What Difference Does Christmas Make? (John 1:1-13)
Are you ready for Christmas? All the children say, “Yes!” All the adults say, “No!” You may still have some shopping, wrapping, and cooking left to do. Some of you may not even have started your shopping yet. But the kids are all ready.
That reminds me of a little boy who had been asking for a watch. Finally his dad said, “If you mention it one more time, you’re not getting it!” Last night around the dinner table, his dad said, “Let’s all share our favorite Scripture.” When it came to the little boy, he said, “My favorite verse is Mark 13:37 `I’ll say to you what I’ve said already, `Watch.’“
Are you ready for Christmas yet? This week, the entire country shuts down. The roads will be empty. The offices will be closed. The whole world will focus on a single event.
What’s the big deal? How could a baby born two thousand years ago stop traffic today?
Well, because that baby was no ordinary baby. The Bible says that two thousand years ago, God came to earth. Imagine heaven two thousand years ago. On that day two thousand years ago, it’s as if God descended the stairs of heaven, came to earth, and placed his Son in a manger in a little cave in Bethlehem. Of all the ways for God to enter earth, why come as a baby? So he wouldn’t scare us. Nobody’s afraid of a baby.
I still remember the first time we let Christina sleep over at someone else’s house. We stood at the front door of our house watching her drive away. Jesus and God enjoyed perfect communion with each other through eternity. Imagine the scene in heaven as Jesus prepared to leave. Imagine how the angels watched. Imagine the heart of God as he sent his Son to live and to die among us.
The Bible says, God came to earth. That’s bigger news than when man landed on the moon. God invaded earth. He split history into A.D. and B.C. Every time you write a check, what’s your reference point? Jesus Christ. Two thousand years – from what? From Jesus Christ.
What difference does Christmas make today? Christmas means that God brings us five things:
ONE: GOD BRINGS US A MESSAGE FOR OUR HEARTS
Have you ever had someone give you the silent treatment? It troubles me to be ignored. It can be very disturbing to have someone shut you out. You feel like you don’t matter enough for them even to talk to you.
You don’t even expect some people to talk to you. If you’ve ever met a famous person, you might have been surprised at how normal they are. You never expected them to talk to you, and yet they did.
When John introduces Jesus Christ to us in John 1:1, he uses an interesting word. The word he used was logos or literally Word. This was a term borrowed from the Old Testament. It describes Jesus as the divine revealer. He comes with a message. The word logos meant more than spoken communication. It referred to the meaning conveyed, not just the sound. Jesus is the expression of God to human beings. He is the divine revelation.
Hebrews 1:1 says:
1Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.
God has spoken to humans in many ways. He’s used visions. He’s appeared in dreams. He appeared to Moses and Abraham personally. He’s revealed himself through the Scriptures. But the culmination of the way that God has revealed himself was through the Word – the message. He is the clearest communication of who God is and what God has to say. If you want to know God, just look at Jesus.
This past week, my daughter told me, “I know what Jesus looks like, but I don’t know what God looks like.” If you know what Jesus looks like, then you know God. Jesus is the revelation of the Father.
But it gets even better than that. John writes:
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make.
Not only is Jesus the message from God, but he is also the creator. There are about 500 billion stars in our neighborhood, the Milky Way galaxy. And there are 200 billion galaxies beyond ours, some of them holding more than a trillion stars. Jesus created all of them. Do you remember how he did this? He spoke. All he had to do was open his mouth. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). The one who created the world with his words has come now to speak to us. When God speaks, he speaks with power.
Think about it. The God who created billions of stars became a microscopic cell in a woman’s womb. He entered the world as a baby in a smelly stable. Researches think he wasn’t even born in a wooden stable, as people think, but in a cave used to house animals. Why did God do this? Because he wanted to communicate to you and to me.
A Hindu could not bring himself to believe that God could become man. One day he examined an anthill. Every time he came close, the ants scurried away. His shadow was too big. Then he realize that the only way he could communicate with an ant without scaring them was to become an ant himself. And at that moment, he began to believe that God could become a man. Why? To be God’s message to your heart.
Jesus communicated to many types of people. In a day when it men did not talk to women in public, and in which certain racial groups were looked down upon, Jesus talked to a woman who not only belonged to that racial group, but lived an immoral lifestyle. Jesus spoke words of grace to people who had made messes of their lives. John 1 reads:
14So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness…16We have all benefited from the rich blessings he brought to us—one gracious blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.
God has a message for your heart. He sent his Son to reveal himself to you. He came to bring you unfailing love and faithfulness. That’s the difference that Christmas makes.
