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The Story, Chap. 22:  “The Birth of The King”

June 25, 2017

The Story, Chap. 22:  “The Birth of The King”

Why Christmas?

John 1:1-18

 

Children's Sermon:  Have them tell me the Christmas story and ask, but why did God do all that? So that we could know him and have a personal relationship with him.  That’s why Christmas is worth celebrating. It’s the day we remember that God wants us to know him so much that he would send Jesus to tell us that message.

 

Intro:  In December Christmas comes with so much hype and distraction that it’s sometimes hard to separate the purpose of Christ’s coming from the celebration.  It seems the celebration truly takes over with parties and gifts and spending and food and carols and Santa and reindeer and the wish for snow.  I know.  I live with a Christmas addict who told me just this week that there are only  26 Fridays until Christmas.

 

I am grateful for The Story giving us the opportunity to untangle the event from the holiday so that we can look at it a little bit more carefully.  Here, outside of the December events we can, having made our way through the OT we can focus on WHY the events we celebrate on Christmas are important.  The purpose of Christ’s coming to earth was that God was seeking to redeem his people from sin and it was time for him to send the only thing that would permanently accomplish that task - Jesus.

 

The gospels of Matthew and Luke give us the narrative of what the birth of Christ was like.  It’s from these two gospels that we get our Christmas pageants and our hymns: the story of how Mary came to be with child and the shepherds and the angels and the inn keeper, the travel on a donkey, etc.  In contrast, the Gospel of Mark says nothing about the birth of Christ and begins with John the Baptist doing his gig and we are introduced to Jesus when he comes to be baptized by John.  And the Gospel of John, which we are looking at today tells us more about the theology, God’s reason and purpose for sending Jesus into the world.  

 

There is a lot packed into these 18 verses so I will try to move quickly, but our mission is to discover the purpose of Jesus coming into the world and its significance to us.

Pray for God to reveal himself!

Here we are Lord, gathered as speaker and hearers of the Word.  And we are all dependent on your Spirit that I might speak and we all might hear You rightly.  Lord, empower the words of my mouth and intensify our ability to listen and to hear you speak into our lives, that we might be transformed.  Let your transforming power flow over this place today so that we can be made new.  Amen.

 

John 1:1-18 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There is a lot packed into this first sentence.  It tells us that Jesus has always been. He has always existed along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  It tells us that the Word (Jesus) and God the Father are one in the same.  They share all of the same qualities, power, abilities, knowledge. So lets plant that in our heads:  Jesus is God.

 

 He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

Jesus as part of the Triune God, was involved in creation.  All things were made through him:  all that we see, the air we breathe, the fingerprints on your hand.

 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

Jesus is life. Jesus is light.  Jesus was born into his earthly life, into a world darkened by sin.  He was light.  The heavens noticed.  The angels sang. The shepherds came to worship. The wisemen began their journey.  All because Jesus who is life and light came into the world. God came down.  Emmanuel means God with us.  This is Jesus.

And note that he is forever victorious over darkness: the darkness of the world, the darkness of your life. Jesus is God with us.

 

In the next few verses we are introduced to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist and the role he played in introducing Jesus to the world.  

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

I noticed this year at the National Gathering that a variety of people were asked to introduce the keynote speakers.  They got up and perhaps shared a little about their relationship with the speaker and how they knew them and why they respected them and what they taught and what an honor it was to introduce them.  And they prayed for them and then sat down.  Why? Because they were not the speaker they were the ones who prepared the audience to hear what the speaker had to say.

 

This was the role of John the Baptist.  He was to point to Jesus as the main attraction.  He was to whet the appetite of the people to be open to him and to his ministry.  And then he was to get out of the way.  And he did this with a servants heart and with humility.

 

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 

As we have read throughout the OT, God sent prophets and kings and leaders to guide his people back to him.  But God had never sent his very own Light before.  Jesus is unique in that he can give light to everyone. Jesus is the Light of the world.

