He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not (John 1:10).
We are invited this morning to dwell in the gospel of new creation. Too often, Christmas propels our minds to the past—whether in memory of long-ago celebrations or lost loved ones or even through an idealized picture of God’s first breath as a man. What we must not lose in the warm glow of nostalgia is the pulsating heart of this holy day: God is with us. I beg you, pause for a moment and recognize just how much this historical reality makes everything new and beautiful. The race of man is no longer defined by his greed or pettiness, violence or shame; no, humanity has been everlastingly united to the divine being who is love. The very nature of being human has been irreversibly transformed into a determined quest to make our hearts and souls and minds match this reality which now binds mankind to the restoration of the universe and the perfect peace of being God’s sons and daughters.
Understanding the root of this new creation does propel us to the beginning—the space from which all things are observable, the perspective which can only be accessed by the divine. The Apostle John must begin there because he is compelled to drive into our hearts that central claim with which we began: God is with us. We would do well not to think of ‘the beginning’ mentioned here as the start of time; rather, John uses a specific Greek word which, when used in this context, places the Word in the domain beyond time, in the very realm of God. This place being described is the universe before the creation, the cosmos before Genesis 1. In this God-only space, we are allowed to see the intimate union of the Trinity through the relation of the Word and God. The Word is with God and is God. Or put another way, the Word belongs to God and is God.
This glimpse into the inner workings of the Godhead leads us to the question John’s gospel has been written to answer: Who or what is the Word? Incredibly, the Logos, the ‘Word’ in Greek, is a word/concept which would have been well known to both Jew and Greek. By the providence of God, through the incredibly success of Alexander the Great’s armies and the enduring covenant faithfulness He provided to Judah, the 1st century world was in a perfect position to receive the living answer by which both faithful prophet and true philosopher were inspired. Into this primed and desperate world, ‘the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’ Jesus Christ, Son of the living God and born of the virgin Mary, quite literally fills this crucial word with meaning by existing as the very conduit through which the lonely and lost of this terrestrial ball can know God.
The tragedy of John’s majestic and shocking beginning is that in our shame and sadness, our feelings of unworthiness or false love of sin, in this fallen/broken state, we don’t want to know God. As John writes, ‘He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not’ (John 1:10). It would be very easy to imagine that our presence here today in Christ’s Church, built with His blood and the blood of all the saints who were faithful in their quest, was because we get it or because we are smarter or better than those who treat Christmas as one more day to cling to those adult fairy tales which rob men of the truth (I’m in control; there is no God; the universe is an accident; nothing I do matters; I’m a good guy; etc.). Surely, one of our enemy’s great powers lies in getting men to believe preposterous nonsense while simultaneously thinking they’re the smartest people in the room (one imagines he finds that quite funny—in the same way he finds rape and infanticide funny).
We, however, cannot cling to such comforting illusions; we who have received the gift of life twice over. It is Christ’s breath and salvation which flows through us and beckons us to rest in the enormity of what it took to have God with us. It is not that we are smart or clever and thus go to church just as it isn’t because we are sinless or worthy; no, we are here because God the Son moved the universe and beyond to save us from ourselves and our best intentions. He came to us as a child, so that we could come to him in like manner: reborn, remade, and ready to leave behind all of the stupid nonsense drilled into our minds by those with the biggest microphones, all the black wisdom we mimic and parrot as if we came up with it. We are instead to be ‘…born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13). The God who made the stars has remade reality to find us and make us His sons and daughters.
But how? How can I possibly be made a son of God? As was foretold by the prophet Isaiah: ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:11). The Word has gone forth into the World, and He will not return to the Father with empty hands. The light which lit creation before the Sun and Moon existed plunged into the inky blackness of man’s collective self-destruction; Christ defiantly shined in the soul-crushing darkness we call the World, and He let that darkness humiliate Him, assassinate Him, and bury Him. But, what does John tells us today: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). The Word made flesh, the baby born to die, the man born to put death to death and rise above the beastly desires and ignorant fears which enslave us—it is His public resurrection which creates a new beginning for all the people the Word made flesh has come to make the opposite of void and empty; the Word made flesh has come to make us whole and complete: the divine sons and daughters born to govern eternity with perfect justice and true love.
The World’s snarling opposition to this Word made flesh is at the heart of man’s mad desire to hurt and destroy itself; quite simply, when we find we can’t actually be God, we seek to kill God by killing ourselves. But, what Jesus has shown is that He just keeps coming—closer and closer and closer until we can’t run anymore. No one in this room deserves God, but we also cannot hope to resist His love.
May God bless you and have a Merry Christmas