Kevin delivered the following sermon from John 1:1-18 at Morningside Baptist Church in Douglas, GA, where he serves as Senior Pastor.
What do you look forward to each Christmas? Some people love finding Christmas music on the radio. Others delight in snuggling in their favorite pajamas and watching the marathon of Christmas movies piped in to their televisions. Still others like to smell the fragrances of the season that come from Christmas-scented candles burning or cookies and pies baking in the oven. It’s these little touches that usher us into the “spirit” of Christmas.
Although Amber loves when she can listen to Christmas music and watch her favorite Yuletide movies on Netflix, I grow weary listening to the same jingles and re-watching the same movies over and over. (I still listen to the Michael Buble Christmas album on repeat and will watch Elf for the millionth time, because I know she enjoys them.) However, I never grow tired of seeing the lights at Christmas. The warm, twinkling glow of Christmas decorations warm my heart. Often, I am transported to a simpler time when flickering bulbs captured childhood. I’m not discrediting the other joys of the season, but the lights are what I look forward to.
My mama drove my sibling and me around to the different neighborhoods in Douglas to look at lights. “I wouldn’t want to pay their electric bill!” I remember mama saying when we passed by a Clark Griswold-like display. She enjoyed these trips as much as we did. Now at Christmas time, I take these same kinds of tours with my family. My daughter says it’s not Christmas until you ride around town looking at the lights with a cup of steaming hot cocoa in hand. There was and still is, something about the lights of Christmas.
My fascination doesn’t end with strands of multi-colored bulbs. I mentioned candles before, and I love them too. In the past, my household has lit a white candle during the opening of the presents to symbolize the Light, Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh, coming into the world. I love the brightness of the season. It doesn’t matter if the light is emitted from a LED bulb or a blazing wick. I love the light of Christmas. For it is all a celebration of the Light of the World, Jesus.
This two-part sermon series, The Majesty & Humility of Christmas, we’ll view the Christmas story from two differing perspectives. The first message we will look to John’s prologue that highlights Christ’s divinity and then we will turn to Luke’s birth narrative to see Jesus’ condescension and His connection with humanity. We will see the majesty of Christ’s deity and the humility of His incarnation.
In this sermon, I will discuss the true Light of Christmas, which is Jesus, highlighting His divinity and how He shows us the Father. The Incarnate Word of God revealed the Father, so full of grace and truth. The text is from the opening of John’s Gospel in John 1:1:18. John omits the birth narrative, but gives us in this prologue a glimpse into his belief that Christ is Lord at His birth! This prologue serves as a bridge that extends from eternity into history. It spans from the shores of glory to sands of Judea. During this sermon, I pray your imaginations grasp that Jesus, the Word of God, the Word made flesh, descended into time and space to be Emmanuel or God with us.
We will explore this topic under three different headings. They are: Jesus, the Word in the beginning (1:1-3), Jesus, the Light of the world (1:4-13), and Jesus, the Word made flesh (1:14-18). Jesus, God in the flesh, reveals the Father.
Jesus, The Word in the Beginning (1:1-3)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (1:1)
Authors sometimes begin in the middle of the action to grab the reader’s attention. Readers understand there are events preceding their launching point into the narrative and they continue reading to figure out what’s going on in the story. The writers of the Synoptic Gospels use this strategy. (The word synoptic means “being seen together.” Close study of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal they record many of the same stories and some of these accounts are almost verbatim.) Matthew begins with Jesus’ pedigree to build authority and dashes toward the birth of Christ. Mark skips the birth of Christ and leaps in at the preaching of John the Baptist in his fast-paced narrative. Luke’s investigative journalist style account for Theophilus begins before the birth of the forerunner of Christ with an angelic vision in the Temple. However, John’s starting point is unique to them. He starts in eternity past. John wants the reader to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, or God in the flesh. He suggests his claim in two ways.
First, John writes, “In the beginning” (1:1a). Does that sound familiar? Of course it does, because John is alluding to the creation account found in Genesis. The Greek word he uses for “beginning” is arche. This word can be translated “beginning” or “ruler” according to its context. This point is interesting when you consider the premise of John’s Gospel is that Jesus is God. By starting with an allusion to creation, John is making a claim of deity.
