Christmas, the Word Became
Christmas morning or Sunday
after Christmas or Christmas II
Most of us do not
realize it, but there are two sets of Christmas stories in the
gospels. One set of Christmas stories is from the Gospels of Matthew
and Luke and the other from the Gospel of John. The first set of
Christmas stories are more familiar to us. We can see those stories,
visualize those stories and imagine those stories such as Zechariah
and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, the sheep
and the shepherds, the angels and angel’s choirs, the three wise
men and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But the second Christmas story comes from the Gospel of John
and we cannot see or visualize or draw John’s Christmas story.
Painters cannot paint paintings about John’s Christmas story.
John’s Christmas story is abstract and philosophical.
Let me explain.
There is a website that I enjoy. It is entitled, Illustrated Gospel
by Maurice Lamouroux. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/maurice.lamouroux/files/ill_e%20NT.htm
This French man who created this website must have had a Ph.D.
in both the History of Painting and Biblical studies. Maurice
Lamouroux has assembled famous paintings of Biblical stories
according to Biblical theme. This website takes all the famous
stories in the Bible, and assembles paintings from art museums
around the world that picture those famous Bible stories. On the
theme of the birth of Jesus, Dr. Lamouroux has 500 paintings that
depict Jesus’ infancy. Those 500 paintings about Jesus’ birth
are so visual and so graphic. Those Christmas stories from Matthew
and Luke are highly picturesque; they can be visualized and painted.
Then, the author of this website lists John 1:1-18, the
Christmas story from the Gospel of John. How many paintings of
Jesus’ birth are based on John 1;1-18? Another 500? No, not one.
Not one. Not one painter has been inspired to attempt to paint the
Christmas story according to the Gospel of John. Why? John’s
Christmas story is too abstract, too philosophical, and too mind
the Christmas season, we focus on the Christmas story from the
Gospels of Matthew and Mark. But today, we are going to focus on the
Christmas story from the Gospel of John. Today’s sermon is a Bible
study of the Christmas story in John 1:1-4 and 1:14-18. Would you
please pull out your bulletin and we will carefully examine John’s
“In the beginning
was the Word.” Circle the word, “Word.” The Greek word for Word is
“logos” from which we get our word, “logic.”
Write down the word, “logic.” “In the beginning was the
Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” can be
translated: “In the
beginning was the Logic and the Logic was with God and the Logic was
God.” How do you paint that? How do you paint the phrase, “the
Logic was God.” You can’t. That is why there are no paintings of
John’s Christmas story.
“The Logic was
with God.” John was making a distinction between the Logic and
God. “The Logic was with God.” In the next sentence, John says
“the Logic was God.” Will John make up his mind? Is the Logic
with God or is the Logic, God? John is laying the groundwork for the
pre-existence Christ, that Christ was with God before the creation
of the universe, and that Christ was the brains or divine
intelligence behind the universe.
was any creation, before there was matter, before there
was light and life, obviously, there had to be a set of brains.
That’s the way it always is;
you have to have brains lay out a plan.
There had to be some logic to it.
God was and is essentially a large cranial cavity of
intelligence and brilliance. In the beginning was the logic and the logic was with God and
the logic was God. The
mind was God. The
intelligence was God. The
brilliance was God. What
the Bible is saying is before something was created, there
had to be a mastermind behind it; and from this logic, all light and
life was created.
J.B. Phillips once
wrote a book entitled, YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL.
I would like to suggest to you that Phillips should have
written another book entitled, YOUR JESUS IS TOO SMALL.
Too many people think that Jesus was simply the man who
walked on earth. Or,
Jesus is my sweet savior. When I was in ninth grade, someone gave me
a picture of Jesus. It
was on a wooden board, and it was a pretty picture with a pretty
Jesus with long pretty brown hair and pretty light blue eyes.
According to this picture, Jesus was sweet and sentimental.
My childhood Jesus was too small, too sweet and too
had forgotten that the Jesus of the Bible is the Mind who existed
even before creation. The
Bible teaches that before the world began, Jesus was the
logic of God, the mind of God, the brilliance of God.
In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God,
meaning Jesus, and the brilliant Logic became flesh and lived among
us. So Jesus existed
far before measured time began and Jesus is the logic, the
master-mind of creation.
