30th December 2016
Two weeks ago, in an article called "The Word", we looked briefly at the first eight verses of John's gospel. Let's continue by considering the next six:
Here, Jesus Christ is called both "the Word" and "the Light". These two descriptions of the Son of God are very similar. As "the Word" He is God's clearest and most powerful communication to mankind. As "the Light" He is the One who brings understanding to human minds.
There was a moment when Jesus came down to the world, and everything changed. We remember when the shepherds on the hillside, in darkness, not knowing very much about God, not knowing very much about right and wrong, if what I read about shepherds in the those days is true, are suddenly surrounded by light because angels came to visit them. And the angels sang and danced on the hillside because King Jesus was coming.
Light comes because Jesus comes. There is no other way.
The overwhelming majority of Jesus's contemporaries - even in his home country - even in his own town - thought "Who's this?" "Isn't that Joseph's boy?" "Who's this bloke from Nazareth? Nothing good comes from Nazareth?"
The world didn't recognise him, and by and large it still doesn't.
This Christmas, most British people don't recognise Jesus. They recognise some bloke called Santa Claus, who is entirely mythical, and whose story is absolutely ludicrous. They see the Christmas tree and the presents and the too much food, but they miss Jesus. That's the saddest thing in the world. Jesus has come into the world but the word doesn't recognise him.
This is God we're talking about. God came to earth, and He inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to write their amazing books about what happened when He came. But by and large people still don't notice that God loves them. God loves us so much that He came to earth to help us, give us His own light, show us His way, and eventually to die for us.
One thing Christmas does for me is it reminds me to pray for my neighbours, that they might see the light that we have seen.
The Jewish people didn't receive Jesus. So if you're a bit lonely this Christmas, if your family isn't as kind to you as you might hope, if they're not as loving as they might be, if you feel a bit of an outsider, if you feel not really included in something, not really received by someone, Jesus knows how you feel. Jesus understands loneliness. Jesus understands rejection. Jesus identifies with you, and comes to heal your loneliness. Jesus wants to be your closest friend, if you'll let Him.
It's good to pause for a moment and ask ourselves, "Who am I? Who one earth am I, that I should be a child of God? Do I deserve it? No chance. Have I earned it? No way. Is it true? Oh yes!" The true Christian is a child of God, and knows that he's a child of God. And the true Christian knows that it's a mystery why God chose him. But He did.
Sometimes we're very aware of our sinfulness but the promise of God is in these words, "to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God". You too, if you believe Jesus is the Son of God, the God who came to earth, the God who died on the cross for you. You are God's precious child, and you always will be. Even on the lonely days, even on the depressed days, even on the sick days, even on the guilty days when we know we've seriously messed up, you're still a child of God and you're still precious to God - more precious than any of us could possibly describe.
Nothing to do with us, at all, but born of God. And if we continue reading John, we learn how that works. But I'd like to remind every Christian who reads this that you are a child of God. You have been born again. You're a new person. You're a holy, chosen, glorious member of God's family. God did that. And His Holy Spirit is sanctifying us so we can begin to live up to it. He's even doing the sanctifying.
The word - the message - the communication from God - because flesh. And when we see the nativity plays and all the rest of it, what's going on isn't a cute little children's story. What's going on is God Himself becoming a human being.
He became the most vulnerable human being He could possibly be. He was a baby, born to a mum who got pregnant before she was married, to a poor working-class stepfather, in a nation hated by those around them, in an occupied country, under a military dictatorship, in a stable, for you.
He came for you. He became vulnerable for you.
And John, who became Jesus's disciple and his closest friend, said "we have seen his glory". Jesus lived on earth, and John walked with him for three and a half years. John witnessed the Transfiguration, when Jesus was transformed into glorious light. John saw the sick being healed. John saw the raising of Lazarus from the dead. John heard the sermon on the mount. John saw the compassion and the humility of Jesus. John saw the crucifixion of Jesus, and heard Him cry "It is finished". Three days later, John went to the empty tomb, saw the folded graveclothes, and met the living Jesus.
John saw the glory of Jesus, and he was going to tell as many people as he could. He spent the rest of his life proclaiming the Good News.
John chooses these two characteristics to describe Jesus: "full of grace and truth". Jesus is gentle and humble. He wants to give and not take, to serve and not be served. He's kind and meek, and full of truth. Jesus never tells a lie. You couldn't imagine it. And everything He said was of eternal value. All the sayings of Jesus are so gloriously powerful, if we will study them and understand them.
Jesus came from the Father. He came in the flesh. He came for you.