From HAVEN NEWS Christmas 2017
Why does the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years after the event? The Bible tells us who Jesus was and all the wonderful things Jesus did and the difference Jesus can make to each one of us. From the start of his Gospel, the apostle John wants us to know who the central character really is. He introduces an individual who he calls “The Word”. John explains that this person was with God, face to face with God and indeed was God. The Word was involved in the creation of the universe. And then John unwraps the significance of Christmas for us in one simple verse.
The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. (John chapter 1 verse 14 in the Good News Bible)
Christmas is the story of how this amazing person, “The Word”, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was born as a baby laid in the manger at Bethlehem.
“The Word became flesh,” John 1:14 says in the New International Version translation. The Word became a human being – a perfectly normal and ordinary person just like you and me. Jesus was not like the mythical Greek gods who sometimes took the form of humans. Nor was Jesus like the fictional superhero Superman who just pretends to be mild mannered reporter Clark Kent but underneath is the man of steel Superman all the time. Jesus became a real human being, flesh and blood just the same as any one of us. Throughout his Gospel John will emphasise the humanity of Jesus. Jesus became hungry and thirsty and tired and upset and distressed exactly like we all do. He was an ordinary human being.
The apostle John left his nets to follow Jesus for three years. He was part of Jesus’s inner circle. John knew Jesus better than probably anybody else. So John knew that Jesus was completely human. The Son of God became the human being called Jesus of Nazareth and made his home among us. The Message Translation puts it this way. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
Then John continues, “We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.”
We saw his glory. Again, when John says “we”, this is not some general vague anonymous group of people. It does not mean “some people in the church.” When John says “we” he is making clear that he himself had met Jesus, and witnessed all the events he is recording in his Gospel. John made this absolutely clear in a letter he wrote which begins like this.
“We write to you about the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning. We have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it, and our hands have touched it. When this life became visible, we saw it; so we speak of it and tell you about the eternal life which was with the Father and was made known to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you also.” (1 John 1:1-3)
John was there. He met Jesus, and followed Jesus. John shook hands with Jesus. He ate and drank with Jesus. John saw for himself the glory of Jesus. It is likely that John is especially remembering here the day when they climbed to the top of a mountain and Jesus was transfigured before them, and Peter, James and John indeed saw the glory of God shining from the face of Jesus. We have seen his glory, says John who was there. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. And John goes on to explain why it was that the Son of God became a human being.
The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him. Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. (John 1:10-12)
Jesus was born and lived and died so that we could become God’s children. The amazing truth is that ordinary people like you and me can become children of God – a daughter or a son of the Almighty Creator God. This is a spiritual birth. New life through Jesus isn’t about growing up in a Christian family or in a Christian country. It isn’t something we inherit from our human parents. Becoming a child of God is new spiritual life which comes directly and exclusively from God Himself – a personal relationship with God as our Father. John explains how his readers can come to enjoy these wonderful blessings for ourselves.
Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as the children of a human father; God himself was their Father. (John 1:12-13)
The sad truth is that the wonderful blessings of a relationship with God do not just come automatically to every human being. We each need to make our own response to Jesus, the Word made flesh. Although all things were made by Him and for Him, when He was born and lived a human life most of the world did not recognise Jesus as the Son of God. The world is in darkness and most people prefer to stay in the darkness rather than come to the Light. Most of the world today still do not recognise Jesus as the one who created them. They do not welcome him – so they do not receive the blessings Jesus came to bring.
But here is the good news! Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. Whoever receives Him – everybody who recognises that Jesus is indeed the Word of God, God the Son. The Message translation puts it this way. “Whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said,” We find this word “believe” almost 100 times in John’s Gospel. Most often the context is “believing in Jesus”, which simply means putting our trust in Jesus.
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God’s free gift of eternal life is given to those people who believe in Jesus – who put their trust in Him to be their Saviour. Whoever believes in Jesus, whoever puts their trust in Him, receives this new relationship with God. That’s all it takes. It’s not complicated. Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children.
That is the reason why the Word became flesh and made his home among us. That is why the birth of Christ is the most important birth in human history. That is what we are celebrating at Christmas.
He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor and meek and lowly Lived on earth our Saviour holy.