What other differences does Christmas make?
TWO: GOD BRINGS US POWER FOR OUR LIVES
The Jews of John’s day would have recognized the logos or Word as a Jewish concept. But the Greeks who read John’s book would have seen a completely different meaning. John was writing with both in mind. For the Greeks, logos was different.
In the 6th century BC the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus used this word logos in describing the design and order he saw in the universe. He wanted to find the stabilizing, directing principle of the universe. Later the Greek Stoics developed this concept of logos as a force or principle that originated and permeated and governed all things. John chose logos because people’s lives were in spiritual chaos and many were searching for order. The apostle John’s gospel began with Christ the logos, in whom alone the order and purpose we long for is found.
Without Jesus Christ life doesn’t make sense. John gave them great news that this logos, the source of order and meaning, was God himself. This logos has come into the world of chaotic spiritual darkness. The very sustainer of the world became one of us.
Colossians 1 tells us:
16Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. 17He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.
Jesus created everything from nothing. He is the power that holds the universe together. When we send a space probe to Mars, it costs millions of dollars. If something goes wrong, there’s nothing we can do. We can’t send a repair technician. We don’t have the power. But Jesus holds the universe together. And he came to earth. We never have to feel that our lives are too complex for him. His power is bigger than anything we face.
When I was a boy, I went to the park where my big brother was a lifeguard. I figured I was safe with my big brother around, so I really wasn’t too careful about what I said to other big kids. I went up to one and said something pretty insulting to him. I knew that big brother would bail me out. But when the older boy beat me up for what I said, my brother just watched from a distance. He had the power to get me out of the mess I was in, but he figured he wasn’t going to rescue me from a problem that I created. I was on my own.
God’s not like that. God has the power, but he could have told us that we’re on our own. But when the Creator of the universe came to earth, he was telling us that not only did he have the power to rescue us from the mess we had created, but he was willing to use that power. What difference does Christmas make? It makes all the difference in the world, because God has power for our lives – no matter what we face.
Not only does God bring us a message for our heart and a power for our lives…
THREE: GOD BRINGS US LIGHT FOR OUR DARKNESS
I think the thing that I dislike the most about this time of year is the long nights. My favorite time of year is that time when the days are longest. Give me sunlight at eight or nine o’clock at night. But darkness can be very oppressive when it descends on us at five o’clock every night.
There are four essentials for human life: light, air, water, and food. Jesus is all of these! In John 1:4-5, we read:
4Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
What is light like?
Light is pure. Light is so pure that evil cannot stain it; impurity cannot defile it. Light can pass through a poisonous atmosphere without becoming tainted. It can enter into the dirtiest environment and yet carry no germs. Jesus is like that. Hebrews 4:15 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.” When Jesus died, after 33 years of close contact with men and women, he was as pure as when he was born of a pure virgin. Light is pure. That’s what Jesus brought to earth.
Light is pervasive. It hits the golden roof of the palace. It passes by the prison bars. Light doesn’t discriminate. John 1:9 says, “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.”
Light is revealing. If you drive a highway at night and drive it again in the morning, you’d never know you had passed the same way. Light reveals. Jesus as the light of the world reveals. He reveals us. Nothing is hidden from his sight. And yet he also reveals God to us. That’s what light does.
Isaiah 9:2 says:
2The people who walk in darkness will see a great light—a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.
In a time of great darkness, God sent a light who would shine on everyone living in the shadow of death. Jesus came to bring us light to the darkness.
What difference does Christmas make? He brings us a message for our hearts, a power for our lives, a light for our darkness…
FOUR: GOD BRINGS US UNDERSTANDING FOR OUR STRUGGLES
John 1:10 says:
10But although the world was made through him, the world didn’t recognize him when he came. 11Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted.
One of the most disturbing thoughts off all the ages is this: the world God created didn’t know him or receive him when he came to it. In verse 11, “his own people” refers to his own home and family. There’s a Danish adage that goes like this: “‘Relatives are the worst friends.’ said the fox as the hounds took after him.”
What a paradox. There was room for everyone in the world that God had created, but there was no room for him. You’ve heard of a restraining order. It’s an injunction to one party to stay away from another party. They have to stay apart by an established distance. It’s almost as if the people Jesus came to save obtained a restraining order to keep Jesus at a safe distance.
Imagine what it would have been like for Jesus. Throughout eternity, he had lived in heaven. I don’t know what you think about when you think of heaven, but don’t think of fluffy white clouds and harps. Think of perfection. Jesus had lived in perfect community with his Father from eternity. He had known the deepest relationship that will ever exist. And then he came to earth as a baby to a new family. There he experienced rejection and hatred. He became one of us.
