Jn.1:1-14 Dec.24/09 Christmas Eve
RECOGNIZE THE VISITOR
Have you ever knocked on a door as a visitor, maybe not too well known to the people inside, and wondered how you'd be received? This summer Yvonne & I visited some distant relatives over in Devon, England. Some of these people I hadn't met before, I only knew of them through my mother because they were her cousins. One family that we visited one afternoon had a sheep farm with over 800 sheep. After a couple of enjoyable hours, we rose to continue on to our final stop for the day, but our hosts insisted we stay for 'tea' - which is not just a hot drink, but a few delicious desserts as well. The only problem was, it made us late for our next visit - where other cousins had a full supper already laid out for us. Oh, happy problem of too much welcome!
Are we ready to welcome a special visitor tonight? I'm not talking about live animals in the gym, unusual as that is. John writes that Christmas is about God Himself coming to visit - but some people didn't want to let Him in. Why would that be? Did they not understand what this was all about - how special this occasion was?
When we're not expecting someone and there's a knock at the door, the first thing we do is go and have a peek who it is - if you're in an apartment maybe you have one of those little peep-holes in the door; otherwise maybe you have a window beside or near your door where you can look out and figure out if you know the person, or they're a stranger. John the gospel-writer helps us 'peek through the peep-hole' as it were to understand just who this special arrival at Christmastime IS.
V2 tells us "He was with God in the beginning." So this baby is eternal, from before time began, he was always with God.
V1 describes Him without a name other than 'the Word' - God's talking to us in a special way through Jesus, communicating, giving us a message we need to hear; v18 says Jesus has made God known or explained Him. Jesus is God's way of making sense to us.
V3 shows this special baby is the Creator of all that is: "through Him all things were made"; also v10, "the world was made through Him." Are you starting to get a clear picture of who this is standing at the door?
V4 says "in Him was life" - that's the opposite of death. We want life. Jesus says in Jn14(6) "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He gives us strength to keep on going, and a path to walk that makes life meaningful.
It also says that life 'was the light of men' - a light that 'shines in the darkness'. We know there's a lot of evil in the world - some coming from our own badness, other evil from outside us, like when deer dash out onto the road in front of you or you get seriously sick. V9 says that in Jesus "the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." Our visitor then is pure light, no evil in Him.
V12 reveals something really special - this visitor gives those who receive Him an amazing privilege: "the right to become children of God - children born...of God." That implies that, fallen sinners that we are by nature, we can't be children of God UNLESS we receive Him. More on that in a bit.
V14 describes the Visitor as one in whom we see "glory" - beauty and brilliance, not of this order nor of angels nor any creature, but "glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father." In other words, God's glory. The rest of the verse unfolds this further as 'full of grace and truth'. Those are key qualities of God as shown in the Old Testament, God's steadfast love and faithfulness. The Law came through Moses, John points out in v17, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
So, are you getting a good look at the Visitor through the peep-hole? Do you recognize Him? Could you describe Him to someone else? Eternal, creator, life, light, helping us become God's children, full of glory, grace, and truth. How great Jesus appears when we see Him as He is!
He IS after all God's word, the Heavenly Father's self-communication or making-known. In Jesus we see who God is, truly. This Word did a better job of communicating than a certain church who needed a sign...
The pastor of a church in a small town was ordering a sign for their outdoor manger scene. The company making it needed to know the dimensions and wording of the sign, but the pastor wasn't sure. But time was of the essence so the company suggested the pastor send the information to them by way of telegram as soon as he could. The next day a Western Union employee was shocked to see this message come across the wire: "For unto us a child is born.8 feet long, 3 feet wide." (!)
I'm so glad Jesus as the Word made flesh did a much better job of getting the real message across of what God wanted to communicate!
RECEIVE - DON'T REJECT - THE VISITOR
So, the Visitor's standing at the door - are we going to let Him in? What do we do with Jesus? Is He just a cute baby to look at for a short time, then go home and forget about? He says to us in the last book of the Bible, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20) Do we hunger for that kind of relationship spiritually, or do we not care?
John points out a very peculiar thing in v10: though the world (in general) was made through Him, "the world did not recognize Him." How could creatures not see and know their Creator? Political leaders looked for power and being boss, not loving service. Religious leaders trusted in their own works-righteousness: with the Law, they didn't think they needed a Saviour. Common people lost interest when they realized Jesus wasn't going to be a King that would give them whatever they want, keep them fed, and rise up against the hated Roman overlords. Looking for other things, they couldn't see Him for who He was.
V11, "He came to that which was His own" - the Jews, with whom He should have been absolutely 'at home' - but they did not receive Him. They crucified Him instead with a sign over His head mocking Him: "King of the Jews". How did Jesus respond to such rejection from His own people? He actually wept over Jerusalem, saying, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-- but now it is hidden from your eyes...They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." (Lu 19:41f,44) He compared them to tenants in a vineyard who killed the owner's son supposing that by doing away with the heir, they could seize it for themselves.(Lk 20:14) But rejecting Jesus, God's one-and-only, is serious business. He warned, "Everyone who falls on that stone [meaning Himself] will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." (Lu 20:18)
Seriously - if God sent us His own Son as a Rescuer and we shunned Him - what do we deserve? John in chapter 3(19) writes, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world [that's the Visitor], but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." That's our basic problem as sinners - we love darkness, we're ashamed God's holy light might show up how much we've blown it. But we're doomed without change. John adds, "...whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (Jn 3:18) To reject Jesus is to reject God's Message sent to save us.
That's why v12f is such a welcome contrast. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born...of God." Later in chapter 3 Jesus tried to explain to a puzzled Nicodemus how a person must be born over again, born of water and the Spirit - not just born in a fleshly fashion.
We need not be stuck in the darkness - the evil habits of our old self. Jesus Himself said, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." (Jn 12:46) By His blood poured out at the cross He breaks the power of sin and sets us free from its penalty. That's why when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him later in chapter 1 he said to his own disciples, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29) Jesus comes to us so He can take away all our badness - making us fit to be with God.
RECOGNIZING THE FATHER
Ancient Greek poetry tells of a warrior, the hero of Troy, dressed in all his military armour, stretching out his arms to embrace his little son before going into battle. His child was frightened as he looked at the helmet and full military dress, and instead of falling into his father's arms he screamed in terror. However, under all the battle array was hidden a heart of fatherly love. The warrior threw off his armour, gathered his little boy in his arms, and held him tightly against his chest where he could hear the beating of his father's heart, as if saying, "I love you, I love you."
That's how God revealed Himself at Bethlehem. God sent Jesus to come the first time into the world not to condemn it, but to save the world through Him. Do you recognize and receive the Visitor we see here at the stable? At Christmas, God is not instilling fear, but attracting us, drawing us to Himself with the beauty of His grace, glory, and love. Let's pray.