"The Word became flesh."
Four words. Simple. Profound.
Take a moment. Think about it.
What Word is this? What Word became flesh? Is it the Word "Christmas?" "Present?" Is it: "Eggnog" or "Wiener Schnitzel?"
Or perhaps, (clear your throat for sounding super smart) "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis."
It's not that simple.
John 1:1 contains a clue: In the beginning was the Word...
When we see the word, "Word" there we are talking about more than just language. It can't be quantified by English, Spanish, Yiddish or French. Those words weren't. They languages didn't even exist. But THE WORD, it always was:
In the beginning was the Word....
Note that it was not the literal word "God," floating around universe. Again English wasn't invented. Nor was Hebrew, so their word for God -- Elohim is right out too.
Besides that, words don't float. They need to be spoken. Written. Typed. Tapped. Signed. Or even texted!
The Word wasn't simply 'a word.' It was The Word.
John 1:1 explains, "The Word was God." His essence. His being. Who he is. ...and the Word was with God. It was with God in the beginning.
You hear two main points in that explanation. The Word was God. The Word was also with God. He is God and he is beside God at the same time.
This is a mystery explainable only in the Triune God himself. A mystery beyond our comprehension. Indescribable and epic, this can only be understood by the divine. The Word is God, yet the Word is beside God. John continues to tells us that he is the "light of the world" and that John the Baptist preached about him.
It becomes clear. The Word is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus.
Did you realize we were reading the Christmas story?
The Word became flesh.
Immediately, a few contradictions need to be made. Note the following:
The Word -- which is God himself-- did not become a theory to be debated.
God is not just some theoretic idea that is debatable amongst the greatest minds of our times. God isn't spending some time at a Duke lecture listening to a Professor of Archaeology match his thoughts on God against a Professor of the liberal arts who nods appropriately with the Evolutionary Science director who gives a high five to the Jewish rabbi that presented along the Islamic Imam.
God is not a theory to be debated. He exists. He is real. He is one. He is not a collection of the best of religions. He is not sitting up in heaven thinking: "I really like the way the Buddhist thinks of me. Now if only he would add that idea from the Catholic with that idea from the Humanist, then, I'd be really cool."
God is not created by our theories. God exists apart from us. Without us. God is real. God is not a debatable entity.
Also note: The Word did not become a poem to be mused upon.
Too often this is how we view God. A pick me up. A good luck charm. A Facebook post with a cool waterfall background and an inspirational verse in Lucida Font up in front.
God is not some kind of fairy tale. He isn't there for good advice and a witty quip on a calendar. He isn't the product of human imagination. He isn't just a word we use for good will and cheer. He isn't the opiate for the Masses. Something invented by human beings to make us feel better about this sad, lonely, gloomy life.
God is real. The Word is absolute. Allow Him to prove it by looking at what the Word -- God himself-- did become:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
God himself. The embodiment of the spoken Word. Love. Life. Being. God became flesh.
Understand what that means. God chose to take on a frail human body. Brittle bones. Breakable skin. A respiratory system that could develop allergies. Lungs that slowly breathe until they can no longer inflate. A heart that beats until it runs out of energy. Blood that runs -- tries to clot -- fails.
This incredible truth is clearly seen throughout Jesus' life. He sleeps. He eats. He cries. He walks. He talks. I imagine he even had to clear his throat once or twice. All human things.
Yet, he healed the blind. He made the lame walk. He cured diseases without medicine. He walked on water. Stopped storms. Brought back to life.
And he did it all with....words.
That's God stuff.
The Word, God himself, became flesh--a human being.
Well, what words might you use to describe humans?
"Hateful. Vengeful. Lonely. Depressed. Guilty. Frail. Aging."
God is entirely different from that:
"Loving. Uplifting. Innocent. Unassailable. Ageless."
Why would God give up all his grandeur and glory in order to take on human flesh?
The answer is simple. He needed to.
God needed to be God because God alone is perfect. Therefore, God alone could and would live perfectly. A prerequisite for life on this earth and a necessity for everlasting life in heaven.
But God already had that. Therefore, this perfect life, wasn't for him.
