A few days ago we were in this Sanctuary on Christmas Eve, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. There are four Gospels in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Only Matthew and Luke tell about the birth of Christ. Mark begins with Jesus as an adult and is not interested in the birth narratives.
John, on the other hand, is not interested in the birth of Christ, but goes to the very beginning of time itself.
Using words reminiscent of the Old Testament Book of Genesis, John begins his Gospel with the words, “In the beginning…”
John starts not with the birth of Christ, but with the nature of Christ. Before telling us about the ministry of Christ, he wants his reader to understand who this Jesus is.
In these opening lines John tells us four things about Jesus Christ.
First, Jesus is the WORD.
John’s Gospel begins with a poetic description of Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Those are beautiful phrases – but what do they mean? Jesus the word?
This one phrase is enough to spend a lifetime discerning, but in a nutshell it means that the silence of heaven is broken.
To say that Jesus is the Word of God is to affirm not only that God exists but also that God has spoken, that God has communicated with us, that God has told us what we need to hear, and that Jesus Christ is what God has to say to us.
This is one of the things that makes Christianity a difficult challenge.
When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor,” that is God’s word to us, and that leaves us struggling with the challenge of how to live that out in our lives in which our neighbor is a flesh and blood person who is not that easy to love.
When Jesus says, “Pray for your enemy,” that is God’s word to us, and that leaves us agonizing on how to pray for people who do evil things.
When Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled… in my father’s house there are many rooms,” this is God speaking to us to comfort us about life and death.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. And words are powerful things.
“What’s the good word,” is something we often ask and hear.
With a word, I can make you laugh, or cry.
I can draw you closer with words of love and grace.
And I can push you away with harsh critical words.
I can discourage you with things like, “What a stupid thing to do,” and “you’ll never amount to anything,” “loser” “quit now and avoid frustration.”
Or I can encourage you. “Yes you can, I’ll help you. I will never quit on you. You can count on me to be in your corner.” “I WILL love you NO MATTER WHAT!”
If I can speak properly, I can stir up almost any emotion –
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
And what are the words that the Word of God verbalizes?
Back on Christmas Eve, it was easy to believe these words of love and grace.
But Jesus gives these words for the whole year, and for all of the years of our lives.
The second thing that The Gospel of John tells us about Jesus is that Jesus is God
One of the most important messages of John’s Gospel comes at the beginning. He is poetically talking about Jesus as The Word. “In the beginning was the Word – Christ. And the Word, or Christ, was with God. And the Word, or Christ, was God.”
The rest of the world would say, Jesus was a good man.
Which he was.
The rest of the world would say, Jesus was a good teacher.
Which he was.
The rest of the world would say, Jesus a real person who certainly in fact lived.
Which he did.
However, the rest of the world would feel more comfortable leaving out a statement that said that Jesus was the Son of God and was himself, God.
John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus was – and is – God.
That is a difficult thing to comprehend. In fact, for Muslims this is heresy. They say there is only ONE God. They look at us and say we have THREE Gods – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But no – we say the same thing – there IS only ONE God. But we understand that God exists in a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ONE God, three persons, blessed trinity.
In the same way that water can exist as a liquid, or a solid block of ice, or as a gas as in a steam – God exists in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And yet to talk about the Trinity as being like water is to over simplify the Trinity.
In fact, any teaching tool will oversimplify the reality of God.
The bottom line is that at this point John is telling us that Jesus is not just a teacher, he is THE teacher. He is not just a godly person, he IS God.
Whatever words Jesus speaks are the very words of God.
The third point that John makes is that Jesus is unchanging
Nothing brings home how much our world is changing than Christmas, and nothing produces a greater nostalgic longing for the world to STOP changing than Christmas.
At Christmas, we see changes all around us.
Children are growing up.
We may be reminded once again that someone we loved has died and is no longer with us to celebrate the holiday.
We remember the way things used to be when we were children and we miss the past.
We may feel overwhelmed by the changes.
And we may long for the world to stop changing.
I don’t think we are opposed to changes in our lives. We need change. We’d be very bored otherwise.
But we need something, or someone, who is consistent in our lives. Who never changes. And Christ is that unchanging consistency.
The Gospel of John says, “He (meaning Christ) was with God in the beginning.”
The Book of Hebrews tell us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (13:8)
The world may change. Christ does not.
I like change. I look forward to change. But as much as I like change, I, like everyone else, need an anchor in my life that I can depend on that will never change – and that unchanging anchor is Christ.
Finally, John tells us that Jesus is the Light of the World
John goes into great detail here, explaining how John the Baptist came to announce the arrival of the light of the world, and how John the Baptist was not the light, but was announcing that the light would soon arrive.
Jesus is the light of the world.
And light is a comforting thing.
All parents know that the best defense against the monster who lives in a child’s closet or under a child’s bed, is light.
Turn the light on!
Darkness is a frightening thing.
Light is a comforting thing.
For many children, darkness at bedtime is scary. The comfortable teddy bear of the day light becomes at night a shadow of a monster!
As adults, we put up all sorts of lights in our yard so that at night the burglars will not break into our homes!
Darkness – it is a frightening thing, and nothing dispels the fear like the light.
To live in spiritual darkness is to live in loneliness and despair and fear – and nothing dispels that spiritual darkness better than Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Through Jesus, we have a relationship with God
Now, John is making several points here, but he is moving all of them into one single, important point.
All of these points converge into one most important point – Jesus is someone through whom we can have a relationship with God.
Jesus is not just the Word – he is God’s word for YOU.
Jesus is not simply God – he is your connection with God.
Jesus is not just unchanging – he is your stability in your ever changing life.
Jesus is not just a light – he is your guiding, comforting light in a life that is often dark.