Luke 2:8-12; John 1:1-5 – The Word among us…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 18, 2011 AM
From small beginnings mighty things can happen especially when God is involved. Take for instance the man known as Francis of Assisi. When he committed his life to Christ, he gave away everything he had. He came from a very wealthy family. For clothing, he put on a brown robe discarded by a peasant. For a belt he found a piece of rope lying on the ground nearby. It was a shabby outfit at best but ten years later his makeshift costume was the uniform of 5,000 men. Consider also the petite young woman who became huge in stature.
The missionary Lottie Moon was in China even before the great missionary Hudson Taylor. This tiny woman had a large vision for reaching the world for Christ. Taylor himself would remark, “God does not do His great work by large committees. He trains somebody to be quiet enough and little enough and then he uses them.” That’s what occurred with the birth of Jesus Christ. From the humble beginnings of being born in an animal feeding trough, Jesus entered into human existence to become the salvation of the world. Whether it is with a small woman quiet enough and little enough for God’s use, a simple brown tunic, or in a meager manger, it is often from small humble beginnings that mighty things can occur when God is involved. Jesus’ humble birth was the beginning of God’s complete revelation of himself to the world.
As we look at Jesus’ humble beginnings we can see anew the miracle of the Bethlehem event and deepen our devotion to the son of Mary, who is also the Son of God and the Savior of the world. John’s Gospel contains no detailed account of the birth of Jesus. It does supply a strong statement on the incarnation: “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” (John 1:14) This statement is at the heart of our study this morning, as we link Luke’s nativity story with John’s profound comments on the sublime mystery of Christ’s birth. This should be an experience of worship for us as we consider the Word among us. Let’s look first of all at the…
I. The paradox of Christmas! (Luke 2:8-12)
EXAMPLE: The paradox found here is in a person having seemingly contradictory circumstances. While the Word of God became flesh, it is still a fact that he also lived among us! Nowhere is this more graphically displayed than in the birth of Jesus in a humble manger. There is the paradox. The Savior of the world, God in human flesh, being born of a woman, in an animal stall! It was no ordinary birth, yet it was an ordinary birth. Luke reminds us of the supernatural nature of the event never experienced before. It kind of puts everything into perspective. Like the cub reporter, just out of journalism school who had landed a job with The New York Times. He asked a famous publisher for some advice. The publisher responded by telling him: “In promulgating your esoteric cogitations and articulating superficial sentimental and psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your extemporaneous decantations and unpremeditated expiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity without rodomontade and thrasonical bombasity. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pusillanimous vacuity, pestiferous profanity, and similar transgressions.” The confused reporter asked: “What does that mean?!” The publisher explained, “Do not use big words. Keep it simple.” In communicating with mankind God chose to “keep it simple”.
1. Notice the common circumstances! (v.12) What the shepherds found hardly matched the expectations aroused by the announcement found in verses 9-11! Yet, it is appropriate for God’s use. Jesus is born into very humble and poor circumstances. With no particular social status the couple who had journeyed all the way from Nazareth, found “no room for themselves in the inn.” The immediate birth has to take place, not in a palace, but among the beasts of the stall and common barnyard.
2. Go back, however, and notice the angelic acclaim! (vv.8-11) The circumstances show that the modest shepherds had little time to comprehend the announcement of angels that “today… a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” or the physical conditions attending his birth. No time to wonder. No time to ponder. Just time enough to run. These unassuming folk pay homage to mother and child, and went on their way rejoicing telling others of what they had experienced and saw for themselves. That is the paradox of Christmas, God being born into the world in total humility!
People today would rather pay respect to a “Christmas spirit” of good will and peace to all mankind, rather than pay homage to the wonder of God incarnate. They disdain the fact of a Savior born in a manger. They revere good cheer, expensive gifts, and the art of getting instead. We notice as we read the Bible that as John thought through these things, he understood…
II. The eternal Word of Christmas! (John 1:1-5)
EXAMPLE: John refers to the Lord Jesus as “the Word.” It is an expression that some have tried to explain away philosophically or even esoterically in secretive and mystical terms. But in reality, Jesus’ whole life was never secretive or mystical in any way. Jesus would flatly declare that He had done everything openly (John 18:20-21) and that His followers were to literally “yell” the message from the rooftops (Matthew 10:27)! In the 70’s it was popular for hippies to garishly paint up their VW vans with peace symbols, bright flowers or large slogans. Today we see it in the simplistic socialistic political slogans of the Occupy Movement. Some people today have tried to reduce Jesus’ coming into the world down to “catch” phrases or slogans. Like a Nike ad, they try and sell Jesus simplistically. While Jesus’ message is simple, Jesus is not simplistic. Christians are not about selling a product called “Christ.” Jesus is more than that, he is the eternal Word.
1. We discover the startling fact that Jesus was in the beginning with God! The term used here is the common Greek word “logos”, which meant “speaking, a message, or words” John used the term because it would be very familiar to his readers. Jesus, the “spoken Word” was with God at the very beginning of creation. Jesus’ fellowship with God means literally that He was “in company with” God. It is a statement of fact, concerning the trinity’s existence, and so important is this to John that he writes it down twice (vv.1 & 2)! More than that, we find that the “Word was God” not “a god,” and not simply just a “divine” being as some cults would have you believe. Jesus, the Word, is God in human flesh! Humbly born in a human body, to a human mother, but also divine; born of the Holy Spirit of God! Jesus is the eternal Word of Christmas!
2. We discover therefore that Jesus is God! According to John we learn that “through him all things were made… without him nothing was made that has been made!” Paul would declare, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For 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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)
3. We discover also that the eternal Word is the “light that shines in the darkness”! The Word is among us as a shinning light of holiness in a sin darkened world. The RSV renders this verse: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” Since there is no darkness in heaven the Son of God had to enter this sphere of darkness where he was and still is met with rejection and opposition! Christmas is about the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning, is God who created all things, and is the light that shines in a sin darkened world!
Which elicits more response in your heart: the humble birth of Jesus or the glorious statement of the outcome of His birth?
Those who reject Christ lose the opportunity for life, eternal life. On the other hand, those who receive Christ are given a new standing before God. Ironside, a great Christian theologian, teacher, and preacher once said: “There is always the danger of keeping Christmas and losing Christ.” One day in December of 1903, Katherine, received a telegram from her two brothers. It read simply: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” The Wright brothers had flown! Katherine hurriedly ran to the local newspaper and showed the telegram to the editor. He read it, tossed it aside, and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He had totally missed the big news that someone had flown for the first time in history!
We can make a similar mistake today when we hear the word “Christmas” and not place it in proper perspective. It is a paradox concerning the Word among us.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.