It was for you.
But in order to accomplish this, God also needed to die. He needed to take on what you deserved. He needed to take on your finality. He needed to take what you, a human, deserve and make it his own.
But how could God eternal, immortal, apart from time, life itself, die?
The Word became flesh.
In order to take our place and save us from the wrath of God our sins deserved, He needed to be God to live a perfect life without sin, yet he needed to be human to die. God wanted to be that sacrifice. God wanted to be that substitute. It was (and is) the only way! So he became flesh and began inching ever closer to that final breath on the cross thirty three years later.
The Word became flesh to die. The Word became flesh to save us.
But He is no longer in death. The Word brought truth to his promise of eternal life for all who believe in him. It's a promise that glows with certainly in the aftermath of the Word's death. A promise that fills us with hope as we see the Word's real human flesh return to life again at the Word of the Word's divine nature.
And now? The Word has some new words to describe you:
Maybe, you'll change the words you'll use to describe Him.
From Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
1. How do you think Mary felt before the angel spoke to her. (Keep her recent engagement in mind).
2. What about the angel's message might have caused her to feel even more afraid?
3. At the end, Mary seemed to be at peace. Why?
4. How are you doing with trusting Jesus right now? What things do you trust him for? What things make you afraid?
5. What promises of the LORD can you remember to help you find peace in this busy season?
PRAYER: LORD forgive me for being too frantic during the Christmas season. Forgive me for all of the times that I get nervous about not having enough money for Christmas or worried about how seeing family again will go. Instead, help me to look forward to Christmas with confidence --knowing that your all powerful hand is with me. The same All Powerful hand that removed my sins on the cross. Give me Mary's courage today and always. Amen.
It's only seven days till Christmas. Prepare your heart by following this section and pondering the questions at the end.
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
QUESTION FOR PONDERING:
1. What kind of comfort does Jesus bring?
2. How does that comfort speak to you?
3. How do you need to 'make straight a path' in your own life for Jesus?
4. How has Jesus been like a shepherd to you?
PRAYER: Oh Lord, good Shepherd, thank you for your comfort. I don't deserve it. In fact, I oftentimes flee from your comforting rod. Forgive me. Forgive me for not preparing the way for you. Forgive me for seeking my own way. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, who came to bring us real comfort. He died on the cross for the full forgiveness of my sins.Thank you Jesus. Praise and glory be to you! Help me share this message of comfort this Christmas and always. Amen.
Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of over 240 Christmas tree fires per year.
Here are a few tips that so this doesn't happen to your home: Water the tree. Turn off the lights when you aren't enjoying them. Avoid the threat altogether and buy an artificial tree.
Following these warnings will help prevent your Christmas from going up in smoke, but today we're going to hear another fire warning. Today, John the Baptists gives another type of fire warning. Only the type of fire he was concerned about wasn't electrical. It wasn't a forest fire. It wasn't even radioactive.
The fire he was warning of was much worse...
Who should heed John's warning?
John was a popular preacher. Crowds came to him. He was such a strange phenomena that, unlike most church who try and try again to get people to join them for a Christmas service, John simply stood in the desert and preached.
I suppose the attraction was like that of a sideshow. He had scraggly hair. He ate bugs. He wore scratchy animal skin for clothing. Compare that to the gelled hair, fashionably ripped jeans, and laser lights of today's mega churches.
The point is that there were lots of people coming to see John. He told them all to repent. However, there was one specific group of people that he spent extra time warning:
The Pharisees and Sadducees. Respected teachers of the Law.
Look at what John the Baptist called them: “You brood of vipers!" Poisonous snakes. It's not exactly a pet name. Try calling your spouse that the next time you're on a date. When you're sleeping on the couch, don't say I didn't warn you.
But John wasn't being mean. He was trying to save them. They were sinful. They needed a Savior. But they didn't believe it one bit! They looked around at the prostitutes, drunkards, and cheating tax collectors that were gathered around John and thought: “We're glad he's doing this for them! They need it. But not us. We're fine."
I talked to someone this past week who told me that John the Baptist went over the top sometimes.
