Do you ever feel alone? Christmas is just around the corner, and for many people that means family, fun, and a few days spent in the company of the people we love. Except that, for some of us, Christmas time represents none of these things. For some, it will be a time of loneliness, trauma and great anguish. Many of us will spend this Christmas grieving for the people we’ve said goodbye to since last year. The parents we’ve lost. The friends. The children. Others may be reminded of insurmountable fractures in their familial relationships – the people we no longer speak to, the parties we can no longer in good conscience attend.
How can we experience the true light of Christmas this year? A light that overcomes our broken hearts and broken relationships? The apostle John tells us that Jesus came to light up our lives, so that we might know and be made right with God the Father. Jesus offers to be the Light of your life!
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! Good to see all of you here in person and it’s good to be seen! For those of you that are watching online, we’re continuing our series entitled, “Christmas Lights” One of the ways you know it’s Christmas is by all the glorious lights that we see this time of the year. And so, we’ve entitled this message, “A Glorious Light,” not because of the lights on your tree but because Jesus is the glorious light of God.
John wrote in his gospel that he had witnessed this glorious light of God. He called Jesus the “light of men” and “the true light, which gives light to everyone.” Have you ever said something like that to someone else? Have you ever said, You know, he’s the light of my life. She’s the light of my life. When we say something like that, we usually mean that we love them or that they bring joy to our life. If you’re a grandparent, you might say that about your granddaughter or you might say that about your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. She’s the light of my life.
Back in the year, 1977, some of you weren’t even alive yet, but I still remember this song. It was a number one hit. It had the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten straight weeks. It was entitled, “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. Whitney Houston covered the same song and brought it back in 2002. Once again, it was a top hit. The chorus went like this: (Chorus) “And you light up my life, you give me hope to carry on. You light up my days and you fill my nights with song.” Beautiful lyrics. The second verse I particularly wanted to read to you. She sang this, (Verse) Rolling at sea adrift on the water. Could it be I’m returning home for you. Finally a chance to say Hey, I love you. Never again to be alone. Never again to be alone because you light up my life.” That’s how the song went.
You know this is a season where I would just ask you, Are you lonely? Do you feel alone at a time like this? Christmas is just around the corner, and for many people this means family. It means fun. It means a few days spent in the company of people we love and care about, except that, for some of us, it’s none of these things. For some of us, it’s a time of loneliness, a time of trauma, a time of great anguish. Many of us will spend this Christmas grieving for someone we said goodbye to earlier this year. Maybe we lost a parent. We lost a grandparent or maybe even a child. This is a year when there’s an empty seat at the table. Others may be reminded of insurmountable fractures in their family or friend relationships. We no longer speak. To the parties that we won’t attend this year because, well, we’re not invited.
How can we experience the light of Christmas in a year like this? With all of this? On top of that, 2020 is a year that will forever have an asterisk next to it. What an unusual year this has been. How do we experience the light of Christmas? A light that overcomes broken hearts and broken relationships.
We believe that Jesus is that glorious light. He’s the one that overcomes our loneliness and our brokenness. He heals our broken hearts. He’s the one that we can say, “You light up my life.”
In the book of John, chapter one, we’ll be looking at the first 18 verses. John wrote that Jesus is the glorious light that reveals God to us. As we look at the text, I believe that we can see this glorious light and we can believe in Him and receive the three gifts that we’ll see in the text that he offers. So let’s read and then we’ll unpack this together, starting at verse one in chapter one of the Gospel of John. John 1:1-18 (ESV) 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” This is God’s word. Amen.
Three gifts from Jesus, God’s Glorious Light: 1. The gift of His incarnation.
Here’s the first gift; it’s the gift of His incarnation. What does that word mean? It comes from a Latin word. The first part, the prefix is in Latin, that actually means “in.” And then the “carn” part; if you are a meat eater or you’re a carnivore, it means “flesh.” Incarnation means just that; that God came in the flesh, in the person of Jesus. He came in the flesh.
We’re going to be focusing on verse 14 because Verse 14 is our Christmas verse. It’s the verse that talks about how the Son of God became a man. He came and was born a man. He became flesh. We’re gonna unpack that throughout the text today, throughout the message today.
I would first like to talk to you about “who” is this word? Well, as I’ve said, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we know this? If you look at the first three verses it begins to describe, in cosmic terms, who he is. He’s the pre existent one. In other words, there never was a time when Christ was not. “In the beginning,” we haven’t seen those three words at the beginning of a book until we look back at Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” John is harkening back ; he’s using these same three words. Christ was in the beginning; He was present, He was with God and He was God.He’s speaking here of the mystery of the Trinity.