Who else was “in the beginning?” No one, but God.
Second, John uses the Greek term logos, which is translated “Word.” Although John’s use of this word is undeniably Christian, the Greeks and the Jews would have taken notice of its usage. One commentator writes concerning the use of the word logos among the Greeks,
It was used among the Stoics to describe the principle of divine reason, which caused the natural creation to grow. This idea was much more fully developed in the writing of Philo of Alexandria, who used it of the instrument through which the world was created.1
The commentator continues later about how the Jews used this word. He writes, “In the Wisdom Literature, we find an emphasis on the creative activity of God through His Word of Wisdom (cf. Pr. 8). Closely linked to this Rabbinic practice of attributing to the Torah (Law) some agency in creation.”2 By using the word logos, John arrested both Greek and Jew by using familiar language. John is insinuating Christ’s deity.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. (1:2-3)
Despite the similarities, John departs from both the Greek and Jewish understanding when he identifies the Logos as a person. The Bible states, “He was in the beginning with God” (1:2). The divine person was not only in eternity past with God, but He was the source of all being (1:3). The Logos was the instrument of creation, and John was clear that this is a person; Jesus the Second Person of the Godhead.
Who else can create? Other New Testament authors support that through Christ, all things were created. For example, Paul writes, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). It is the Word (logos) that John so desperately wants to reveal in his gospel. It is Jesus, God in the flesh, that crossed from the eternal to the temporal; from spirit to flesh to be known and to make the Father known. He lights the way.
Jesus, The Word is Light (1:4-12)
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (1:4-5)
Have you ever watched the show Undercover Boss? CEOs of major corporations pretend to be entry-level employees. The show climaxes with the boss, revealing their true identity. It’s painful to watch. Viewers stomachs turn with anxiety waiting for the CEO’s to reveal their true identity to the unsuspecting employees. John’s prologue is the script to the ultimate episode of Undercover Boss.
John transitions from using the term “Word” to using “Light.” He has made his claim that Jesus (the Word) is God. Now, John explains the work of the Word. He gives light to the world. Jesus shines the way. He is the way. This shift should not stretch our minds too far since the Bible refers to God’s Word as being a light (see Ps. 119:105; Pro 4:15;6:23).
The Bible states, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (1:5). There are two interpretations of the phrase “and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Some render the word “comprehend” as “overpower.” Let’s explore both interpretations.
First, when the word is rendered “comprehend.” We understand when Jesus came, many people didn’t recognize His real identity. With the following context of the passage, this translation fits. Much like the scenes from Undercover Boss, the characters didn’t understand this babe was the King of kings and Lord of lords. Before our heads get too haughty,we are privy to the plot. However, the characters within the story are living in the moment. The Light is not known yet. It shines out but is not recognized. All the world radiates the beams of a Creator, but the creation is given over to vanity. The psalmist writes,
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. (Ps. 19:1-4, NLT)
Nevertheless, creation stumbles in blindness until the dawn breaks.
The second option for interpreting the word is “overcome” or “extinguish.” In other words, this Light came into this dark world as a weak babe in a manger, but all the darkness of this world could not overcome it! Eugene Peterson paraphrased it like this, “What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” (MSG, 1:5). Both interpretations add to the understanding of this passage.
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (1:6-13)
In this section of John’s prologue, the Light was breaking. John the Baptist’s testimony and message were the silver rays of dawn spilling over the horizon. Later, Jesus explain John was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. (see Mal 4:5; Mt 11:14). God wanted to make certain the world had no excuse but to know the identity of Christ! He was the Light “coming into the world.”
The wick burns bright on the Christ Candle on Christmas, because it represents the Light of the World breaking forth in the sleepy town of Bethlehem! The Bible states, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (1:9). Jesus was the true Light. Many men have attempted to explain the way to God, but all man’s imaginations are dark as their wicked hearts. However, Christ is the Light, the pathway to the Father. The season of lights celebrates and directs our attention to the true Light of the World.
Wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a stable, the Light was overlooked by the world (1:10). How could this be the promised Light? After years pass, many of His kin would not recognize their Messiah. Their hearts were bitter and calloused with unbelief. This was not the gift they expected or wanted. Yet, the Light shined brightly for some.