Really? Can you really go over the top in warning people of the dangers of hell?
Now you might be listening to this and saying, “Good for John. I'm glad he called out those Pharisees and Saducees. They sound like a bunch of jerks. Like my boss. He's a jerk. An atheist. He could use a good old fashioned John the Baptist tongue lashing. He's not an every other week, church going Christian like me. He didn't even mark his religious affiliation on Facebook. I'll be sure to forward this week's sermon to him. He needs it more than me."
If that's your attitude with your boss or anyone, if you think the Message of John the Baptist doesn't apply to you, then aren't you doing the same thing the Pharisees did? Aren't you, in essence, a Pharisee?
Here's the truth: John's message was a warning to the Pharisees. And to you.
Why are we in Danger?
A simple reason. John told the Pharisees, “8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance," because they weren't producing fruits of repentance.
God says the same thing about you. You need to produce fruits of repentance.
If you are thinking, “I know what bananas are. I know what apples are. I even know what starfruit is, but what in the world is a repentance fruit,” consider this:
Repentance means turning. A turning from sin to God. It's a 180.
Fruit of repentance refers to actions produced from repentance. Actions produced from turning to God.
Do you have fruits of repentance in your life? When you say, “I'm going to stop getting drunk.” Do you stop? Or do you find yourself grabbing a few too many beers at the football game right after church? And then, maybe, a shot because your team is getting too far behind?
Do you say, “I'm going to end the sinful sexual relationship.” (Homosexual or heterosexual) Then, church ends and you get nervous and you talk yourself back into staying in the sinful relationship.
Do you say, “I'm going to stop being so greedy.” Then, Monday comes and you spend an hour at work counting up how much money you might make with our Christmas bonus, all while grimacing at the email you just got about a potential Christmas gift you can contribute to.
Do you say, “I've got to top gossiping so much.” Then, hear a really juicy story that just needs to be reposting on Facebook?
Do you think: "I really need to get into God's Word more and fellowship with other Christians at church." Then, Sunday morning rolls around and you think, "I'll do that next week. This week, I'm too tired."
These are not fruits of repentance. These are rotten fruits of impenitence. If that's what you are producing, then you are in trouble.
Because God has a green thumb. He's read Better Homes and Gardens. He knows that if a tree isn't producing fruit, then it's no good. And if you aren't producing fruit, then the Divine gardener will no longer consider you worthy of taking up space in his patch of soil.
Listen to John again, “10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In other words, soon. Produce REAL fruit now!!! God already has his axe out. He's already marked a line right where He will cut. He's lined up his blade. He's taken a deep breath. All it will take is one mighty Divine blow and you will be cut down. Dragged away. Taken out back. And thrown into the fire. The eternal fire. Hell.
Just Like the fire alarm at a school, John's words are loud and jarring. Not to be mean, but to get these people's attention. To warn them of the fire that was approaching.
And just like the fire alarm at school, people are tempted to plug their ears and ignore it. “It's just a drill. There's no real danger. I'm fine.”
Brothers and sister, listen to these Words of the Advent Fire Drill! This is not a drill. Repent! Turn from sin to God. Because God knows how to stop the fire.
1. Use Water
Think about what John was doing. He says it himself. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance.”
Luke writes more about this practice of baptism. “John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you.” Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal.”
Think of firemen. They douse fires with water.
But that's literally. How can water douse the fire of God's wrath? Because of who it's linked to!
Think about baptism. We are "baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19) If we were baptized into our own name OR into the name of our great grandfather OR into the name of our favorite superhero, it wouldn't mean anything. No human being can prevent the wrath of God.
But God can. And that's exactly who Jesus was. It's exactly whom you were baptized into.
If you haven't been baptized into God's grace or had your child baptized, think seriously about what God's promise in baptism is. If you believe Jesus rose from the dead, why not believe his saving promise in baptism?
2. Fight Fire with Fire
Listen to John's words about this Jesus: "But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Jesus did just that. At Pentecost, he sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Suddenly, the small room they were in sounded like a hurricane. They started speaking in languages that they hadn't previously learned. They saw tongues of fire appear on their heads!