And then in verse two, it says He’s a person. This “word” is not just any word. This “word” is a person. He was in the beginning with God, and then it says all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made. So he was an agent in creation. In Him was life. And this life was the light of men.
And then, we get down to verse 14, “and the word became flesh.” This is Christ, who has always been. He took on human flesh. He became flesh. He was with God, He is God and now, He has become one of us. This is the miracle of Christmas, is that Christ became one of us. He became flesh; He took on human form. It’s important that He did so.
Someone has asked me in the past, “Did Baby Jesus cry?” Certainly He did. He became frail as we now when He took on human flesh. He did not take on the sin nature of humanity but he did take on the frailty of humanity. When he was hungry, He cried. When he needed His diaper changed, He cried and He needed his mother. Can you imagine the God of the universe, who created all things, and created even Mary, who nursed Him at her breast? The God of the universe became one of us. Did He cry? Yes, he cried.
What’s the shortest verse in the Bible? “Jesus wept.” Certainly He took on all. He was hungry, He was thirsty, He got tired, He took on all of human frailty, yet, He continued to be God. It was important that He did this because He needed to take on the form of man in order to take on the wages of our sin, which is death. It was important, as John bears witness, John the Baptist bears witness, when Jesus was coming to be baptized. (We baptized some people at the first service; we’ll show you the video towards the end of this service so you don’t miss out. ) When Jesus came to be baptized by John in the river Jordan, John the Baptist saw Him approaching, and John the Baptist said this, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” See, it was important that He became human. It was necessary for Him to be fully human, yet fully God, in order to save us. Dr. Michael F. Bird writes, “The conviction of the early church fathers was that what is not assumed cannot be redeemed. If God’s Son did not fully assume human form then He could not have fully saved us.” He became a man; He became one of us so that we could be like Him and be saved and know the Lord.
In verse fourteen, it says that He dwelt among us; this is interesting language. In the Greek, it literally says he “tabernacled” among us. He “pitched his tent” among us. He lived among us. This word, “tabernacle,” reminds us of Israel’s wilderness experience, where they had the tent of meeting that was portable and they would worship there. And then, as they would move on to another location, they could pack it up and move it along. This tent of meeting went with them wherever they went. Now, the Lord Jesus has become our “tabernacle,” our place of worship.
The One that we worship is not a place but a person. His name is Jesus. He “tabernacled” with us. He is God; the very God that Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 (ESV) “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” This is Isaiah’s writing, almost 600 years before the birth of Jesus . He is Emmanuel; God with us.
Let’s keep reading; verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now, that word, “glory,” is a Bible word, isn’t it, but what does it mean? “We have seen his glory.” The closest thing that I can think of as a synonym of glory is the word, “beauty.” It’s something like a sunrise or a sunset; it’s glorious. It’s often a light. The word, “light,” is often a synonym of glory because we’ll say, Oh, it was glorious, meaning it was full of light.
Here’s what the glory of God is; it’s that which we see of His power and His perfection. We don’t see all of God’s glory, but when we catch a glimpse of it, we say it was glorious, it was beautiful, it was wonderful.
John writes that we saw God’s glory through the Son of the Father. We saw His glory. We caught a glimpse of God’s glory.
Notice, in this chapter that we just read, that the word, “light,” occurs seven times. Seven times His glory and His light are synonymous. He’s the one who reveals God’s glory to us. In verse nine it says He’s the true light. In other words, as opposed to those who offer false light, He’s the true light. He’s the one who reveals God to us.
In Romans, chapter eight, we see that God is in Christ, both fully divine and fully human. It says the law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we see. In that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus took on flesh. See, this is what Christmas is really about. It’s not just the scene of the cradle, but the scene of the cross, for the shadow of the cross overshadows the cradle. He came to die in our place. He took on human flesh. He became one of us so that we might know God. Those who have received the gift of God’s spirit will agree with this and confess that He has come in person. He has interrupted history and become one of us.
To this day, we still mark our calendars as to the number of years since His coming. The year 2020, as hard as it has been, represents 2000 and 20 years since Christ visited this earth. In 1 John, we read this, “But by this you know the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Anyone who would deny the historical Jesus, that He really came, that He really lived and died and was raised again, has a spirit not from God. That opinion is not from God, but those who would affirm it are from God. So says the Apostle John.
In John Ortberg’s book, “God is Closer Than You Think, he writes about the outrageousness of this incarnation. He tells us the story of a priest named Father Damien. Allow me to read an excerpt from this book:
“Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers. He moved to a village on one of the Hawaiian islands that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony. For sixteen years he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built two thousand coffins by hand so that when they died, they could be buried with dignity.Slowly it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope. Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this the people loved him. Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: “We lepers. …” Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.”
