(Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1, John 1:1-14)
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
We gather this morning to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Though he was born over 2,000 years ago, we continue to honor his birth as the start of a profound shift in our understanding of God. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection helped us to realize just how loving God is towards us. And it all began like all of life begins—with a birth. God’s deep love for us is best shown through the Son. It is through the Son that we saw not only a God who is willing to enter into this world to experience what we experience but also a God willing to die for our sins. God loved us so much that He was willing to into our broken world, not as a judge or mighty executor but as a baby boy, equally exposed to the powers of sin and death. God could have easily come and proclaimed judgment and doled out just punishment. Many wish He should have done just that! But that isn’t how God chose to do it. No, God chose to humble himself, to limit his abilities, to live as one of us so that He might eventually conquer sin and death. But we wait to celebrate his conquering of sin and death on Easter. For now, we focus on his birth in Jesus as the start of new life.
Many churches like to retell the birth of Jesus as a man. They stick to the birth narratives found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But I like to pull from John’s narrative for a few reasons. Consistent with the gospel as a whole, John’s birth narrative is less concerned with helping us understand how Jesus the man was born and more concerned with how Jesus the Christ was born. I like to wrestle with who Jesus was as God’s Son more than with who Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary, born in a manger in a stable outside of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Yes, it is important that Jesus was born as a man and yes, it is important to lift up his human nature. But Jesus the Christ is much more than a man. Jesus the Christ is of God, is one with God, is equal and identical to God. And I think wrestling with the birth of Jesus the Christ is far more rewarding. Hence, why we delve in this rather cryptic gospel passage from John on Christmas morning.
Allow me start with a simple question: who is Jesus to you? Is Jesus simply a man who lived in the Mediterranean region and said a lot of interesting things about God and did a lot of unusual healings and miracles in God’s name? Is Jesus simply a devout Jew who went a little too far in his devotion and was killed for it? Is Jesus simply a prophet, a miracle worker, and a religious leader? Or is Jesus all of these things…and more? And if he’s more, than what is he? A con artist? A cult leader? A master orator/philosopher/debater? A magician? A teacher? To be fair, people have been wrestling with this question since Jesus’ time. Many people around him couldn’t quite put their finger on it either. With the exception of a con artist, Jesus IS all of these things…and more. Jesus said and did things that no other man had said or did. Jesus opened up doors to understanding God that were never opened before. And Jesus continues to open unopened doors through his words and deeds. So how do we explain this?
Well, we can’t explain this. We can’t understand how Jesus lived, died, and rose again. We can’t understand how Jesus walks among us today, nearly 2,000 years after his death. Thus is the mystery of Jesus the Christ. Jesus the man was born to Joseph and Mary in a stable outside of Bethlehem and died on a cross 33 years later. But Jesus the Christ lives on…in our hearts…in our minds…in our world. And this is only possible through God. Only God transcends time and space. Only God can live and die and rise again. Only God can live without sin. And these are exactly what Jesus the Christ does!
So getting back to the question, who is Jesus to you? I think the best answer to the question lies in our text from John. He writes:
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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Jesus the Christ is a great beacon of light and with the light comes life. All the great prophets, miracle workers, religious leaders, cult leaders, orators, philosophers, debaters, magicians, and teachers were nothing more than lights shining on the world around us and on God. They teach us answers to mysteries that hold us in darkness. They give us the keys to worlds we never knew existed. They shine lights and the lights open new possibilities and understandings.
We can’t forget that Jesus the Christ was born today alongside Jesus the man. There is a great light shining in each of our lives. Jesus’ light shines in our dark lives and creates new life. We give thanks this day for the light of life coming into our world. Jesus shines where no man can shine. If we but open our hearts to Jesus, no darkness within us can withstand his light. Jesus shines brighter and longer than any other light. Let us open our hearts to his light. Let us rejoice in his great gift of life. Alleluia, Jesus is born today!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.