Abraham was walking with his child of promise, the child that he had in old age, the child from whom the Messiah would come. This was a terrible walk, because God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham, trusting that God would keep His promise with Isaac and would raise him back to life, obeyed the Lord. Isaac looked at what they were carrying up the mountain, there was the wood, and the fire, but Isaac asked, where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Abraham replied, “My Son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” God stopped Abraham in the nick of time. He spared Isaac, and there God provided a ram stuck in the thicket for the sacrifice. But there was so much more to it. The ram was only the type, the foreshadowing. Today, the Lord provides the Lamb. Like Isaac, this child is the seed of Abraham. But unlike Isaac, this offering that God provides is His only begotten Son. God provides the Lamb, and thus we celebrate the festival of His birth today! We sing the festival hymn: Hymn number 142, Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn. Please rise.
The Holy Gospel – John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
This Is How You Will Recognize Him
Dear loved ones of God for whom the Word became flesh,
It’s been over 20 years since I graduated high school. I have not returned for a class reunion. One of the things that make me nervous about attending is not knowing someone I should know. I may not remember the person who comes up to me acting like an old pal. Or they may have so changed in appearance that I don’t recognize them. These would make for some awkward moments.
John here is helping us avoid that awkward moment with the Son of God. And actually it would be more than an awkward moment, it would be a moment of judgment with everlasting consequences.
But John is explaining to us this tremendous mystery, a truth that is beyond what our minds can understand, but something that we need to know, so that we may today recognize and know this Son of God.
This Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is eternal and almighty God. He was in the beginning, not that He had His beginning at that time, but He already was there at the beginning. He who is YAHWEH, “I Am,” always is, and has no beginning, nor an end. But He is the Word through whom the Father brought about the beginning of all creation. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” And the book of Hebrews says “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” He is your Creator. Your existence and your breath, you owe to him. The eternally divine is the Son, and has been from eternity. And still is.
But you wouldn’t recognize Him now. Here’s the terrific mystery! He has flesh and blood. True God is also true man. He was born of a woman, a Virgin, having no human father. But isn’t this what the Scriptures said would happen? Look that little child in the face, and there you see your Creator, the eternal Word, the Son of God. He whose life depends on the nourishing care of His mother is the very same one who upholds the universe by His word of power. That’s not how you would expect to see God, but so it is by His grace.
But then what’s more, 33 years later, His countenance was an image we would not expect of God, even if He is also true man. But again, isn’t this what the Scriptures said would happen? Isaiah foretold it, saying, “His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” A bloody, suffering, dying face. That human face, the face of the eternal Son of God. Do you recognize Him?
But mankind doesn’t recognize Him in the first place, even before He became flesh. This was the problem of fallen man. The Israelites made God in the image of a calf with gold. Other nations had their gods they had created out of wood, stone, and gold. And the Israelites, even seeing God’s presence with them in the pillar of fire by day, and a pillar of cloud by day, and in the cloud of God’s glory that ascended and descended from the tabernacle. Yet they resisted Him, disobeyed Him, grumbled against Him, and believed that they knew better than Him. “The world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
But if they didn’t recognize Him then, they had an impossible time recognizing Him as God when He was Jesus of Nazareth, the lowly Son of a carpenter. Jesus spoke the truth about who He was. He said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” But they accused Him of blasphemy. His works bore witness to who He was, but they rejected Him more and more. John says later in his gospel, “The Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18). “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”
That’s our problem, too. We are sinners, and “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Our nature has been so corrupted by sin that we reject our Creator and rebel against Him. And our daily sins are the evidence of this. Even now we do not always think God’s ways are best, we think we know better. And we disobey. By nature, we are children of disobedience, and because we were children of disobedience, we were also children of the wrath of God.
We were subjected to the power of the devil, for Jesus Himself says, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (Jn 8:43-45). Such was the darkness of this fallen world, the darkness that was cast over each one of us that we not only didn’t recognize the Light, but rejected Him. The world crucified Him.
So John’s gospel account here teaches us to recognize the Word made flesh! The Son of God has a face, a body. He has become a creature, flesh and blood like you, a human soul like you. John tells us of the wondrous mystery, the mystery of which John the Baptist testified, the mystery that John had also witnessed with his own eyes, for he says, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
But in order to recognize the Son of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, to not be offended by His lowly birth and passion, to acknowledge Him as our Lord, who redeemed us by His all sufficient suffering and death, well that ability is not in us. We are not born with a nature to receive the Word made flesh. Our will in its uncoverted stated is not able to receive Him. But it is God’s good and gracious will that you know the Word made flesh, and it is He who has caused you to believe in Jesus and receive Him.
You recognize Him. You confess Him in the creeds, such as we did in the Nicene Creed. He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, and His is my Lord, who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy and precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death.
The eternal Son of God had a face of an infant, because He came to save the human race. He had a face that became bloody, full of sorrow, and dying, because it was through His blood, suffering, and death that He has atoned for all your sins, and won for you eternal salvation. And that once gory face, that very same face, shines in divine glory, because Christ is risen and ascended. And He didn’t shed His flesh once He atoned for our sins, but He remains man, and He is the Son of God with divine glory.
He is your exalted and loving brother in the flesh, and you are His redeemed, forgiven, and sanctified people. His face shines upon you and is gracious to you.
This is a tremendous mystery. The Word became flesh! And you know Him, and He knows you. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.