One day, Christ Jesus came to earth and He said to us, we lepers. He became one of us. He took on our sin and He took on our death. He says, now we’re in it together. That’s what Christ means when He says that He’s with us. This is what the word means when it says, “Emmanuel, God with us.” This is what Christmas means. God became one of us.
Will you receive this gift? That is the first gift. The gift of Christ’s incarnation. Here’s the second.
Three gifts from Jesus, God’s Glorious Light: 2. The gift of His truth.
Remember, we’re still looking at verse 14, so let’s keep unpacking that verse. Verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Let’s look at “full of truth.” The Bible says that Christ was full. In other words, He was complete . He was perfect in truth; there was nothing of truth that He was lacking. He was full. The idea here is this idea of completeness and perfection. This points to His divinity. Yes, He took on humanity, but as He took on humanity, it was not by subtraction. It was not by giving up His divinity, but by addition. He added his humanity and continued to be full of grace and truth. He is divine. He is the son of God made flesh.
Verse nine says that He’s the true light. In contrast to all other voices that would speak of Him, if we read the Old Testament, we see why. We see the revelation of God, with every page, there is more and more of a progressive. We know more and more about God. When we see Jesus, we see the full revelation We see Him; we see who God is because of Christ. We see Him in truth. This why, as we read in verse 17, that he’s the source of truth ; “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. “ He’s not disparaging the law of Moses here. John John’s not putting it down. He’s saying the law of Moses was a gift from God, and it certainly was. But, absent the gift of Christ, we cannot keep it.
The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The only way to have this truth is to have this Jesus. This truth is an absolute truth. It’s not a proposition. It’s not a philosophy. It’s a person. Truth is a person; His name is Jesus.
In John, chapter eight, John 8:12, 32 (ESV) “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He’s the light. He’s the truth. In a world where we say that truth is relative , Jesus says, No, it’s not. I’m the truth. I’m the truth. Will you receive this gift?
In verse 18, it says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The first thought that pops in my head is, Now, wait a minute. Didn’t some people back here see God? Didn’t Moses see God? If we go back to Exodus and read, he didn’t really see God because, if you remember, he said, “Show me your glory.” Moses asks to see God but if a man sees Him face to face, he will die. But because Moses asked, God put him in the cleft of the rock and covered Him with His hand. As God passed by, Moses saw the back of his glory. Moses saw that little glimpse between the fingers of God’s hand as He hid him in the cleft of the rock. We sing that song, “Rock of ages , cleft for me.” As Moses peeped through, such glory covered his face that when he appeared back at the bottom of the hill and started talking to people, they couldn’t look at him. Moses began to wear a veil over his face. But he didn’t really see God in His full glory.
What did Isaiah see in chapter six? If you read it closely, he saw the train of His robe. We see this over and over again through the scriptures. But no one has ever seen God. Or as it says in the original, the only begotten Who is at the Father’s side. He has made him known. Do you want to know God? You must know Jesus. Do you want to be in a relationship with God? You must receive the gift of His truth through Jesus. He makes Him known.
We see in Colossians 1:15 (NLT) “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” What does God look like? Look at Jesus. How does he talk? What kind of emotions does He feel? Listen to Jesus. Watch Jesus. Read the Gospels. Begin a relationship with Jesus and you will know the answer to that question. He’s the image of the invisible God.
Here’s what he says in John 14:6, 9 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me… Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Would you behold Him? Would you behold Him this Christmas and say, There he is; God in the flesh. The truth is found in Jesus. You want to know God? You must know Jesus.
We’ve heard of the first two gifts, now revealed in John 1:14. The gift of His incarnation. The gift of His truth. Let’s consider the third gift.
Three gifts from Jesus, God’s Glorious Light: 3. The gift of His grace.
The gift of His grace. We see, in verse 14, that He was full of grace. What do we mean by grace? What does this gift mean?
First of all, I would say, if your name is Charis, then you have a Greek name. Because Charis is the Greek word for “grace.” Grace means unconditional favor. A gift from God. That’s what graces it means you get what you don’t deserve. You get God’s favor.
I’ve two brothers and a sister. When I was growing up, I would say things like, I believe I am Mom’s favorite, and then somebody else would say, No, I think I am Mom’s favorite. No, I’m the oldest, I think I’m her favorite. And then, usually, my little brother, the baby brother would say, You know I am Mom’s favorite. He would then give some examples of why and we would say, Yeah, maybe you are. Mom would then interrupt. She’d say, Stop talking nonsense like this . You’re all my favorites.
