seek to extinguish the light.

But for those who accept his name, Jesus Christ gives power to become his children. It is only something that can come from God, not from status or lineage. Unfortunately, even within the culture of today’s modern church, it can be easy to fall into the temptation to focus on social status or family lineage. Regardless of who a person is, it is solely because of the incarnate work of Jesus that any one of us can consider ourselves a child of God. We must remember that Jesus Christ came for all, regardless of status, lineage, culture, ethnicity, or any other factor.

As written by John, who Jesus is and the implications of the second person of the trinity entering into creation are the primary lessons of the incarnation. John moves from transcendence to immanence. The opening to his gospel puts in perspective the significance of the incarnation that we celebrate on Christmas. All things came into existence through the Word. The light shines everywhere, overcoming darkness. Through a baby born in Bethlehem, the Word came into his creation in truth and grace, giving opportunity for salvation and restored life for all. As followers of Christ, we are called to share that light and hope. And regardless of where anyone is in the world, where they come from, or what their history is, Christians celebrate the incarnation together as a family and as children of God. It is because Jesus Christ, the agent and reason behind the creation spoken into existence through his very word, entered into his world. [1] Karl Barth, “The Humanity of God,” Cross Currents 10, no. 1 (Winter 1960): 70-79. [2] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (1996), accessed November 6, 2017, https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/ivp-nt/John-Presents-Revelation.

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