Few words in Scripture have gripped the human mind with the power of the opening lines of our text: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The language is simple, yet the thoughts are so vast that the words seem to have a magical power. The Western Church used it for centuries as a blessing for the sick and for the newly baptized children. It was even placed in amulets and hung around the next to protect one from sickness. It’s seductive, though, to be so entranced by the mysterious repetition and simplicity of these words, that we forget their importance.
John’s Gospel is not the first place where we hear these famous words, “In the beginning….” The very first words of Scripture begin the same way: “In the beginning….” We find God in the beginning: uncreated, infinite, and eternal. He always has been and He always will be. He is without beginning and without end. Prior to creation, when there was nothing besides God, there was God’s Word. It is this Word that we gather around this morning, the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” This Word is Jesus, the Babe in the manger.
Prior to our Lord’s incarnation, prior to His coming on Christmas Day, the Word was with God. St. John says that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He was the agent by whom God spoke the entire creation into being. Light and life have their beginning and source in Him. It was this Word that created life, that created you.
Now let us fast forward to today. Things are far different than what they were at creation. Creation was deemed “very good” but would we call creation “very good” today? What is “very good” about it? There is nothing that is still “very good” according to God’s declaration. Look at this world that we live in. It is a world of darkness, a world that is spiritually ignorant and blind to God and His Word. It cannot recognize God for who He is, though His imprint is still evident of creation. With a single word, “darkness,” John describes creation’s fall, sin, death, and hell. The word “darkness” captures the confusion and misunderstanding and futility around us and even in us.
If the creation were to be redeemed, saved, rescued from this darkness of sin and death, then God would have to make Himself known, point Himself out, reveal Himself to us. But how would God do this? God would come to the place where we are, descend to earth, enter His creation so that we lost and condemned creatures might know Him and have communion with Him, the way we were meant to exist.
This is the true and wonderful meaning of Christmas. It is God coming to us and He has in the form of a Babe whose birth we celebrate today. God shows up in a place where we don’t expect to find Him: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God the Word, who was there in the beginning and participated in the creation of all things, took on a human nature like yours. God became man. What was eternal now became finite in the person of Jesus. The Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, true God and true man in one person.
The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world, the light that shines in our darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.
Think about it. When Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds looked into the manger, they were looking at God. When anyone saw they face of Jesus, they saw the face of God. The little child who lay in the manger is the same one who created Adam out of the dust of the ground. The one whom Mary wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger is the one who was before Abraham – more than that, He was before Adam. He is the uncreated one who is before time itself was created.
Think about it. The little one in the manger is the one who would one day hang from a tree that He created. The little one wrapped in swaddling cloths is the one who would one day be wrapped in burial cloths and laid in a tomb carved from the rock He created. Because He is the creator of all things, the life, suffering, and death of this little one will be more than enough to pay for your sins. The little one in the manger is the one who would one day burst forth from the tomb to proclaim His salvation for all people.
For God the Word who was in the beginning is now and forever incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. That makes Christmas a blessed surprise: the uncreated, eternal, and infinite God comes right here among us as our light and our life.
Today we rejoice, for the Savior, which is Christ the Lord, is born. He is the Savior, which is Christ the Lord every day of the year and not just on Christmas Day. He was born for our sin and takes away our sin ever day of the year. Because you and I were born in sin, He is born to save us from sin. Because you and I are made of mortal flesh and blood, He becomes flesh and blood to raise us up to immortality. Because you and I face death, He is born to die and rise again to give us new life. He is our Savior, Christ the Lord, and He is born for you and has forgiven us all of our sins. Let this be our focus at Christmas: the Word made flesh in the form of an infant, so that one day, He may die for our sins and open the gates of heaven for us sinners. Let us rejoice in the Gift of all gifts which has been given to us, Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.