 

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 

Again, we have the affirmation that Jesus was active in the creation of the world.  But even so, when he arrived on the scene the people he created couldn’t recognize him.  Many of you have gone through he pain of having a parent with Alzheimer’s getting to the place where they don’t recognize you anymore.  The person who gave you birth doesn’t recognize you or remember your name and you live for the moments or days when the recognition might happen again.  When Jesus came, the people of God didn’t recognize him as the One who created them and gave them life.  They did not understand him to be the One who led the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness and then the Promised Land.  They did not believe him to be the One they were looking for as they prayed for the Messiah to come.  It was like they all had the inability to recognize the one they had been praying would come for them.  But not everyone forgot.

 

Do you remember the end of Malachi from last week?  In Chapter 3 there is a “Faithful Remnant” of Israel who have not rejected God.  In the 400 years of silence between the prophets and the birth of Christ they were the ones who kept seeking God and then when Jesus came there was still a generation that were able to see him for who he was when he came.  I think we can identify at least 12 of them as the apostles and those who became followers.  And those who were seeking are spoken of in the next verse here. 

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The reward for 400 years of faithfulness was the right to become children of God. I wonder if the apostles were thankful for those who remained faithful to God for such a long time, who helped prepare the way for them to believe.  Someone did that for you.  Who are you doing it for now?  God made a promise to the remnant and they will receive it.

 

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Or as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message:  

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

THIS is what we celebrate on December 25th and call it Christmas.  The theological term for this moment in history is called the “Incarnation”.  God became flesh/human and came to us so that we could know God.  Jesus came out of heaven and took on human form.  Listen to how Paul recorded it or most likely quoted it from a hymn:

He (Jesus the Son) had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

THIS is what we celebrate on December 25th and call it Christmas!  We remember Christ’s selflessness.  His sacrifice, first in surrendering his place and glory in heaven and then in his death for our sins on the cross.  We cannot separate one event from the other.  It is all the same sacrifice made on your behalf for the purpose of redeeming you from sin.  Merry Christmas.  Jesus is the redeemer.

 

Verse 15 is a reminder that John was the one who bridged the way to knowing that Jesus was the Messiah.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 

 

16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

The Law of God (Ten Commandments) provided grace in that it made clear what was necessary to live a life in God’s good grace.  It provided a means to measure what was right and what was wrong.  This was grace - that one could know how to live in a right relationship with God.  But when Christ came as a man, there was more grace and part of that grace was that we would not be judged by our keeping of the law but by the grace and mercy received through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross to forgive us our breaking of the law.

 

18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

God came to earth in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ so that we could know what God was like.  He’s the only one who can reveal what God is really like to us.  If we try to know God without Jesus, we will be off track.  If we try to know God without the full story of the gospels we will not know God.  The entire NT reveals what God looks like because it is all based on how Jesus lived among his disciples.  

 

Jesus was sent by God into the world because we needed to know God.  We needed a flesh and blood, incarnation of God in order to understand God’s love, holiness, goodness, faithfulness, forgiveness and overall character.  Jesus was willing to leave his glory and suffer on the cross so that we could know these things.  That’s what we celebrate at Christmas.

 

The law and the prophets continually turned people from sin back to God.  But finally the time was right for God to deal with humanity and their sin once and for all - and he sent Jesus.  Who we celebrate on Christmas is the sin offering given to the world for our redemption.  How did it get to be so twisted from that truth into what we have now? Well, that’s a whole other topic!

 

Concl.  We have learned in The Story that God’s forever plan was the redemption of the world he created.  In the OT we read chapter after chapter of God actively pursuing that course, repeatedly restoring the people who wandered away from him, responding to their cries for help when they got into trouble, sending prophets and armies to protect and restore.  And then, it was time.  And God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son so that whoever believed in him would not perish but would have everlasting life.  Merry Christmas.  Amen.