Christmas has become overwhelming. It is at times materialistic, kitschy, syrupy, and silly. It can be quite distracting. Even when that isn’t all bad—traditions can be beautiful and fun—we have to take time to refocus and get back to the basic truth.
The Christmas story at its core is the Gospel. John, unlike Matthew and Luke, doesn’t begin with the birth, but with a summary statement of the Gospel truth. He starts before time in eternity past.
When we see the cradle, we need to see the cross. So sometimes a different perspective is helpful:
I. The Christmas story is the foundational story of history. (John 1:1-5)
John begins with the self-evident, philosophical truth that God is, with a paradoxical twist:
A. Gravity and God
To claim that faith is the solace of the weak willed is akin to saying that not jumping off a cliff and flying shows weakness in the face of gravity. Like gravity, God is simply a reality. We can reject Him, but we do so to our folly.
Most people in the history of the world have believed in some form of God. Here John touches on two basic reasons, one “natural,” one “spiritual”:
Life is the realm of God. However smart we become and however technology advances, we can never create life from non-life.
Moreover, nature can’t either. Spontaneous generation as a source of life has been disproven for centuries. Even those who hold to a gradual evolution as the source of the variety of life-forms on the planet hold to a singular event of life emerging. It only happened once, and if you pay attention, they never talk about it. It is the mythical origin-story of their faith.
The Word—God—is the only true source of all life.
Illumination. Physically, light is a paradoxical reality. How does it exist in two states at once? However, metaphorically, light is clear. Light exposes, makes visible, plain. And where the Word is spoken of as the light of men, it always overcomes our feeble attempts to drown it out with darkness. Darkness is nothing. The Word makes our intentions and our deeds clear to be seen. He also shines light on the right way.
But John doesn’t stop here with the theoretical, philosophical idea of God:
II. The Christmas story is shocking because God broke into our mess. (John 1:9,10,14)
A. God is involved
In the Christmas story—in the Gospel—we see that God—the Word—didn’t just create the universe and leave it to run. He sustains life. He also illuminates the world. And He broke into creation with His presence.
B. The “World” in John
It is important to understand what John means by “the world.” It is not merely creation; the “everything” contained in verse two. The world is the realm of rebellious humanity; creation set in opposition to the creator. It is not hell, because God is still present and active in creation, but we are racing as fast as we can towards a hell without God.
BUT. Not only did the Word invade the world in some metaphysical, abstract way that intellectuals could accept. He became flesh! This is the importance of Christmas. Some await a god to break into the world, to set things right, but God did the unexpected. He came as a baby boy, born to a poor, outcast, displaced, virgin girl, overlooked by most, celebrated by angels and the wise.
It is still possible for most people in the world that a metaphysical, spiritual, philosophical truth exists. That a god exists. But it is offensive to most that God became flesh. That God the Word became Jesus Christ is too real, too narrow, too precise. It leaves no room to negotiate things on our own terms.
For many spiritual people, the body is a problem. It is shameful or bad or the “lesser” aspect of life. We want to rise above our flesh, we want to be like gods. At Christmas, God tells us two things about our existence: Our flesh is not the problem. God made us physical beings and He made all things good. Our bodies are not some lower state to being. Our problem is our rebellion, our sin. And we can’t fix that problem for ourselves. We need another. God had to break into the world to defeat our rebellion and the death it brings.
III. The Christmas story says we can escape the fall. (John 1:11-13)
A. Gravity and the Fall
Back to that gravity illustration. The truth is that we have all already jumped off the cliff and tried to fly on our own. As we fall we sense that something is wrong, even as falling is all we have ever known. In Christmas—in the Gospel story—God steps in and gives us a one-time offer:
B. The Choice
Those who sense that their fall is a problem, and those who are willing to trust another with their problem, can be saved from the fall. We are offered a safety net and a return to the life God intends for us. This choice is not forced on anyone, but “to as many as receive” the choice is there. We can stop falling in our own helplessness and be carried by God.
C. The Challenge of Rebellion
This is still a challenge even for the majority of humanity that believes in the reality of a god. Jesus came to His own,” the religious, the devout, of His day. Even they rejected Him. We tend to want a way out of our fall that depends upon us and our efforts, something we can do. We resent dependence. That is the essence of our rebellion, and it is the very thing that keeps us from a rescue.
But those who surrender, give up their rebellion and turn in helplessness to God and His grace and mercy, they are saved and made children of God.
IV. The Christmas story continues to grow with every life it touches. (John 1:15, 6-8)
That is the Christmas story—the Gospel. God broke into the world and lived a picture of true humanity. Everyone who surrenders and trusts in Jesus Christ—the Word of God become man, crucified for the sins of the world—is saved from sin, the fall, and death and becomes a child of God, living for Him.
The Christmas story carries on in our lives. The Gospel continues to expand and grow in ever newly written chapters. John testified of Jesus, and as Jesus’ followers that is also our task. Tell His story. Tell your chapter. God wants the Gospel to grow. New chapters are written when people hear our story, trust Jesus, and add their own encounter to the contents page.