I think that’s the way God looks at us. He loves us so much that He looks at us through the lens of grace; grace is unmerited favor. He looks at us through this lens in all of His fullness. As we’ve said before, the fullness points to His divinity. This grace that He offers is like it’s stacked up.
Look at verse 16, it says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” It is like stacks of grace; so much grace. He built a “house of grace” on us. And so, the first grace comes towards us. It’s the foundation that He came, He lived, He died and He was raised again. So that’s the foundation of grace. But then, the grace that’s on top of that; it is the grace He pours out in us so that when we look at the world now, we no longer look at the world through the lens of judgment, through the lens of loneliness or through the lens of darkness, but we look at one another through the lens of grace because that grace has been shed upon us now. Grace upon grace; layer upon layer. This is Christmas we’re talking about; this is the gift of grace.
He’s the source of this grace. Verse 17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Do you want this kind of grace? Do you want to be God’s favorite? You must turn to Jesus. He’s the source of God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is the agent and faith is the means. You’ve been saved by grace through faith and this is not your own doing; It’s a gift of God not as a result of works so that no one can boast. Have you received this gift ? Romans 3:24 (NLT) “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
In his book, “Proof,” coauthor, Timothy Paul Jones, tells the story of how he learned a lesson of God’s grace from his adopted daughter. Allow me to read from the book:
Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family, but they never quite integrated her with their family of biological children. After a few years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight year old little girl into our home for one reason or another. Whenever our daughter’s previous family vacations at Disney World, they took their biological children with them. But they left their adopted daughter with a family friend, usually at least in the child’s mind. This happened because she felt she must have done something wrong. Once I heard about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World . What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dream world would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the months leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible. And as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied. A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk to her about her latest escapade. I know what you’re going to do, she flatly said. You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you? The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but it kind of did at that point, he writes. Her downward spiral, though, suddenly started to make some sense to me. She knew she couldn’t earn a way into the Magic kingdom. She had tried before and failed the test several times, So she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on Earth. I asked her this question. Is this trip something we’re doing as a family? She nodded, her brown eyes rimmed with tears. And are you part of this family? She nodded again. Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences. This will help you remember right from wrong, but you’re part of our family and we will never leave you behind. I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that. They didn’t. Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and rest stop all the way to Florida. Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we had promised, and it was a typical Disney Day. Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals and lots of long lines mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday. In her hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged . She was exhausted, pensive and a little weepy, but her month-long rebellion had faded when bedtime rolled around and I went to pray with her and held her. I asked, So how was your first day at Disney World, honey? And she closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn blanket. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly, and she said, Daddy, I finally got to go to Disney World, but it wasn’t because I was good. It’s because I’m yours.
You see, that’s God’s outrageous grace. It’s not because you’re good, but it’s because you’re His. That’s grace; that’s God’s outrageous grace. Now, some of you have been trying to be good enough. You’ve been trying to get on Santa’s good list. May I say to you, you’ll never be good enough, but God is good enough and He’s already sent His son to be good enough in your place. He took the test of life and he got an A plus. We’re taking the test of life now and all of us are coming close to getting a zero on it. Jesus says, Here, I’ll take your test. I’ll take your failing grade and I’ll take the results. I’ll take your death here, take my A+, take my eternal life, take my relationship with the father. Look, take my righteousness. I’ll take your sin. I’ll take your separation. I’ll take your death. This is the gift of Christmas. This is the outrageous grace of Christ Jesus. Will you receive these three gifts? He became one of us through the incarnation. He is the truth and there is no other like Him. Would you believe and receive this grace?
Let’s pray. Lord, I pray, first of all, for that person that’s here today that has never received you as Lord and Savior. If you’re in my hearing whether it’s in person or online, I pray that right now you would bow your head and you would pray with me. Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I need You, Lord. I need a Savior. I believe You died on the cross for me that You were raised from the grave and live today. Would You come and live in me? Would You adopt me into your family? I want to be a child of God. Oh, Lord, thank You. I want to follow You all the days of my life as my Lord and Savior. I give You my life. If you’re praying right now, believing, the Lord will save you. Others are here and you’ve received that gift from Jesus. You’ve received Him as your Lord and Savior. Would you confess and repent right now that you’ve been looking at this world through the law, through the wrong lens And it’s filling you with loneliness, frustration,fear and anger. But yet we have Jesus. He is with us, and He gives us truth in life and light and grace. All of this comes from Him. Lord, we repent of those places that we are not drawing on You. Oh, Lord, forgive us and remind us. We pray all this in Christ’s name and for His sake. Amen.