In our sermon series, “Simply Christmas” we’ve been trying to minimize the physical and emotional clutter of Christmas so that we can maximize the real meaning of Christmas.
Yesterday, Pastor Bill preached from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The sermon illustrated that God’s gift is given from love, that it was offered to the entire world, that it was personally costly, and that it was of life or death importance to you and me.
Here are a few more big picture reflections on the meaning of the birth of Jesus as expressed in John’s Gospel.
I. God is a creator and a giver!
Unlike Matthew and Luke, John’s Gospel makes reference to Jesus birth in an incredibly brief, and more poetic fashion:
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This is John’s beautiful way of referencing the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Jesus humbled himself, or descended, to “meet us where we’re at” so to speak.
But with the preceding verses, John manages to cover the entire scope of Scripture:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… [he references Genesis!]
…and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The first observation is that God, in Christ, is our Creator and gave us our literal, physical life! And then, God Himself, in Christ, actually came IN the flesh and “made His dwelling among us.”
II. God’s creation is in a fallen state of rebellion
The accounts in Matthew and Luke do not shy away from the ugly, evil, and horrific events that coincided with Jesus Christ’s birth, from Roman oppression, to the poverty of the parents, the absurdly humiliating and unhealthy conditions for the delivery of a baby, and to a megalomaniacal tyrant who murders an entire town’s population of boys 2 years old and younger in order to destroy the coming king…
John is again more brief and poetic, but no less sweeping:
John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
And in the verses immediately following yesterday’s sermon, John echoes the same statement, even making it more personal to the reader:
John 3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
It’s important to note that John 3:16-21 is John’s further explanation of the story that he had just told in verses 1-15 of Nicodemus’ peculiar interaction with Jesus. Nicodemus expressed a cautious, somewhat hesitant faith that Jesus is from God, but showed that he, even as a Pharisee (a religious teacher), was only thinking in fleshly, or material terms. Jesus challenged him by saying “You can’t see God’s kingdom unless you are born again! Born of the Spirit” Jesus also gently brought Nicodemus to the point of personal contact with the weight of His claims when He said “You are Israel’s teacher… and do you not understand these things?”
Nicodemus, like the rest of us described in John 1:10, 3:19-20, was used to thinking in terms of ascent, and could not grasp Jesus’ teaching of descent. We, by nature, want to claw our way up, to self-rule, self-justification. But Jesus teaches that we must bow ourselves down, and He leads the way in doing so!
So the second observation is that humanity as a whole, and we as individuals, are in a posture of opposition to God, our Creator!
III. God is Good, and He is still creating!
But there is good news! Considering those first two points as context, I think the main thrust of John 3:16 comes into sharper focus as it relates to Christmas.
Consider the entire passage together:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
What better gift than to know that God loves the world to the point of self-sacrifice, Jesus giving Himself? God wants to save the world, not to condemn it! John 1 tells us that “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” and that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” God has overcome our problem of rebellion!
The final observation, then, is this: God is good, he is still creating and still giving! He gave us our literal physical lives. Then, in spite of our rebellion, He also offers us NEW life. God Himself, through the birth of Christ, has taken the initiative in redeeming and restoring His creation.
At Christmas celebrations we joyfully receive gifts, tear off the wrappings in excitement, and thankfully embrace the givers of those gifts. Let us also accept God’s gift of salvation and eternal life and embrace the Savior by believing in Him, and coming to the light of repentance. What could bring more joy and excitement than that?