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Fellow Children of God,
The wonder of Christmas… You hear that phrase at Christmas time, but what does it mean? To some it’s nothing more than sitting back and watching children excitedly opening presents. But you don’t need Christmas for that. Something similar happens on their birthdays. To some it’s a spirit of giving and helping others. To some it’s working and praying for world peace. Again, you really don’t need Christmas for that. Those are things you can, and probably should be doing all year round. You won’t truly know or appreciate the wonder of Christmas until you have listened to what John says.
The wonder of Christmas isn’t that a poor couple had a cute little baby boy and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. The wonder of Christmas comes from thinking about who this baby is. John reminds us that he is no ordinary baby. He is God, the eternal God who existed before the beginning and always has existed. He is the creator of everything that exists. In fact, John says that not one single thing exists that was not created through him. He is the eternal Word made flesh. Isn’t that a wonder? The eternal creator of all that exists, chose to take on flesh and blood like us, to live on this sin-infected world like us, to make himself subject to the laws of nature, the laws of God and the laws of man. He was willing to live inside of Mary for 9 months and be born; to be a helpless baby who had to be nursed and changed, and undergo circumcision. It’s a wonder. It’s beyond our comprehension that anyone would be willing to give up the freedom and perfection of heaven for the restrictions and imperfections of life on this earth. But, by means of the Virgin Birth, that’s what Jesus, the Word, did. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
You would think that something so wonderful would be recognized and celebrated by all. But it wasn’t; it isn’t. He is the light of the world. Without him there would be no such thing as light since he created it. But, because of sin, the world loved darkness instead of light. The darkness of sin and Satan tried to snuff out the light by nailing Jesus to the cross. But the darkness did not overcome the light. Yes, He died on the cross, but after three days he rose in glory from the dead and he now shines in his full glory as the God/Man at the right had of the father.
The world did not recognize him, but surely his own, his blood relatives, the descendants of Abraham and David, those who knew to look for his coming, who claimed to believe the promises of God regarding the Messiah; surely, they received him. No, they led the charge of the powers of darkness that tried to snuff out the light.
It’s a wonder. How could this be? We know the answer. It’s because of the power of sin. It’s because of the total depravity of the sinful nature, both of the Jew and the gentile. We are all born in the dark. We don’t want to come into the light because our deeds are evil. We don’t want our sins exposed. The light hurts our eyes. It hurts to see ourselves as we really are, condemned, slaves of sin, unable to do anything to change who we are or where we deserve to end up. Our natural reaction is to try to snuff out the light, to reject Jesus and consider a virgin birth and God becoming man as no more than a fairy tale.
It’s a wonder that Jesus didn’t respond to his rejection, even by his own people, by sending out a flash of light brighter than the largest hydrogen bomb to put an end to all life on earth. But he is full of grace. He is full of love for the unlovable. He is full of love for those who reject him and want to snuff out the light. He is full of love for sinners like you and me. In love he not only endured the rejection of the world, but he used it. He took the rejection, the mocking, the crucifixion and used it as a way to pay for the sin of the world, to suffer the punishment we deserved for our sin and rejection of the light.
It’s a wonder that, although Jesus was flesh and blood like us, although there was nothing about his looks that made him stand out, nor anything about his place of birth or his home town that was glorious; yet John and others saw his glory. They saw the light of his glory as God shine through like the rays of the sun piercing the clouds for a moment, when they witnessed him healing sickness and disease, calming the storm, walking on the water, casting out demons, and raising the dead. They saw the light of his glory as God shine through as they heard him teach, for no one ever taught the way he did, with such humility and yet with such power and authority. They literally saw his glory as God shine as they stood with him on the mount of transfiguration. They witnessed what the voice of the Father had proclaimed from heaven at his Baptism and again at his Transfiguration, Jesus is the one and only, the only begotten Son of God. He is the only one capable of doing what was necessary to win salvation for mankind. They saw him risen from the dead. They watched as he ascended back to his rightful place in the glories of heaven.
The world did not recognize him. The darkness tried to snuff him out. His own did not receive him. Was his coming worthless? No. There were some who received him. There were some who were born again, who were not only born physically, but also spiritually. There were, and still are, some who are born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. They, we, are born of water and the Spirit. We are brought by the Holy Spirit to see the light, to believe that the name Jesus means savior; to believe that he is the light, that he is our tabernacle, that he is Immanuel, God with us. We have been brought by the Holy Spirit to call on the name of the Lord, and whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Through faith in Jesus we have been adopted into God’s family. We have been given the rights of sonship. We are children of God and heirs with Christ of eternal life.
That’s the greatest wonder of all, isn’t it? We, as imperfect, as full of sin as we are, have been given the right to be called children of God!
The wonder of Christmas. It’s not the gifts, the excitement of children, the spirit of giving, not even the beauty of the music of Christmas. The wonder of Christmas is that the creator of all who would have every right to come and destroy his rebellious creatures, chose instead to become one of us in order to save us. The wonder of Christmas is that, in Jesus, God shows his glory, not only as the almighty, holy and just God, but as the one who is full of grace and truth, who wants us to be his children forever.