The Bible states, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (1:12-13). It was by Spirit-granted faith, their blinded eyes were open to the glorious Light. We’ll return to this later.
Jesus, The Word Made Flesh (1:14-18)
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (1:14-18)
When stepping out of a dark room, it takes our eyes time to adjust to the brightness. Sometimes the sunlight upon exiting can be overwhelming. I think this was the sentiment John was trying to convey in verse fourteen. He writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw the glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Can you imagine the glory John is trying to describe? He’d seen the manifestation of the glory at the Mount of Transfiguration and later he would see the glorified Lord on the island of Patmos. However, John witnessed the grace and truth of Jesus as he walked with him day in and day out for three years. Don’t miss the glory of living a life with Jesus from day to day.
John states the Word “dwelt” or “tabernacled” among them. This was when they say the glory. Eugene Peterson renders this as the Word “moved into the neighborhood.” God moved into our neighborhood to make Himself known. Jesus, God in the flesh, revealed God the Father.
The word “dwelt” or “tabernacled” is an Old Testament allusion. It hearkens back to the book of Exodus, where God delivered Israel from bondage and brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai. It was at Sinai God displayed His majesty and holiness on the top of the mountain. He sanctified the soil by descending on it. God gave them instructions to build a “tabernacle” where He could dwell among them. He promised to their God and that they would be His peopleIn Christ, the God of the mountain came down and dwelt among humanity. Click To Tweet
The Bible states, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (1:18). Christ came over the bridge in John’s prologue from eternity to our temporal world. He came down to reveal the Father to us. He came to so we could see God and what He is like. In Christ, we see the perfect image of God. We no longer have to sit in spiritual darkness, because the majestic Light of Christmas shines!
The Gospel in John 1:1-18
We witnessed the journey from heaven to earth in the opening of this gospel, but how do we apply this truth to our lives? Let’s return to verses twelve and thirteen. The Bible states, “But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor the will of flesh nor the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13). The Jews misunderstood the fact that our hope is not in our ancestry or physical lineage. They also didn’t realize that you can’t save yourself by working or doing good deeds. You can’t even open your eyes by yourself. The Bible says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise Him up on the last day” (John 6:44). Do you hear the Father calling? Is the Spirit of God revealing Christ to you today?
Why would anyone turn away? The Bible states, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not com to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:20-21). You must be born again! (see John 3:3-19).
I have stated my three points. Now I’d like to close with a poem.
The Lights of Christmas3
by Marjorie Morrison
The twinkling lights of emerald green
And brilliant blue and white
Are piercing darkness, all enshrouded
In the black of night.
The scarlet Christmas lights reveal
To us the price He paid
In giving all, His life in death,
The way to God was made.
The greens remind us of His love
In making life forever,
That we who trust Him may be sure
That He’ll forsake us never.
The blues speak of eternity,
The never ending span,
The timeless age, unnumbered years,
According to His plan.
The hue most beautiful of all
Tells of His righteousness,
A robe of snowy, spotless white,
In faith ours to possess.
The tree’s bedecked, the window’s bright,
A star and tinkling bell,
The gifts are made, the carol’s played,
Do not the story tell.
He came to die and not to live
We worship not the child,
But God incarnate, holy, great,
Not virgin, or infant mild.
We cannot worship stars above,
Nor mangers filled with hay,
Not e’en the cross made out of wood,
Raised to the sky that day.
But Christ alone, for He is God,
He’s all we’ll ever need.
Remember not His birth alone,
For in His Word we read:
“This do in memory of me,”
His death, for this He came.
His body broken, bleeding sore,
He hung in blinding shame.
The sun refused to shine at noon,
The darkness fell as night,
The temple veil was rent in twain,
God spurned this Prince of Light.
On Him was sin, all yours and mine,
A black and ugly guilt.
The world’s Light died, “It’s done,” He cried,
His precious blood was spilt.
It’s crimson red, it’s giving life,
We have in faith believed it,
For sinners we can now be free,
Because we have received it.
So, Christmas lights of red and green,
Of amber, blue, and white,
We look beyond the lovely scene,
To God our Christmas Light.
1D.A. Carson et al., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 1025.
3Marjorie Morrison, “The Lights of Christmas,” https://www.christart.com/poetry/poem1089.htm