The power that Jesus showed at Pentecost is the same power that is in baptism. It is the same fiery power that saves us. Because we need to fight fire with fire. In other words, we need to turn to Jesus to save us from God's coming wrath because the only one who can prevent this fire from overtaking us is God himself. He does it, because God's love is more powerful than his wrath.
It was his love that caused God Almighty to become a little one celled infant in Mary's tummy. It was his love that caused God Almighty to humbly live amongst sinners. It was his love that caused God Almighty to die on the cross! It was his love that caused God Almighty to suffer the fiery wrath of God that we deserved!
It's kind of like a campfire. Once all the firewood is burned up, then there is no longer any danger of fire. The fire goes out.
Jesus suffered all of God's wrath for us. Now, through faith in Jesus Christ, we will not suffer God's wrath. It's already been burned up.
III. A Fireproof Barn
God doesn't stop there. Listen to what John reveals, “12 Jesus' winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John says that Jesus will come and take the wheat away. By wheat, he is referring to those who produce fruit. He is referring to believers!
And listen, dear believers, to what God promises you! He will take you to his barn. You will not be out back by the big bonfire of hell. You will be safe. Forever. In his fireproof barn, enjoying the cool air of our Lord's love.
So, repent! Turn from your sins. Stop doing them. Live for the Lord. He loves you so.
If you are nervous of what life might be like without a sin you've been in for quite some time, look at your Lord! His love is more powerful than his wrath. Won't his life provide for you in your life? Won't his love help you to live life apart from sin? Won't he provide for your better than whatever that sin was?
Because this is God's promise to you: Through baptism into his family the sins that would cause God's fire to come upon are removed. Our powerful Lord has used the fire of his love to consume the fire of his wrath. He promises to one day take you to heaven.
The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. --Romans 13:11-14
It is impossible not to know that Christmas is coming.
Christmas sales are going on in any store you enter. Christmas ads fill up the majority of commercials on TV. There are reminders to get your shopping done in newspapers, on the internet, in your emails, on your smart phones, even via text message! Stores pretty much do everything short of sending an employee into your house while you are sleeping to tap you on the forehead and whisper: "Christmas is coming soon!"
Christmas isn't the only day that's fast approaching.
We're in the season of Advent. Advent means we remember to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus. At Christmastime...to be sure, but also for his next arrival on earth--on the Last Day.
And while you probably won't receive any text message reminders and there probably won't be any full page ads in the News and Observer, Paul tells us this: the Day is coming!
I. Sooner Than You Think
Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 13:11 "The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."
If you are like most people, then you are already making decision about when to prepare for Christmas this year. When do I put up the lights? When do I put up the tree? When do I buy the gifts? When do I wrap the gifts? When do I make the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons? When do I eat the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons?
If you were wondering when you should start preparing for the day of our salvation, Paul tells us that we should already have been preparing! Look at his words: "The hour has already come!" You should have been preparing for Jesus' return, years ago!
You might say, "Why? Isn't he coming back in a couple thousand years?"
Because of one simple truth that we learn from Matthew 24: No one knows the day or the hour. It could be any time.
The only thing we know is that it is nearer now than it was last Advent. In fact, it's nearer now than it was when I started this sentence. It's always getting closer. Because unlike Christmas, which, in 25 more days will be 364 days away, the number of days to the day of Jesus' second coming are always getting shorter!
But Jesus' return is not meant to be frightening. Look at what Paul says in verse 12, "Night is nearly over; the day is almost here."
This is a great metaphor! Because night time is generally scarier than daytime. At night you hear noises. You can't see. Shadows deceive you into thinking the Grinch is around the corner ready to steal Christmas! If you have ever been a little kid pulling the covers over your eyes, then you know what a relief it is when the light of the sun finally peeks into your room. "It's daytime. The scary stuff is gone."
When the day of Jesus' second arrival comes, the scary stuff will really be gone.
No more evil. No more sin. No more danger. No more catastrophe, sickness, hatred, or sadness.
No more guilt. Only heaven.
