IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will or man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Tonight, let’s reflect on three things. (1) God came to be with us through the man Jesus. (2) Jesus is still with us. (3) Jesus will come again.
God came to be with us
At Christmas we are remembering and celebrating an astounding, amazing fact: God became a man. Why?
From the foundation of the world God had a plan and a purpose. In choosing to create the world, and to put mankind on the earth, God also chose to create beings in his image who were free to act according to his will or to disobey. What happened? You know the story, they disobeyed.
That was no surprise to God. But even then God foretold the remedy, “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15, NRSV).
The rest of human history is the story of God’s patient cultivation of his chosen people until, “in the fullness of the times,” Christ came to earth, born of a woman, to carry out the reconciliation of God and mankind predicted from the beginning.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5).
As the gospel for tonight reminds us about the birth of Jesus,
“22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
“GOD WITH US.” Think about that. God came to be with us, emptying himself of his divine stature and privilege, to become the God man!
Dieterich Bonhoeffer put it this way, “It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.”
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
How we can we even get our heads around that?
Have you ever been to an aquarium? A really big aquarium where you can watch the fish swimming around? Susan and I got to see the Atlanta Aquarium a few years ago. You stand by the glass and are at the same level as the bottom of this huge tank in which multiple fish of all species swim by and overhead. Incredible. It got me thinking about the incarnation of Jesus. You know, suppose you were the god of the fish and saw that you needed to intervene for them, join with them, to bring about their redemption. If you put on scuba gear and dove in for a swim, how would that work? Would you be just like them? No, you’d have to become a fish, have gills and fins, and swim with them and like them. It’s a poor analogy probably, but maybe it works to give us a small image of what God’s action was for us.
But God chose to become just like us to show us what a life pleasing in his sight would be, to obey his laws perfectly, and to make the perfect sufficient, once for all, sacrifice of atonement that reconciled humanity to God.
There was no other way. No mere human being or beings could accomplish that. God, as the Bible tells us, became both the just and the justifier of men.
25 Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 to declare, I say, at this time, His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. (KJV21)
Jesus is still with us
So, for a time he was here with us on earth in the person of Jesus. But here’s the great part for you and me today: he is still here. He is here, right here, right now.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt 18:20, KJV21)
Christ has never left us, though he has departed in his earthly body. He is with us and among us. He lives in us.
And he has sent to us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the third way in which God shows himself to us and engages with us, to guide us into all truth (Jn 16:13) and to give us the strength we need to love and serve God.
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
Jesus will come again
So, Jesus came to be with us on earth. Jesus is still with us. And best of all, one day, Jesus will come again. He will come back for us. Everyone will see him. Everyone will acknowledge him. Those of us who follow him will be with him. He promised it.
John 14:3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
So tonight, this is what we celebrate with joy in our hearts.
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word is still with us.
And in the end, we win, because the Word (Jesus) will return for us.