John 1:1-18 (10 Jan 2021)
A few weeks ago the border restrictions came down and we were allowed to travel into Queensland which was a lovely pre-Christmas bonus. We stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and were able to see our grandchildren and a special treat – to meet two new great-grandchildren who had been born during a time when visiting Queensland was forbidden.
Naturally, I am going to show you some photos. It’s what grandparents and great-grandparents do, isn’t it?
And they are irresistibly beautiful, adorable, cute, tiny and so helpless and dependent. Aren’t they?
That’s what babies are like. That’s why the Christmas story of the baby born in Bethlehem, nursed at first in a feed manger in a cattle stall, surrounded by angels filling the sky with praise and visited by shepherds and kings bringing gifts from afar is such a beautiful picture! No wonder it’s a picture that has been painted by great artists, sung about in carols and songs, read about in the Gospels in the Bible and celebrated by so many of us each year.
Read the story in the Gospel by John and we find it begins with breathtaking hammer blows.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3)
Bang! A no time-to-waste, let’s-get-down-to-business blow. Here’s what it’s all about.
Like all babies, the baby born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago was irresistibly beautiful, adorable, cute, tiny and so helpless and dependent Yet at the same time he was God. Jesus is God Almighty. He was born as a human child that day but he already existed. He was with God and he was God right from before the beginning of the universe. He was called Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And that is who he is – God with us.
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the one and only Son who surpassed John because he, Jesus, existed before John – before us all.
Who is the Creator?
Jesus is. He made the universe, the stars, the earth, the water, the animals, the plants and us. Anything that exists was made by Jesus. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)
When Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Colossians he wrote, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” (Colossians 1:15-19) If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. God is invisible, Jesus was not – he was a real man who is God. God appeared in human form, the form of Jesus. Jesus is as close to God as you can get.
“No-one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)
The more you learn about Jesus the more you learn about God. The more like Jesus you become the more like God you become, that is, the more sanctified you become. The closer you get to Jesus the closer you get to God because Jesus is in the the closest relationship with the Father and makes the Father known to us.
Jesus is more important than anything at all. God calls him the “firstborn over all creation” (Colossians :15). Describing him as the “firstborn” means acknowledging him as the leader, the inheritor of all that is God’s, the pre-eminent one, primary one. All of creation submits to Jesus.
Paul made this clear when he wrote, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17)
Whatever there is, whatever we can see, things which are part of the earth, the universe in which we live was created by Jesus. More than that, go further: all the things we cannot see, that are beyond the universe and our limited existence were all created by Jesus.
He didn’t create the Universe, wind it up like a clock and let it run. He has gone on ever since running things and keeping things going, being totally in charge of what he has made. Jesus goes on to appoint the people who exercise leadership and authority in our world but he is superior to them and superior and mightier than even the spiritual powers and authorities which impact our lives.
It was through the direct exercise of his authority and power that Jesus created everything. It was through him, by him they were created. Why was it created?
It was all created for Jesus.
In the early 1960s Anthony Newley wrote a musical and sang the title song, “Stop the world, I want to get off”, an expression of emptiness and despair many of us experience from time to time.
But if Jesus said, “Stop the world” then it would stop. In fact, the day will come when that is just what he will say, and the world will stop. The Bible puts it this way, “in him all things hold together”. It’s all in Jesus’ hands. He made it and he holds it together and in the meantime it’s his.
This universe, our world is damaged, broken. It’s like a broken bowl with the pieces held in place in caring hands. If the hands let go the bowl will fall apart into many pieces. It’s the caring hands of Jesus that holds together our broken world otherwise it would fall to pieces altogether.
It’s the caring hands of Jesus that hold together our own broken lives, empowering us to hold together until the time comes for a total renewal of us all.
In amazing humility the creator God submitted himself to the frailty of human form. The baby of Bethlehem was completely dependent on his mother’s care and the provision of her husband but even in this submission, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
As Jesus himself said, he was and is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).
All life, including yours and mine, has its source, sustenance and survival in Jesus. The very fact that you are alive and listening to me right now is due to the fact that Jesus has determined that you should still be alive and should be right where you are right now. In Jesus life not only physical so that our hearts beat, our lungs breath and our minds think but it’s also life eternal.
Again, the wonderful humility and submission of Jesus was shown when, even when he was physically alive he allowed himself to have his life taken from him. As it is told us in Colossians, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
As it is with all babies when Jesus was born as a human he began the process of life which would inevitably lead to his death, but not from disease or old age. He was crucified and, as God in human form, took the penalty for sin and the damage it has done to his creation. There is therefore a way open for there to be reconciliation, to be peace between God and the damaged creation including a path of reconciliation and peace between God and you and me.
Jesus died for me. He died for you. Do you believe that? Does it make a difference to you?
In today’s passage we read, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Have you received him? Have you believed in his name? If the answer is, “yes”, then you, too are a child of God. You, too, have received the grace of God to receive new life, to see the light, to find the way.
Jesus was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary and consequently we say in the Creed that he is the “only begotten son of God”. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
By accepting his death he bore the consequences of your sin and mine. By his resurrection he demonstrated his right to be our Lord, King, master, to determine your way of life. He also thus gives you the right to know that you are an adopted child of God. God himself has made the determination and taken the action which means that you should be regarded as a child of God and that you should regard yourself as a child of God. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3)
When the news is as good as this, when Jesus is as extraordinary as this, when we have the truth that Jesus is God with us, when we have God loving us in human form, when Jesus is the creator of all there is, when believing in him makes you a child of God, when he is the source of life itself, why did they kill him so cruelly by death on a cross?
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11)
For many generations God had been preparing the path for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, foretelling his coming through the Jewish prophets and, of course through John the Baptist. It was all there with great clarity. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. “ (John 1:17)
The religious leaders of the day should have recognised Jesus as the one predicted to come. But they did not recognise him. He came into the world that he had made, to his own people, but they did not recognise him. They did not receive him. They crucified him. Jesus came into the world the source of life and light but they rejected the light he brought, the truth he brought and killed him.
Sadly this problem of being blind to the light and the rejection of the truth led not only to the death of Jesus but also the blindness and ultimate death of the leaders of his time. Worse, this blindness persists in too many people in our world today.
However, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) The rejection of life and light led to Jesus’ death but he rose again from the dead, overcoming all possible evil and offering us life and light eternal.
God has been so good to us, giving us the gift of insight to the truth of Jesus so that we are amongst those who did receive him, … those who believed in his name, and those he has given the right to become children of God
When you know who this Jesus is you are not surprised at the reception he was given the day he came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem.
Of course the angels lit up the sky singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14) Does his favour rest on you?
Of course we, too, say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” because of Jesus. Thanks to Jesus we know that wonderful peace we have been given because we are amongst those on whom the favour of God rests.
How wonderful to know him, Jesus, the Word who was the beginning, the Word who was with God, the Word who is God, the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.