It’s Christmas Day! The day, and the Christmas season, we have anticipated has arrived.
Maybe you’ve already opened the gifts, or even peeked into your stockings. Perhaps the Christmas dinner is already getting started, and you can taste the rolls and the great food. Or maybe you are just waiting to leave here, so you can get started on the feast and the celebration.
We’ve been waiting for this day for a while now. As we’ve waited, we’ve heard a story proclaimed about what this day means. It’s a story of celebrating our love of consumerism and great deals. A story about how spending was important to the economy’s stability going into 2012. A story that says Christmas is something that can be easily unpacked in early October, and easily put back away, just days before the actual Christmas celebration.
But that’s not the story that brings us here today. It’s not the reason we truly celebrate today. It is not the reason we are filled with joy, with hope, and with peace – not just today, but each and every day. We are here because the “Word became human and made his home among us.” On this Christmas Day, we celebrate not because we received that item that we wanted, or even because we will bite down on great turkey or ham in a few hours, but because Christ came and dwelt among us.
This is our great story of Christmas. The story of Christ making his long-expected arrival on earth and dwelling among us. This wasn’t simply just an act of “pitching his tent,” which is what the Greek for making his home or dwelling means. It was an act of coming to earth to live with his people, to share life with us, to teach us about how to come into a relationship with God, and to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. It is, without a doubt, the greatest story that has ever been told, and a story we are called to share with everyone from Mackville and Perryville and all points in between and throughout the world.
The first verses of John’s Gospel don’t give us descriptions about Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus Christ, or even the visit by the Shepherds and the Wise Men. It is absent of the stories that we are familiar with as it relates to Christmas. What these verses, the Prologue of John’s Gospel, give us is a theologically rich section of Scripture that tells us about Christ, why he came, and what it means to receive Christ at all times.
One of the first things we notice about Christ in this passage is that “[i]n the beginning the Word already existed.” It’s easy to get caught up in the pageantry of Christmas and fall into the trap of believing that Christ began to exist on Christmas morning. That at Jesus’ birth, we also experienced the birth of Christ’s existence. This is simply not the case. John tells us that the Word, Christ the Son of God, existed before creation came into existence. Christ was always a part of God. There was never a moment when Christ did not exist. He was always around.
There is something deeper here than just simply saying that Christ always existed. He existed for a purpose. That purpose is expressed in how John is using the term “word.” It comes from a Greek term that suggests a greater reason for something. In using this idea, John is saying that Christ didn’t exist merely for the fun of it, but he was the reason the world existed.
As we see in this passage, Christ is the reason the world was created. God created the world through him. As one commentator suggests, God was the creator who had the vision for creation, while Christ, the Word, was the person who saw to its creation. Christ gives life and expression to our souls and our creation. Everything was created for him and by him.
In a way then, what we see at Christmas is the beginning stages of the new creation. John uses a phrase that is an exact copy of the phrase used to start Genesis. He writes, “In the beginning.” Christ was part of the creation of the world. Now, Christ will be part of the new creation that will be created when people join in relationship with him. On Christmas morning, the process of recreating humanity and all of creation back into God’s image and plan began. It was a process that carried forth throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry and is ongoing today through the work of the Holy Spirit.
On Christmas morning, Christ came and took on the form of a human. This is the nature of the incarnation, which means Christ, the Word, taking on the form of a human, in the person of Jesus, to live among us. We believe and hold that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. You cannot separate the human from the divine. Both are expressed and are seen in the life of Christ. In the manager on Christmas morning was God and man, together, two natures, one person.
The incarnation of Christ says something for us today. We can approach Christ, and fully believe in him, because he shared life with us. Christ experienced life. He felt what is to encounter temptation. He felt the loss of a loved one. He felt the rejection of his entire hometown, and his people. Christ is approachable, because he took on the form of his people and lived among us.
Jesus’ birth, the coming of the Son of God, wasn’t merely for entertainment. He didn’t come just to share life with us. He came with a purpose. He came to show us the light, which Christ himself is for all of us, as Christ tells us in John 8:12.
Christ came into our dark world and shone the light of God into it. This light overcomes the darkness in the world. Sin cannot overcome the light of God. The light of God, the Son of God, overcomes the darkness. The light of Christ does this by teaching us how to be in a relationship with God by living lives of holiness and obedience toward God. The light shines in our world and points us to God’s wishes and desires.
The light that comes from Christ is available to all of us today, as it was to everyone in Jesus’ time. We each have a choice of whether or not we will receive Christ. This means a decision on our parts of how we will live for Christ. John touches on this. He says that some recognized Christ, but some did not. This gets to the heart of what it means for us to accept Christ, and to live in relationship with Christ. In essence, do we believe that Christ came and dwelt among us and does that life, does that light impact our lives and how we interact with our community and our world?
To those who accept this light, there is a great privilege of being known as children of God. We are part of God’s family. By following the light from Christ, and seeking to live each day in relationship with God, we become members of God’s family. Even more, Christ begins to live in us and transforms us into a new creation by our acceptance and reception of his light. To follow the light of Christ is to live for Christmas and the reality that Christ came into this world, not just on December 25, but each and every day.
However, those who reject Christ are known as children of darkness. For children of darkness do not know God. They follow a light that does not come from God, but comes of this world. It is a light that leads not to eternal life, but to sin, death, and despair. To follow the darkness means to separate ourselves from the life-changing and hope-giving light of Christ.
Perhaps the question for each of us, and myself included, is this: on this Christmas morning, whose light are we following? Whose light is impacting us in the depths of our souls and dictating how we are interacting with our neighbors and all of God’s people?
This is a question not just for this Christmas morning, but each day. We should live each day in the reality that Christ came and will come again. We should live in the reality that Christ is the reason for our existence, that calls us to live in response. For when we do, we will be filled with the joy of Christmas, the peace of a Savior, and the hope of all time.
And that is the true Christmas story worth sharing today and at all times.