For we will be in the light of the day! We will be with the Light of the World. We will be with God himself enjoying the sun-like rays of from the face of the Son. Soaking in the fresh air of heaven. Relaxing in the cool breeze of the Spirit's gentle movement.
II. Get Ready Now!
It's amazing how often society reminds us that Christmas is coming. But it's even more amazing how many people, come December 24th, will be scrambling to the local Radio Shack to pick up their wives a curling iron that also plays the radio. "Because that's what she wants, right!?!"
Don't make that mistake with the day of your salvation. Get ready now!
If you are wondering, how to prepare for that...look at the next verses from Romans: "Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light... Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."
This principle makes sense. Because if you are planning on going Christmas shopping anytime soon, there is one thing you NEED to do. (Unless maybe you go shopping online, but still...bear with me.) You NEED to put on clothes. Take off your footie jammies and put clothes on first!
If you don't, just wait till you see the looks you get at Crabtree Mall!
The same is true in preparing for Jesus' second coming. We take off our old clothes. Get rid of our deeds of darkness. Get rid of a inner psyche that says, "I don't need Jesus. I don't believe in him. I think it's a sham."
That's not ready. Not at all.
Instead, clothe yourself with Jesus. And that doesn't mean go get a WWJD shirt and wear it around town! It means to contemplate what he has done. Meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. Take in the precious truths of the Gospel --Jesus became a human at Christmas only so that he could die a human 33 years later and, in turn, save you from your sins and give eternal life to you through faith in Him!
What happens when you do that? A miracle.
The Holy Spirit works through his Word to clothe us with Jesus Christ. His life. His works. His sinless day to day activities. His God pleasing accomplishments.
This is faith. We might not think of it as clothing, but it is. Holy Spirit produced faith places Jesus' cloak of righteousness on our souls. It means you are forgiven. Forgiven for not preparing. Forgiven for not caring to prepare. Forgiven through faith in Jesus.
Forgiveness as clothing? Through faith in Jesus that's exactly what it is. It's even better than Calvin Klein.
Then, once you have been clothed with Jesus, don't go back to bed! That's like putting on your fresh TJ Maxx clothes for work and then getting back into bed.
Act like it's daytime!
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone acted like daytime was nighttime? How would your coworkers feel if you brushed your teeth in the water fountain at work? How many men would you meet at the nightclub other than Bob the Janitor? Would your boss would be so keen about wearing your footie pajamas at the investment meeting. How would the other drivers on Six Forks feel if you were sleeping while you were driving? Although, I'm pretty sure that fireflies would be just fine with you trying to catch them in the hot sun.
It doesn't make sense to do nighttime things during the day. Paul tells us that it's the same spiritually. Since it is almost day, we need to act like it's day! We must stop living in darkness. He says, 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
In other words, stop it! Take off the coat of drunkenness. Get rid of that old, sinful relationship. Throw out the sailor language. Cast aside fears and doubts! Put on the love of Jesus. Live for Jesus. Now is the time!!!
It starts in the heart. Read with me verse 14 again, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." In other words, stop worrying so much about earthly things!
"But, pastor," you might say, "that's hard to do during Christmas. If I stop worrying about earthly things, then, I'm going to miss an awesome deal on a pair of diamond earrings."
Yes, you might. But if you don't worry about spiritual things, you may miss out on the diamond studded streets of heaven. I'd rather pay three dollars more for a pair of Doc Martins and be in heaven, then save a bit and endanger my faith!
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get kids to go to bed the closer it gets to Christmas? They get so excited, they can't sleep! And the night before Christmas? They just want to stay up all night, watch the presents arrive, hand off a few cookies and rip off the wrapping paper before you can even put a scoop or Folgers into the coffee maker!
Wouldn't it be amazing if that was how we prepared for Christ's second coming? If we with tepid excitement, we came to church to prepare our faith. If we happily sat our kids down, to prepare their hearts for Jesus. If we asked for another handful of five more invitations to our Christmas service, because it's so exciting to prepare for Jesus' return!
Brothers and sisters, get ready. Prepare now. Get ready for Christmas. Get ready for Christ. Get ready for your salvation! Amen.