Please turn to the
epistle in your bulletin. This epistle lesson from Colossians
illustrates that Jesus existed before the universe began and Jesus
was the creator of the universe. Colossians 1:15-17 15”He
(Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all
creation. 16For by him all things were created: things
in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and
for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things
Please turn to John
1:14 and circle the word, “flesh.” The brilliant mind and logic
behind the universe became flesh.
The brilliant logical mind of the universe became flesh, a
human being. The
message of the Christmas story is that the Logic/God who created the
universe became a human being, a real, authentic human being.
Now, when the Greek
language uses the word, “flesh,” it uses the word, “sarx,”
from which we get our word, sarcophagus. The Greek word,
“flesh,” doesn’t simply refer to our skin and bones and body
that we can touch. The word, “flesh,” in Greek, refers to the
totality of who we are; it refers to our mind, body, emotions and
spirit. In Hebrew and
Greek, a human being is composed of several parts: body, mind,
emotion and spirit. We human beings are still composed of body,
mind, emotion and spirit. The Bible is saying that the brilliant
logical mind that created the universe because a full human being,
Now, why is this so
important? The Bible is saying that the master intelligence behind
the universe did not stay up in the safety of heaven, that God did
not remain living up there in heaven, far away from the evil and
suffering of earth, that God didn’t live in some kind of eternal
suburb, safe from it all. God
didn’t live away from the rough and tumble of the world, but God
came down here to this earth to suffer like we do. Jesus suffered
and died on the cross and his suffering and death were real, true
and authentic, just as our suffering and death are real, true and
Now, in all the
other world religions, in their prophets, seers, and angels, God
does not dare to become a human being, does not dare to come down to
earth and its ghettos. In
the philosophy of Docetism, and even in Greek mythology, God
doesn’t actually become a real human being but only pretends
to be a real human being. In
our Christian religion, unlike every other religion of the world,
ours is the only religion in the world that claims that the
brilliance logical intelligence actually became a real life human
being and occupies the same turf that you and I do.
Even our hymn is titled, “From heaven above to earth I
come.” This means
that God became Jesus who was a little baby, wet his diapers, messed
his pants, burped, upchucked, cried and whined in the synagogue at
age two, and later drove his parents crazy during the worship
services. Jesus was a true, authentic, real human being.
Now, this doctrine
that God became flesh, is one of the central doctrines of the
Christian faith. It is called the Incarnation, incarnal, in the
flesh. Now, if you were
a good Roman Catholic, for centuries, any time in the Latin liturgy
you would hear the phrase, “incarnal est,” you, as a Catholic,
would automatically bow. For
centuries Catholics did not understand the Latin, but when they
would hear the phrase, “incarnal est,” they would drop to their
knees in reverence. Martin Luther was also a Roman Catholic from
childhood, and in his commentary on this passage, said:
“If you truly believe that the Word became flesh, that the
logic of the universe became a human being, that is powerful enough
to drive demons and devils away from you.”
We continue our
Bible study. The Bible then says, “He made us dwelling among
us.” He dwelled among
us; that is, he tabernacled among us. Now, there are many Greek
words that could be used for the word, “dwelled,” but the author
chose the Old Testament word, “tabernacled.”
I would like to talk about the word, “tabernacled,” for a
moment. The tabernacle in the Old Testament was the localized
presence of God. The
tabernacle was a big tent, about 75 by 150 feet.
At the far end of the sacred tent or tabernacle, was the Holy
of Holies, a room separated by a heavy curtain, and behind that
curtain was the Ark of the Covenant, a special holy box, and inside
that Ark or box, were the Ten Commandments.
Now, this was the most sacred place where God lived: in the
tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, in the Ark, and most sacredly, in
the Ten Commandments. Clearly,
in the ancient Jewish mind, that is where God lived.
This Bible passage
from the Christmas gospel of John implies a question:
“Where is God most present?
Where is God most localized? Where are you to find God
living? In the Ark of
the Covenant? In the Ten Commandments. In the moral law for all
humankind?” No, In the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. If you want to find the localized and focalized presence of
God, it is no longer to be found in the moral law of the Ten
Commandments but in the flesh of Jesus Christ.
If you are currently looking for God, where do you find God? Do you look for God in the Ten Commandments?
No. Do you look
for God here in this sanctuary, in this building?
No. Where is God
localized and focalized more than any other place?
In the flesh of Jesus Christ.
In the mind, body, emotions and spirit of Jesus Christ. In
Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation, teachings, parables, miracles,
suffering and death. If you want to find God, that is where God
lives. In the flesh of
Look at the next
phrase, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the …” Let us
focus on the word “glory.”
