The Wonder of Christmas
John 1:1-4, 14
The story is told of a young boy and his father walking through the forest when they came upon a large ant colony. The nest, or mound as you may call it, had recently been disturbed by an animal or another person and the mound was complete destroyed. When the father and son came upon the disrupted nest, they stopped to examine what was going on.
The young boy watched as ants were hurrying around in every direction. It looked like utter chaos to him. Almost like none of them knew what to do. He saw that some of the ants looked dead and some ants were so severely injured that they could hardly move. The nest was in a mess, eggs were quickly being moved to new locations, and the colony looked so busy it seemed as though the boy and his father were unnoticed by the ants.
As the young boy and his father stared at the nest, the young boy was moved with compassion for this colony of ants. He turned to his father and asked, “Is there something I can do to help the ants? I feel so badly for the condition of their nest and that some of them are injured. It looks as though they could use some help with leadership and direction. Is there something I can do to show them I care about them and love them?”
The father thought for a moment, trying to think of ways that they could try to help the ants since his son seemed very concerned about them. But realizing anything they could do would be no help to the ants, the father attempted to explain the reality of the situation to his son.
He said to his son, “The ants would not understand you or what it is that you are doing if you try to help the ants. They would see you as just another enemy and try to bite you. The only way that you could help them in a way that they would understand is to become an ant yourself. Then they would see that you can identify with their problem and they would accept your help. You would be able to be of assistance to them because you would be like them in many ways. But since you cannot become an ant, it is probably best we let them alone.”
The song the choir sang, “Heaven on Earth,” which speaks powerfully about what it means that Jesus became a human baby. God, who is Spirit, took on human flesh. This is what the word incarnation means. Incarnation is when deity takes on flesh. He sees the chaos of a sin cursed world and in loving compassion becomes a human being to help us with our problem. Thankfully, God the Father and His Son, Jesus, didn’t just think it best to let us alone like the son and his father determined with the ants. The Son of God entered our world by taking on human flesh in the form of a baby and He fully understands our situation.
Sometimes, we call this the mystery of the incarnation. It may be mysterious in understanding how the reality of God can become human flesh, but there is no mystery as to why Jesus came. He came because of the Father’s love for us and His compassion for our human condition. What the young boy could not do for those ants, God the Father and His son Jesus did for us. Though the ant story may not be a great illustration, I think it causes us to begin thinking rightly about the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Christmas is so much more than a cute little baby laid in a manger of hay. It is God making a way to help us with the sin and chaos we have to deal with. Certainly, He didn’t have to do this. But the wonder of it is that He did. Jesus loved people like me, people who are sinners. People who are lost in the chaos of sin with no way out. No matter how good we think we are, we are bound for an eternity separated from God without the incarnation. He loved us enough to become one like us, but without sin.
The little boy was not able to help the ants, but the Son of God became a human baby to give us all the help we need to be saved from our sin. There is no better passage of Scripture that talks about the incarnation of Jesus than John 1:1-4. In John’s opening to his epistle, He uses the word, “Word” as an expression to refer to Jesus. It is used as God’s divine self-expression. It comes from the Old Testament concept of God speaking and things come into existence. The existence and power of God is clearly revealed in His spoken word. John uses “Word” as a name or identification of Jesus. So, as you see the word “Word” in our passage, think Jesus.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
There are five important truths in these verses that we need to grasp concerning the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus’ Birth was Not His Beginning (v. 1a)
In the beginning was the Word
It is easy for us to think that Jesus’ birth to Mary was His beginning. But in this and many other passages, we find that Jesus has always existed. The beginning mentioned here is not the Word or not Jesus. The beginning talked about here is the beginning of creation. This echoes back to Genesis 1 where we are told that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The beginning is the moment when God began His creative work. Thus, the beginning in verse 1 is the beginning of this world, our universe, and human life. When God began the act of creating, the “Word” was already in existence.
The “Word,” or Jesus, is the eternal pre-existent one. In other words, Jesus existed eternally before His incarnation as a baby born to Mary. As the second person of the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Jesus has always existed as a part of the Godhead. Now I know, to think about eternal existence blows our minds, but with God there has never been a time when He didn’t exist. So, Jesus’ birth as a human baby was not His beginning. It was simply a change in how he existed. He became human.
