The Real Christmas Story
the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
There are many "christmas stories" in TV and books. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is probably the best known and most read. Scrooge and the Cratchett family are characters that almost everyone has either read about or seen on TV. More modern TV 'classics' are "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Little Drummer-Boy," "Frosty the Snowman." and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Three generations have grown up watching these Christmas stories and almost everyone can identify with them in some way.
Christmas is big business and these stories bring huge audiences and much profit. Of all the holidays, Christmas and Easter should be the most spiritual and religious. However our culture has reduced them to cartoons, stereotypes, and profit machines. The REAL Christmas story has gotten lost in the luster. I would like for us to examine together the REAL story; and may we gain spiritual strength from it.
It is impossible for even the atheist to deny that a birth in a Bethlehem manger has changed the world and revolutionized the thinking of every generation since. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the central point of history, the apex of our past and the touchstone of our future. Even the timeline of our culture is divided by it. (B.C. and A.D.) You would not know anything of Christ just by feeding on the aforementioned Christmas fare of our day. His story can only accurately be found in the Bible. And we find a synopsis of the true Christmas story in John Chapter One.
I. The Pre-Existent Christ The word.....
John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is obvious that "the Word" is Christ Himself. Words are expressions of thoughts and ideas. Words are revelations of one mind of to another. The pre-existent Christ is the revelation to humankind of the thoughts and ideas of God Himself.
1. His Being. What was the pre-existent Christ like? He was an equal form and expression of God the Father. He was there in the beginning. When the heavens were framed, Christ was there. When the earth was made, Christ was there. When Adam and Eve were fashioned, Christ was there. When Noah's boat sailed, Christ was there. When Israel was born as a nation, Christ was there. Let no one say that the babe that was born in the Christmas manger began His existence there. John 1:1 tells us that he was there "in the beginning."
2. His Union. Another facet of our pre-existent Christ is His union with the Father. Verse one tells us..."and the Word was with God..." In case there are any thoughts that Christ was somehow a disinterested observer or an angel of God, the text tells us that He was With God! That is, He was with Him in purpose; He was with Him in creation; He was with Him in planning. When God looked over His creation and declared it to be "good," Christ was there with Him, nodding in agreement.
3. His Deity The third thought in verse one is "and the Word was God." Here we come to one of the most holy and deep truths of God's Word. Christ was not only with God, He is God. Many in the religious realm have doubted and denied this truth, but it is a cardinal doctrine. The deity of Christ is fundamental to historic, biblical Christianity. There are many sects and groups who deny Christ's deity, but they are not Christian, and cannot point the way of salvation to a lost world. They are lost in their own ignorance and unbelief.
II. The Presented Christ ...was made flesh...
Christ is eternal; He was present in creation and throughout all history. But there came a time in that history that this Eternal Presence would be "made flesh." Galatians 4:4 says, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman..." He was presented to the world in a manger in Bethlehem.
1. He entered the world. The greatest mystery of Christmas is why would God lower Himself to come into the world as a human, to partake of the pain and suffering of the human experience, to allow Himself to be mocked and ridiculed by His own created beings who did not even know Him for what He was. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. We know in our minds that the answer to that mystery is His love for us. But the mystery is still real. How could God love us so? It is unfathomable!
2. He was examined by witnesses. This was no trick or sleight of hand. While Christ was God, He was also just as much man. He was not 50% God and 50% man. He was both ALL God and the perfect sinless man. Ancient commentator John Gill said, Christ remained what he was, and became what he was not; ...so united as to be but one person; and this..union can never be dissolved, and is the foundation of all Christ's works and actions... 1 John 1:1 tells us That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; His life was one of purpose and example. He showed humanity how it could have been had sin not corrupted it.
3. He is enthroned by the wise. This babe born in a manger was not just and example or an apparition of God, He came for a purpose. His presentation to this world was not complete at Bethlehem, it was only the beginning. It was completed on Calvary when Jesus said, "It is finished" and gave up His spirit to the Father. When Christ was "made flesh," it started a process in which humankind could approach God and become His child. Verse 12 in our present chapter says, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: So today, we must all answer a question. Will we receive Him as our Savior?
