Read the passage here.
Christmas is a paradox for many. Traditionally, it is the season of peace on earth, goodwill to men, joy to the world. But it’s also true that the Christmas season is a time of great stress for many people. Buying gifts, preparing meals, wrapping up the business year, seeing so many family and friends, and just the pressure to be happy can take its toll on people. Sadly, Christmas is a time when many people succumb to these and other pressures and fall into depression.
Unfortunately, both these perspectives, inasmuch as we ignore or minimize Jesus, miss the point of Christmas, miss the point of the incarnation, and miss the point of God’s reconciliation through Christ.
Our passage today is from the gospel of John, what is typically known as the prologue. There’s a tremendous amount of theology packed into these 14 verses, far too much to go into here. Let us simply say that the prologue is essential, or at least extremely helpful, in understanding the gospel as a whole. And, with apologies for the brevity, the gospel of John tells us who Jesus Christ is and what He was doing during his life and ministry on earth (of course this is true of all the gospels, but each gospel has its own unique perspectives and emphases).
As far as the birth of Jesus goes, if you take a quick tour of the Gospels, you’ll find that Mark doesn’t have any kind of birth narrative – the story begins with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew goes back further. He begins the account of the birth of Jesus by giving us a genealogy that goes back to Abraham. Luke one-ups Matthew and expands on the birth narrative of Jesus and then shows his genealogy all the way back to Adam. John begins the narrative even further back, to the pre-existent Word who is one with God and who is God.
This is one of the primary themes of the gospel of John – that this Jesus that the Christians serve and worship, whom the apostles walked and talked and ate with, who died on the cross and rose again, is in fact God. John tells us that through Him, through Jesus, all things were made; that without him, nothing was made that had been made. That He alone has authority to rule. And that it’s through Him alone that redemption is found.
John emphasizes that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God. And we understand that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God because He Himself is God. This truth of the divinity of Jesus is a fundamental truth of the Christian faith. That God Himself came down. That God Himself stepped out of eternity and into history and lived among us. And died for us.
And, ultimately, that’s the thing. We discussed this at some length in our walk through John’s gospel. Jesus’ mission, his purpose for coming to earth was to die for us. To bridge the gap between sinful, fallen humanity and holy, grace-filled, loving God. Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, let’s do away with any nonsense that Jesus was only a great moral teacher or a spiritual guru.
Because Jesus wasn’t merely any of those things. He was and is God Himself. And as God Himself, He most fully reveals to us the nature and character of God.
- Hebrews 1:3a says: 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word…
- John 14:9, Jesus says: 9 …Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…?
- And in John 10:30 Jesus says, scandalously: “…30 I and the Father are one.”
If we want to know what God is like, we need only look at Jesus. And in Jesus we see one who has authority and power; we see one who is full of love and grace; we see one who would give up everything for the sake of His people.
But that’s not all we see in Jesus. On Christmas day, we celebrate and remember that Jesus came to earth as a baby. And we praise God for what a wonder this is. We wonder at the miracle of God become human. He was born of the virgin, Mary. He was breastfed, he probably cried and spit up. He pooped. He grew up, he had friends, he scraped his knee. He learned the trade of his father, and was educated in the Torah. And He was baptized and called to the ministry of reconciliation.
What we see in Jesus is the fullest, realest image of God. But what we also see is the truest, realest image of what it means to be human. Because Jesus was, fully God and He was, also fully human.
And to know that we, as human beings, are desperate to know what it means to be human, we only have to consider how desperately we are constantly seeking to find a sense of peace, of happiness and joy, of purpose, and of belonging and identity. We seek these things in our work, in our families, in our friendships. We build up accomplishments, we enter and exit relationships, we’re always trying to be better and to get more and to avoid everything and anything that brings us pain. And in all that we accomplish and in everything that we possess and in all of the regrets that we pretend that we don’t have (because if we regret anything, we have to admit that we messed up) we find that we are still trying to figure out who we are. We’re still trying to understand what we are supposed to do. We’re still lost, because we’re trying to create it within ourselves, on the road to what it means to be human.
Now, we don’t have time to fully reflect on what this means (nor do we have the capacity this side of eternity), but in Jesus, we see someone who loves indiscriminately, who loves recklessly, not based on status or achievement, but by the image of God in every other. And we see someone who doesn’t see the other, but the one, because we are all children of God.
In Jesus, we see a man who knows the Father fully and is fully known. And because he is completely known by God, he is completely secure in himself. He knows who he is because he is known. He isn’t hobbled by insecurity or pride or doubt or arrogance. Because he knows who he is, he doesn’t have to create it or fake it, he can simply and purely be.
And because he is able to be, he is able to be for others. Relationships are no longer a transaction, but purely a gift. He is able to live, and to die, for those for whom he came.
And that’s the wonder of the incarnation (it’s not comprehensive on the incarnation, but still). The wonder of the incarnation, God become human, is that in Jesus we see the fullness of God. And in Jesus, we see the fullness of what it means to be human.
And this is why we can gather each Christmas to celebrate and to remember. This is why Christmas is more than just turkey dinners and presents under the tree. It’s more even than family time or thinking of others. We celebrate this season because God came down. We celebrate, simply, because of Jesus.