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TEXT: John 1:1-18

SUBJECT: Advent 2009 #1: Why the Word Was Made Flesh

Happy Advent Sunday!

Today, all over the world, the people of God are gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ. Some do it only one day a year, but for centuries, the Church has viewed it as such a wonderful event that no fewer than four Sundays are required.

Does the Bible specify the date of His birth or command us to observe the season in His honor? No it doesn't, but it does tell us to thank God for all He's given us, and in particular, for what Paul terms His-

Unspeakable Gift,

The Lord Jesus. How do we commemorate His birth? I can think of no better way of doing it than by remembering Who was born and what He was born to do. This brings us to the Prologue of John's Gospel, and what may be the most tightly packed and richest part of God's Word. It starts before the creation; it ends with the new creation; and it pretty much covers everything in-between.

THE SETTING

John opens his Gospel with words he-and every Jew-took in with his mother's milk-

In the beginning.

The words hark back to Genesis 1:1 and recall the old creation. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. What He made was good and would have become even better had man not sinned. Of course, Adam and Eve did sin, and defaced God's good work, bringing decay and death down on themselves, and everything else. Picking up on this theme Paul says-

The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also.

Scientists say the world is running down, and though I know nothing about physics, I know Yeats' poem, and how it captures the mood of the modern world-

Things fall apart; the centre will not hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed on the world,

God's great work is going to pieces, like a shore, it is washing away; like a strong man it is becoming feeble.

This cannot be! God is not standing by wringing His hands, wondering how it came to this. He has done something about it! He has acted to reverse the slide, and to remake the world, and this time in such a way that decay and death will be excluded forever. Thus, in John's Gospel, the olds words are repeated because, in Jesus, God is-

Making all things new.

THE DIVINITY

Who is Jesus? John calls Him-

The Word.

What does this mean? When I was a young man, I was taught if a word doesn't have one meaning only, it has no meaning at all. For many years I hewed this line in my reading and preaching, but now I know better. This may be true in technical works-like a repair manual-but in art, words always have more than one meaning, and the meanings blend together like the ingredients of a good recipe.

Devout Jews saw the Word of God-not as something 'outside of God', but rather, 'inside of Him', so that whatever could be said of the Lord Himself could also be said of His Word.

God is transcendent, that is, He is above all things, and so is His Word, Psalm 138:2-

You have magnified your Word above all your name.

God is also immanent, that is, He is inside all things, and so is His Word, Deuteronomy 30:14-

The Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

God is unchangeable, and so is His Word, Psalm 119:89-

Forever, O Lord, your Word is settled in heaven.

God is trustworthy, and so is His Word, Psalm 19:7-

The testimony of the Lord is sure.

Everything God does, His Word does. Here's a sampling-

The world was framed by the Word of God.

He sent His Word and healed them.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

The statutes of the lord are right, rejoicing the heart.

The Word of the Lord tried him.

The Word of God has the same overpowering effect on people as God Himself does. Isaiah saw the Lord lifted up in His heavenly temple, and could only despair-

Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Moses, on the other hand, did not see God. He only heard His Word, and he felt the same fear and unworthiness Isaiah did-

He trembled and was sore afraid.

Every worshipful thought Israel ever poured into the term, 'Word of God', John transfers to Jesus.

If the Word is Divine, Jesus is Divine. If the Word is eternal, Jesus is eternal. If the Word creates, Jesus creates. If the Word is Life, Jesus is Life. If the Word is Light, Jesus is Light. Everything the Word is, Jesus is, and more. For though the prophets and teachers of Israel praised the Word to the high heavens, none ever taught, and no pious mind ever thought, what John says at the start of His Gospel-

And the Word was God.

THE CONFLICT

Back at the beginning, the Word of God was not resisted. He spoke and it was done. Light did not argue with God, the waters did not dig in their heels against His command. But, when sin got into the world, the Word no longer had an easy path. It was fought every step of the way. Unbelief, disobedience, idolatry defied the authority of God's Word and, for a time, seemed to get the better of it.

Though the war is still going on, the Word's victory is sure, for-

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

'Comprehend' is one way of translating the Greek word in v.5, but it is not the best way. What John is saying is, the darkness did not overcome or hold down or smother the Light. By its very nature, Light dispels darkness. Think of the darkest night of the year, in the darkest room, with the windows boarded up, and the crack under the door sealed. For good measure, shut your eyes. Now flip the light switch, and what happens? The darkness disappears.

What's true in nature is also true in the world above nature. The world does not end in darkness; it ends in Light! John saw the Holy City descending from heaven, and noticed a couple things he expected, but didn't. The Temple, and the Sun. Where are they? He wondered. They were not there, because they were not needed. If God is dwelling with His People in Person, what do they need a Temple for?

And, even better, what do you need the sun for if-

If the glory of God enlightens it,

And the Lamb is the Light thereof?

MADE FLESH

This is who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago-not a mere baby (though He was that, too), but the Word of God! Everything God is, Jesus is.

He was born both among us, and for us-

Unto us, a Child is born;

Unto us, a Son is given.

Not 'to' us, but 'unto' us, for us, for our eternal happiness and salvation!

WHY HE WAS BORN

Why was Jesus born? The last lines of the Prologue leave no doubt-

No man has seen God at any time.

The Only Begotten Son, who is in the bosom

Of the Father,

He has declared Him.

Jesus was born to declare God to us, to show us what kind of Being God is.

This must have shocked the first readers of John. They were Jewish Christians, who had had the Old Testament all their lives. It told them what God was like; had it described Him badly? No, it had not. The Hebrew Bible's every word was-and is-a true word, including everything it says about God's character and designs for the world.

Jesus Himself submitted to the Old Testament, and said--

Scripture cannot be broken.

Though the Old Testament is infallibly true in what it says about God, it is not sufficient. It points at God, but leaves Him out of focus. Jesus brings the picture into crystal clarity.

His life tells us that the Holy God who is Just in all His ways, is also the friend of sinners and eager to have their fellowship. Was any of this in the Old Testament? Sure it was, but it was pushed off to the side, with His Judgments taking center stage.

But, in Christ, we see God is love, and that His great desire is-

Not to condemn the world,

But that the world-through Jesus-

Would be saved.

SUMMARY AND CLOSE

This is why the Word became flesh-to convince us of God's love for us, and to urge us to believe in Christ, and have life through His name.

Can you believe God loves you? Many of us struggle with this, and some never get past it. We are disappointed with our lives and we wonder if God feels the same way about us as we do. We look back at all the times we swore we'd never do it again, only to do it again, and we wonder 'Can I be forgiven?' 'Can things ever be right again?'. Then we look at Christ and how He treated the fools He lived with every day, from bragging Peter to the sons of thunder to doubting Thomas, to Philip who couldn't see God when He was looking Him in the eye, and we say, 'God loves fools and He keeps on forgiving us.'

Can you believe there is Life in His Name? There's got to be Life there, because He is Life, there's no life outside of Jesus, and in Him, there's nothing but Life. The Life He has, He is happy to share with everyone who believes in Him.

The Word was made flesh to reveal God to us, and the God we see in Him, is Love.

Happy Advent Sunday!

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