III. The Personal Christ ...and dwelt among us...
Psalm 8:4 says, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? If God were to come down to visit man, surely He would separate Himself from us; surely He would distance Himself from such lowly beings. But no, Christ became flesh and dwelt among us, He took up residence right along side us.
1. For Understanding Christ dwelt among us so that we might understand more about the person of God. We are finite beings, spiritual things are hard for us to discern. Many times in the Gospels, Jesus seeks the understanding of His disciples. "Do ye not yet understand..." He spoke in parables and stories; He used illustrations of the wind, the sea, and the flowers of the field. Through His words to the disciples, He teaches us even yet today. In John 14:25-26, Jesus promises us full understanding. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
2. For Friendship G. Campbell Morgan, in a message from our text, says that the phrase, "and dwelt among us" can be rendered "pitched his tent by us." What a beautiful picture of the personal Christ! The Christian is a pilgrim in this world, with darkness all around us. Our home is in heaven, as are our riches and treasures. We are strangers here, with no abiding place. But Christ has pitched his tent beside us! He goes with us on our pilgrim journey! Though we have no pleasures in this world, we have joy with the One Who goes with us! Dr. Morgan says that this phrase is a figure of the Arab nation, where one promises to make to take the same journey with us, under the same conditions.
3. For Worship This phrase also reveals another truth. It calls up an image of the tabernacle of the Old Testament. The word 'dwelt" means "tabernacled." The tabernacle was a place of worship. It was a place where God Himself met with His people and accepted their adoration. Christ tabernacles with us so that we might worship Him. We do not need to travel to Jerusalem or Bethlehem, He tabernacles with us. Therefore, we can worship Him anywhere! We remember His words to the Samaritan woman: But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
IV. The Pre-eminent Christ ...full of grace and truth.
We have seen Christ in His pre-existence, in His presentation to humankind, and in the personal nature of His love. There is one more picture of Christ to be found in verse 14. It is found in the last five words of the verse. As sinful creatures, we cannot understand these words in their fullness. "Full" means "to be thoroughly permeated with." Christ was filled up with both grace and truth.
1. His Grace Grace is a wonderful word. We are saved by grace, kept by grace, and our faith is by grace. Grace is overwhelming kindness, good-will, and favor. Grace is a special kind of tenderness. And Christ was "full" of grace. You can see it in the Gospels as He deals with mankind. He heals and cures all manner of hurt. Parents brought their children to Him and He accepted them. The leper came to Him and said, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." To which He replied, "I will, be thou clean." God's grace manifests itself in His love. "God is love." There are those who teach and preach God as a condemning God, and focus His righteousness and judgment. Those truly are aspects of our great God, but so is His grace. Never forget He is "full of grace."
2. His Truth Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" He had no idea that he was looking at Truth personified. Jesus was "full of truth." He was thoroughly permeated with perfection, knowledge, wisdom, and excellence. All that He spoke was truth. All that He did was truth. All that He thought was truth. In the Gospel of John, this idea of truth is seen in the word "light." And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:5,9) Light reveals truth. Light illuminates where darkness has covered. The truth of Christ condemns and curse all that does not measure up to his perfection. Truth is objective; it does not favor one over another. The rule of law is path that truth takes, and there can be no exceptions.
3. His Glory How can both grace and truth co-exist in the same Being? How can they be balanced? How can one attribute not be overshadowed by the other? This is His glory! He is God! He is the perfect manifestation of God to humans. We cannot fully understand His perfections. Christ's grace and truth cannot be separated. They are wound together and cannot be unwound. Christ illustrates both God's tenderness and His severity, His love as well as His judgment, His grace as well as His truth. God is both love and light, both grace and truth.
And what do we take with us from this message? This Christmas, let
us focus, not only on the Christ child in the manger, but on the complete
Christ. Let us focus on His rescue mission to fallen man. The
child in the manger became the God-man on the Cross. Let us praise
and worship Him in His fulness. And those who do not yet personally
know Christ as savior should realize that they will not be judged by a
babe, but by a righteous and holy God. We who know Him experience
His Grace; those who die without Him will experience His truth. Check
your hearts. Do you know Him?
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