While the stories of Jesus’ birth provide the narratives and symbolism for the religious observance of Christmas, Christians who attend churches that follow a formal lectionary, at least, hear John 1:1-18 on Christmas day. After all, we do not worship a baby. We do worship a man, but not just any man. We worship the man who from the beginning is also God. Here is what we learn from the appointed reading from John’s gospel:
- The divine Word, referred to subsequently as “he” and not “it,” existed in the beginning. The divine Word, a person, was somehow both with God and God himself.
- Everything was created through the divine Word. Nothing that has ever been created was created without him. Therefore, contrary to the Arian teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Word cannot himself be a created being. Otherwise John would have to have said nothing else that was ever created was created without him.
- The life of the divine Word provides light to the human race, light that no darkness (including blindness, willful ignorance, oppression, or any other kind) can either understand or extinguish.
- God sent John the Baptist to bear witness to that Light, which is the same person as the divine Word.
- That Light belongs to the whole world, but the world (not the planet, of course, but the political systems of the people who inhabit it) did not know or recognize him.
- The Light came to people he created and therefore legally owns, but most of them did not recognize him or his authority.
- Some did recognize him, and he gave them the right to become God’s children by adoption–an amazing claim!
- The Word, and therefore by implication the Light, became human flesh and dwelt in a real human community. Although John has not to this point mentioned his name, he wrote his gospel to reveal the man Jesus as the Word and Light made flesh.
- John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus and the coming of his grace.
- John the Baptist also preached repentance. We cannot receive the fullness of Jesus’ grace until we first receive John’s message of repentance. Repentance follows judgment, and grace follows repentance. Without repentance, we are still under judgment.
- No one has seen God at any time. What about all the theophanies in the Bible? Moses and Isaiah caught a glimpse of his backside. In others, God revealed even less of himself.
- This incarnate Word and Light of God, whom John finally calls the only begotten God, has declared God.
In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. If we could see God at all, Jesus is what he would look like. I don’t mean his height or weight, his skin color, or his hair style. I mean his character and behavior. The relation of father and son is very close. No one more nearly resembles a man than his son, and so no one more nearly resembles God the Father than His Son, Jesus. The invitation to become God’s children by adoption remains open to anyone willing to put faith in Jesus.