With all the activity that Christmas brings, we can easily forget about Jesus.
We’re so busy shopping, decorating, eating, drinking, spending time with family, doing all sorts of festive activities!
If you’re like me, you think it’s ok to listen to Christmas music and carols all year round , or maybe you’re a little less enthusiastic about the season, for many and varied reasons, and carols are old the first time you hear them!
Christmas holds many good and pleasant memories for me, but that isn’t always the case for all.
I grieve over the commercialisation of Christmas as much as the next person, but I also revel in one of the only times of year where I have an opportunity to give, to receive, but mostly to remember and share the good news of peace on earth coming in the form of God in a manger.
In John’s version of the Christmas story there are no stables, donkeys, stars, shepherds, wise men or mangers. John’s focus, as he starts his Gospel, is the same as he has all the way through the rest of it – Jesus, the Son of God, becoming man.
1 – Starting From the Very Beginning v.1a
Where would you start your life story?
Most biographies start with the generations before. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and the various impacts that they had.
When we see John’s opening to his account of Jesus’ life, we see something very unique. We immediately see that this is not an ordinary story about an ordinary person.
‘In the beginning…’ is not just the start of one person’s life, this is the real “In the beginning…”. It is the start of all life, where all life as we know it began. This is the story of Creation, and it echoes Genesis 1:1.
John is retelling the story of Creation, with Jesus the Word at the centre.
The story of every person hinges on the facts of the story of this One person we are about to be introduced to.
Genesis’ account climaxed with the creation of the first human being, the first Adam. John’s account of creation will climax also with man taking on human flesh, the last and true Adam. Not just an updated, improved Adam, but this person, although very human, has a very different introduction to life in this world than most humans have.
The story of Jesus does not begin with His human conception. He was born in our world, as a real human being, but that’s not where His story started. His story doesn’t even start at the only reference point we have so far as our concept of time goes, ‘in the beginning’.
2- The Eternal Word v. 1-4
John will go on to say that Jesus already “was” in the beginning. His story had no beginning, for He was in eternity.
At the council of Nicea in 325AD, there was a bishop from Myra who had been called, along with many other church leaders of the time to hear and respond to the teaching of a man named Arius, who was claiming that Jesus was a created being and not eternal.
The bishop from Myra listened politely for some time to Arius’ arguments, but after a while, he could take it no longer. He walked across the room and slapped Arius in the face.
The bishop’s name was Nicholas, we would later receive sainthood for his acts of charity, which are remembered in various ways today. Perhaps the best way of observing Christmas would be to punch heretics rather than exchange presents, but it is what it is!
This point has been a matter of vital importance for all true believers. If Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God, we would have nothing to believe in.
John dismisses anything else as being possible.
The Word was!
John goes on to say something even more staggering. The Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
He is not talking about two separate “Words”, but One, Who is One with God. Separate, yet at the same time, completely the same.
“Rachel is with my wife” and “Rachel is my wife” makes no sense unless there are two Rachels! It makes little sense to us to say the Word that is with God IS God, but we are not dealing with a natural being. This is God. It’s more than just metaphysical wordplay. It is a supernatural reality that God is Three Persons in One Being.
The Word is with God because the Word John is speaking of is Jesus, the Son of God, part of the divine Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God as Triune is not a topic we can get our heads around easily, but until we at least grasp the fact that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, none of the rest of the Gospel story will make any sense to us, and our story will always have a bit missing also.
3- The One True Light v. 4-9
Stumbling around in a dark room can be a dangerous exercise! Finding the light switch, or trying not to wake others, you can soon be disorientated.
In v4 John moves to the point of where this is meant to make us sit up and take notice. Mankind has entered his story, and what John says about our origin and meaning for life should make all pay close attention.
Jesus is the source of life, and any light in the life is only found in Him. (John 1:4). In Him we live and move and have our being, Paul would later say in Acts (17:28), stating what is stated here.
Even the darkest things of this world, the hearts of the darkest men and women, cannot overcome the light that Jesus gives.
In a dark world, a shining light gives us something to move towards. Like moths to a flame. At least that’s how is should be.In a world with many false hopes, false promises, false messiahs, false lights, we are told that Jesus is the one true light (v9) Who has come to enlighten everyone, yet so often we get caught up with false lights. We chase shadows while the real things beckons us to Himself.
There is no doubt that humanity is confused about life, God, identity, truth and future. We’re confused because we’re creatures with limited understanding, and we’re confused because we’re sinners with depraved minds and hearts.
At the first Christmas, the Word, the the logos, entered our world. It was far more than words alone. It was word with power, absolute power. It was a pure word. The logos was reason, a word we derive our word ‘logic’ from. John is effectively saying, ‘Only because Jesus came can everything now make sense.’
4 – The Revealed Word v. 9-14
Jesus would call Himself the Light of the World ( John 8:12), but of course, not all would accept His light or hear His Word He bought.
Even His own people didn’t receive Him.
Thank God for ‘buts’ in the bible – “but to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name, He gave them the right to be called the children of God.”
Thank God that He has intervened in our history to tell His-story with His Word. He stepped in, literally. He put Himself into the story not just so we could feel special and cozy once a year at Christmas, but so we could know Him.
We know the value and meaning of words. They can heal or destroy. Encourage or disappoint. We use words to communicate, and language is the one of the single defining features of being human. We know the power that words can have.
We get that sense of importance of language from God Himself. From the Old Testament, we see Him again and again reveal Himself through His word.
God’s Word is such a complete revelation of Himself that it is Himself. God’s Word conveys Who He is and it does so perfectly.
God’s written word matters as much today as the day He first moved men to write it. His Word is important because it means that God can communicate in a way that is sure, true, and understandable to us. When we hear God’s Word, we don’t just hear a second-hand report about God, we are hearing God Himself.
Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that God has spoken to us through His Son.
Even His birth speaks us to us so clearly of what God intends for us. A humble birth. A manger throne.
The Son of God becoming man, putting on our flesh and living among us so he could die for us. That is the only reason Immortality would put on mortality. To die for the mortal.
This is Christmas as it is meant to be. When you take away everything, even Mary and Joseph, you are left not with an empty season, but a meaningful eternity, if you believe the account that John gives.
By all means, celebrate Christmas. Give, receive, attend family functions, enjoy the season, the festivity, enjoy the tree, the lights, the pageantry, the carols, the special events, but don’t focus on the to-do list, join John in focussing on Jesus, the one true light.
There are many ways we can do that as believers in a culture that has hijacked and commercialised what we can freely celebrate.
The Christmas tree can remind us of the one who trusts The Lord. The one who puts roots down deep, and bears fruit that is beautiful and brings glory to God.
The lights can remind us if that bright and shining star that brings people from all over the world to worship Jesus.
The gifts of Christmastime of course remind us of the unspeakable gift that God has given us, and the call for us to gives ourselves back.
Don’t exchange the priceless gift of Jesus this Christmas for something temporary and cheap either. He is so much better than anything we could ask or imagine. He’s the true joy all the joys we have in this life are pointing to. He’s the true gift that all other gifts allude to.
“Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time,behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.”
( credit also to resource “One True Light” by Tim Chester, Advent readings that my wife & I have used this last month a highly recommend it!!)