Text: John 1:1-14
The Holy Spirit caused John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, to prophesy in Luke 2, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies.” I don’t know if I can really sum up the meaning of Christmas better than that, and that was spoken before Jesus was even born. But today, we remember, celebrate, and confess that Jesus Christ has been born. Today we feast knowing that the Savior has come into the world to rescue us from the ruinous guilt of our sins. We see in the text from John 1, that Jesus Christ is not simply a man, but He is the eternal Word and Son of the Father. Though He existed from all eternity and created all things, today He has taken upon Himself our flesh, to dwell among us with His grace and truth.
St. John starts with the beginning of the Bible as the foundation of his Gospel. We read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Here, and other places in Scripture, we learn the beginnings of Jesus – there are none. Instead, Jesus is the eternal Word of God, for whom there is no beginning. He has always existed as the Second Person of the Trinity, in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Though He has no beginning, He Himself is the beginning of all things. Praying in the Garden of Eden, Jesus said, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” We also know His words in the book of Revelation, “I am and the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Everything that now exists, including our own bodies, was created directly through the eternal Word of God and by His hand. There is nothing that now exists that was not made by His work and nothing exists that the Jesus did not make. As it says in Psalm 33, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,” and as our Epistle text from Hebrews 1 states, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Jesus Christ, the eternal Word and Son of the Father, is true God. He existed before all things and all things were created by Him.
The Gospel text continues by stating that in the Word of God, in Jesus, was life. This life within Him was light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overtaken it. We have here a picture of the reality that we live in, a reality being crushed under the weight of sin. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, is Light and Life, but there is also darkness. Darkness, of course, is the absence of light. In the same way, sin is the absence of things pleasing to God. In the beginning God created all things good. He created the earth and all things in it; He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. He gave them free will, and they used it against Him. Tempted by the Devil, Adam and Eve doubted God’s Word and rejected Light and Life.
God’s Word says that the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The language the Holy Spirit uses says that the darkness tries to grab the light and make it its own, to possess it, and control it. The darkness doesn’t win, but it still tries. Isn’t that the nature of our sin? St. John describes it like this, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John shows a distinct difference between the true light and everything else. The True Light was coming into the world, the world which He made, and yet it did not know Him. The Light of the World came to His own people, and they did not receive Him; instead, they preferred the darkness to the Light.
It’s easy to point fingers at history, at people who obviously preferred darkness; but you know the cliché – when you point a finger, three point back at you. Every one of us has been corrupted by sin. Every moment of every day it’s hiding in the corner, waiting for us to loosen up to catch us off guard; it’s even at work within our own bodies, driving us to do and think shameful things in pursuit of the desires of the flesh. Our natural inclination as human beings is to put ourselves first. We determine what we want. We determine what is right and wrong. We determine what is true and false, and we determine whether or not our truth applies to anyone outside ourselves. We are like the darkness that tries to overtake the light and claim it as our own. We are sinners and deserve the just rewards of our trespasses.
The Gospel continues, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 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.” On our own, we are nothing but darkness and sin. Jesus is Light and Life; we are not. The text says that the children of God are not those born of blood, nor of the will of flesh or of man, but those who are born by God’s will. St. Peter writes that those who are in Christ have been caused to be born again by the mercy of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says that those born again are not born of perishable seed, but imperishable, through the “living and abiding word of God.”
The natural person is darkness and doesn’t accept the things of God, but the children of God are made so by His action. As we learn in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” This is where the last verse of the Gospel comes in: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The eternal Word of God became flesh. He did this not by changing from God into man, but by bringing humanity up into Himself, becoming both fully God and fully man. The magnitude of human sin, the painful reality of death and decay, made this the only way. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He lived among us, fulfilling God’s will perfectly, and then was crucified for our sins.
At His death, darkness and the Devil had one last hurrah, thinking that the darkness had overcome. But it didn’t. Christ burst triumphantly from the grave and now lives forever, having destroyed death itself. And now He dwells among us. Christ, the eternal Word of God, never changes. He never leaves, He never forsakes. Instead, He has come to dwell among us with His grace and truth, His free and plentiful forgiveness. In Him is life, and this life is the light of all mankind. Amen.