Glory is an interesting word, from which we get the word
“Gloria” and we sing the “Gloria.” The Greek word is
“doxa” from which we get our word “doxology.”
Doxology is simply the word, “praise,” and the Hebrew
word behind the Greek word, “doxology,” is the Hebrew word, “shekina.”
Shekina implies light and shining.
In the Old Testament, there was the Shining Presence of God
in the pillar of fire by night, which guided the Jews in the desert.
The image is that of glowing, shining presence of God.
A member of our
congregation was riding on the bus to downtown Seattle the other
day, in the early morning, and she witnessed a glorious sunrise
coming up near Mount Rainer. It
was spectacular and magnificent.
The bus driver, of all people, said into his bus microphone:
“Would all of you turn to the right and look at the
sunrise?” The bus
driver then said simply, “Well, if you don’t believe in God; I
don’t know. It’s
pretty hard to look at that sunrise and not believe in God.”
He said that and kept on driving.
No big deal. Well,
everyone looked over at the sunrise and many people saw the Shekinah,
the glorious shining presence of God. Peoples’ hearts were blown
away by the splendor of the morning sunrise.
Or we see God’s
glorious shining presence in the splendid sunsets west over Puget
Sound and the Olympic Mountains and we exclaim our pleasure of those
glorious sunsets. We ooh and ah at their beauty. Or we see the stars
at night over east of the mountains. We see through the clarity of
the air and we “ooh and ah” as we stare at those midnight stars.
We see the glorious presence of God, shining in the heavens.
We know shekinah.
We know God’s glorious presence. The Gospel of John mentions none
of this. John does not “ooh and ah” about the glorious light
of a morning sunrise nor the glow of an evening sunset nor the
clarity of the midnight stars. Rather, for John, the glorious
presence of God is most clearly seen in the flesh of Jesus Christ.
In his birth, baptism, temptation, teachings, miracles, parables,
death and resurrection. It is in the flesh of Jesus that the light
of God most clearly shines. We
look at the light of God shining in Jesus and our hearts go “oh
and ah.” The beauty of God is so beautiful in the flesh, in the
humanity of Jesus.
Let us look at that
next words, “the one and only.” In the Revised Standard Version
of the New Testament, we heard the phrase, “only begotten.”
The phrase, “only begotten, is rare in the Bible. It is
used only twice in the Bible, and that is here in this passage. The
word comes from the Greek word, “monogenesis.”
Mono means one; genesis means “beginning” like in the
book of Genesis. The
only Genesis. Our
modern word, “genetics,” comes from this Greek word. In
contemporary language and thought, this implies that Jesus has the
only genes from the Father. Jesus
is the only begotten son, the only genetic son, the only biological
son, the only son from the Father. In old language, the church would
say that Christ is of the same nature of the Father; today, we would
say that Christ is of the same chromosomes of the father.
Christ is the same as the Father; the rest of us are the
adopted children. We
are not biological children; we do not have the same biological
nature as the father. God
adopts all the great religious leaders of the world such as
Mohammed, Buddha, and Moses. There
is only one only begotten, mono begotten, monogenesis, of the Father
and that is the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.
If you want to know what God the Father is like, look at the
identical carbon copy of the Father in the Son.
I found a
University of Minnesota’s study of identical twins to be most
physiologist studied identical twins, not fraternal sins, and he was
going to prove how powerful the environment was on these identical
twins who were separated from each other for thirty and forty years.
These sets of identical twins were separated at birth.
What were his conclusions?
Even though separated at birth for thirty to forty years,
these identical twins were still very alike in many ways. The way
they reacted to smoke; the way they crossed their legs; the
similarity of toothpaste; the similarity of using a rare cologne
from England in one pair. The
physiologist took a reading of their galvanized skin responses that
were measured by electrodes in their bodies, and their reactions to
stimuli were identical. They
listened to symphonies and the measurements of the GSR were the
same. They heard shocking noises, and their brains responded just
the same, even though the identical twins had been separated from
birth. The twins had
the same genes; the same chromosomes. After so many years, they were
still alike. …What
the Bible is saying is that Jesus is identical to the Father.
Christ is the same substance of the Father, the same nature.
If you want to know what the Father is like, look at the
genetic reproduction of the Son.
There is only one. That
Christmas is all about…that God, the logical intelligence behind
the universe, was born into the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.