2. Jesus Is Not Just with God, He is God (v. 1b-2)
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
It is one thing to think about Jesus as the second Person of the trinity, but then we need to think that Jesus is God, as much so as the Father is God. All three persons of the Godhead make up who God is. The fact that the Word was with God indicates relationship. Just like you and me, when we are with someone by our choosing, it is because of relationship whether is it family or friendship. So, Jesus is with God. Jesus is the Son of God and it is relational. So, when John says Jesus is with God, he is indicating the relational aspects of the Godhead.
But clearly it is even more than that. The Word is God. Jesus has all the power of God, all the wisdom of God, and all the authority of God. All that God is, Jesus is. But as the second person of the trinity, Jesus still submits to the will of God the Father. Back to the relational aspect of the Godhead. Even in the beginning of creation, Jesus was with God the Father. Yet, not just with God, He is God.
3. Jesus Is Creator of All That Exists (v. 3)
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
All things means all things. It is truly that simple. The universe as we know it and everything in it were made through Jesus Christ. Though the Genesis 1 passage says God created the heavens and the earth, remember, Jesus is God. He is a part of the Godhead. There are other places that confirm this. For instance, Colossians 1:16-17 says this in reference to Jesus.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
So, Jesus, as God, is the Creator and also the Sustainer of all things. In other words, this globe keeps on spinning and orbiting around the sun in perfect timing and distance because Jesus holds all things together. Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of our existence.
4. Jesus Is the Giver of Life (v. 4)
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The word “life” refers to two things. Jesus is the Creator of our physical life through His creative involvement in the beginning. But Jesus is also the giver of spiritual life. As you know, in Scripture, darkness represents sin and evil. The darkness of this world refers to evil and sin that is continually promoted by Satan and his demons. We are told that they are the rulers of this present darkness. But in Jesus there is life and light.
I think Ephesians 1:1-5 make this a little clearer for us.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved--
In Jesus, we can be made alive spiritually. No longer dead in our sins, but alive in Christ. In Jesus there is life and His life gives us light. When we enter a relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He makes us alive spiritually and He becomes our light. In Jesus we can be saved and experience spiritual life. Which is completely the opposite from being dead to sin and under the rule of darkness. How is this transformation possible? Well, Jesus became flesh.
5. Jesus Became Flesh (v. 14)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus became one of us yet without sin. Think back to the ant colony for a moment. What if that young boy had the power to become an ant. If he could become an ant and still retain his human wisdom, human expertise, and human power, what a difference he could make for the ants. That boy could experience the things an ant experiences, he could do miraculous things in helping them rebuild, and helping heal those who were injured. But what strikes me is that I know of no human being that loves ants so much that if he had the power to become an ant, that he would do it!
But Jesus became human. Without sin He dwelt among us. People saw God in flesh as he dwelt among us. They saw his miraculous power. They saw the glory of the God the father in His Son Jesus. They saw Jesus as the One full of grace and truth. Think about it. God became human. This is the incarnation. I am not sure I can express it any better than this.
John has just described to us:
~ The eternal preexistent One.
In the beginning was the Word
~ The One who is with God as the Son relationally.
the Word was with God
~ The One who is God in all authority and power.
the Word was God
~ The Creator of all things that exist in this universe.
All things were made through him
~ The One who gives both physical and spiritual life.
In him was life
But the most important description of this One John is describing to us is that in a grand display of humility and love, this One took on human flesh and was made in the likeness of human kind. His humility was on full display from the beginning to the end, from Bethlehem to Golgotha.
If we could find someone who loved ants so much that if they had the power to become an ant in order to help the ants survive, I wonder, would they still become an ant if they knew they would die saving ants? Jesus, the God of creation, became a human baby so that He could die, saving human beings from the curse of sin.
I recently read an article written by Joseph Scheumann and in his closing paragraph in an article written on the incarnation he said it so well.
The incarnation displays the greatness of God. Our God is the eternal God who was born in a stable, not a distant, withdrawn God; our God is a humble, giving God, not a selfish, grabbing God; our God is a purposeful, planning God, not a random, reactionary God; our God is a God who is far above us and whose ways are not our ways, not a God we can put in a box and control; and our God is a God who redeems us by his blood, not a God who leaves us in our sin. Our God is great indeed!
This morning as we close, I wonder, do you know this God?
Have you ever put your faith and trust in Jesus, God’s Son, as your Lord and Savior? He loves you and me so much, he became human to save us. Have you experienced His salvation?