Have you ever seen a famous person get cornered about a real-life situation? I remember one celebrity standing in amazement at a grocery store as items were scanned into the cash register. It was the 1990’s and he had no idea such technology exists. I remember another celebrity trying his best to guess what a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread cost. He had never bought eggs himself in his life.
You get the impression that some people have no clue about what real life is like. One NBA player said, “Money, money, money. That’s all people talk about. All I want to do is drink Pepsi, wear Reeboks, and play basketball.” At that point I realized that my life and his life had very little in common.
For thousands of years, people could have told God, “You don’t know what it’s like down here. You may know as an omniscient God, but you’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced.” And they would have been right. Then, two thousand years ago, God became one of us. He shrunk to the size of a microscopic cell in a woman’s womb. He grew like we did. He was born like we did. He experienced all the things that we have – good and bad. He understands – from experience – what life is really like. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:
15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.
There’s nothing that you ever experienced that Jesus doesn’t know about. He lived among us. He experienced what we experience. God understands your struggles – from experience.
What difference does Christmas make? He brings us a message for our hearts, a power for our lives, a light for our darkness, understanding for our struggles, and…
FIVE: GOD BRINGS US THE GIFT OF OUR LIVES
John 1:12-13 says:
12But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan – this rebirth comes from God.
If you welcome Jesus Christ into your life, you receive a free gift – the gift of eternal life. You become God’s child, and nobody can ever take that away from you.
Most of us have heard of orphans in perpetual foster-care. Sometimes they are abused and exploited. What better gift to give an exploited orphan than the gift of adoption into a good family?
Ever since evil entered the human race, we’ve been exploited by the devil. Jesus called the devil a murderer from the beginning and the father of all lies. Jesus came to set us free from his tyranny.
At Christmas, we’re amazed at the miracle of God becoming man. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to ask why he came. He came to give us eternal life to all who believe. All have suffered the fatal contamination caused by evil. What we need is new life – life in the family of God.
A little boy jumped on the lap of Santa and handed him a long list of things that he wanted for Christmas – all the latest computer games and sports equipment. Santa looked down at the list, and then said to the little boy, “I’ll have to check up and see what kind of a boy you’ve been this year. Only a very, very good boy gets all these presents.”
The boy began to squirm and suggested, “Well, maybe you should forget the check-up and just give me the skates.”
When I think about the gift that God gives us – the gift of being called his child – I also want to squirm. I don’t deserve it. But it’s a gift. It’s not something we earn. It has nothing to do with how good we’ve been.
The gift you receive from Jesus Christ is different from any other gift you will receive. It is a personal gift. It comes in the form of person – Jesus Christ. It is a practical gift. It’s just what you need. It’s the solution to your greatest problem, whether you know it or not. It’s a priceless gift. It cost Christ his life. It cost God His Son. That shows the worth of you. When you receive a gift that expensive you realize somebody really values you. God says, “You are valuable.” It’s a permanent gift. I’ve received a lot of gifts that didn’t last until New Year’s. This gift keeps giving and giving and giving, for all of eternity.
Two questions: have you received this gift? There’s a man in the States who hasn’t opened a Christmas gift he received for over 49 years. That’s a little strange. If I gave you a gift and you never opened it, I’d wonder about you. And yet some people celebrate Christmas year after year, and never open the gift that Jesus Christ gave…the gift of becoming a child of God.
A father gave his daughter some plastic pearls. She wore them for years. When she turned 13, he said, “I want you to give me those plastic pearls you’re wearing.” “Why?” “Just trust me, just give them to me.” As he took them back with one hand, he pulled from his pocket a string a real pearls.
God is saying to you, “Give Me the cheap plastic thrills, give Me the things you think satisfy but really don’t, and I’ll give you something genuine. I’ll give you something real, something that lasts if you’ll trust Me.”
Last question: how can you receive this gift? You receive by believing him and accepting him. John 1:12 says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” It means believing in what Jesus says about you, to believe that you can’t earn eternal life. It means trading in your cheap plastic thrills for a new life that lasts for eternity.
As we close, would you pray this in your heart, “Dear God, I don’t understand it all, but I believe that you love me. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that, but I believe you love me. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ at Christmas. This Christmas I want to receive Christ, your Christmas gift to me. Jesus Christ, as much as I know how, I ask you to make yourself real to me. Come into my life. Please forgive my past. Thank You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”