Next, in John’s
Christmas gospel, comes a beautiful phrase, “full of grace and
truth.” The Greek
word for “full,” “pleroma,” is a very important word in the
Bible. In the Greek
language, especially in classical Greek, the word refers to ships
that are full of cargo. It
talks about gardens that full of weed, and we can easily visualize a
garden that is full of weeds. The
Bible talks about baskets full of food.
Do you remember the miracle of the feeding of the five
thousand, and there were twelve baskets left over and each basket
was full of food. Likewise,
a person can be full of love, full of compassion.
This past week, I
have been thinking about the word “full” and ways to illustrate
it. I have a glass bowl
on the altar and the bowl is filled with oranges.
I guarantee you; you cannot get one more orange into that
bowl. I also have
a punch bowl on the altar, and it is filled with orange water.
I guarantee you; you cannot get any more water into that
punch bowl. It is full.
Both bowls are full, totally full, up to the brim. They are
filled with oranges and orange water.
The Christmas story today tells us that Jesus, the flesh of
God, was totally full of two qualities:
grace and truth.
God in the flesh of
Jesus was full of “grace.”
Let’s focus on the word, grace.
The Greek word for “grace” is “karas” and it means
gift. It means full of
gracious love, which is given as
a gift. This is the
only section in the Gospel of John where he uses the word
John uses the word “agape,” but here he uses “grace.”
And grace always means gift:
you don’t earn it; you don’t work for it; you don’t
deserve it. Gift.
A gift like at Christmas time.
The gifts are all under the Christmas tree.
Our whole Christmas season is permeated with the word,
“gift,” and giving. Christmas is permeated with the joy of
giving a gift, the right gift, to someone.
And so Jesus is full of giving and we can understand
that and we like that. God gives us his love.
Jesus is also full
of “truth.” There are two qualities that Jesus is full of; there are two
bowls on the altar to today and both of them are full.
Jesus is also full of truth.
Now, when you and I think of the opposite of truth, we think
of a lie. It is a lie;
it is a falsehood; that is the opposite of truth. But that isn’t what the Greek language thinks of.
In the Greek language, the contrast isn’t between truth and
lie but between real and unreal. In Greek, true means real in contrast to illusion.
It is a contrast between authentic and inauthentic, genuine
and false, real and unreal. Jesus was filled with the reality of God. Jesus was a true,
authentic, genuine human being, not a pretender at his humanity.
Now, there are many
people who think that God is an illusion, God is make believe, God
is a fantasy, God is a creation of the human mind.
The biggest question of all, so it seems to me, is whether
God created humans or humans created God.
Many people secretly believe that humans created God. God is
an illusion of our minds. The
Christmas Gospel of John says just the opposite.
God is real and Jesus was really God in human form.
The book of Colossians that “In Jesus, all the fullness of
God was pleased to dwell.” So
Jesus is full of two qualities:
full of grace or giving and full of the truth of God.
Then comes one of
the most beautiful lines in the Bible, a line that I have loved and
lived with for decades. “From his fullness, we all have received
grace upon grace, one blessing after another.”
We are all aware that God has surely blessed us everyone.
Even though there has been much suffering, disappointment and death
in our lives, we are keenly aware of God’s abundant generosity to
us and on us. I am personally aware that my life has been
overwhelmed with all the grace that God has given to me personally,
grace upon grace upon grace. There
is a Russian hymn that is entitled, “O Day Full of Grace,” and
we are those people who have been immeasurable blessed by God’s
giving and giving.
gospel is so clear; that all of us have received grace upon
grace upon grace. Circle
the word, “all.” All of us. Not just Lutherans. Not just
Americans. Not just
Christians. Not just those who live now in this ending of twentieth
century in America. No,
not at all. The Christmas Gospel is that God showers his gracious love on
all of us, on the whole earth, on the whole universe.
We all love
Christmas. We love the Christmas stories that we can easily
visualize in our minds: Mary and Joseph and the baby, the straw and
the manger, the sheep and the shepherds, the angels and the angelic
choir, the three wise men, their gifts of gold, frankincense and
myrrh. But in John’s gospel, we hear none of this. There are no
paintings of John’s Christmas gospel. None. Not one. Instead we
hear, “In the beginning was the Logic and the Logic was with God
and the Logic became God. All things in the universe were made by
this Logic. And when the time was right, the Logic that made the
universe became a human being who was full of grace and truth. And
from his fullness, we all have received grace upon grace, one
blessing after another.” Merry Christmas.