Philip Casmer

10 Things to Know for a Merry Christmas

by Philip Casmer on December 25th, 2021
John 1:1–18

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2, EHV)

Christmas is here – were you ready? To be ready for the various things of life, there are almost always things you need to know. Around this time of year, for instance, Google your favorite event-oriented thing – staff Christmas party, extravagant Christmas dinner, secret Santa gift exchange – and you’re sure to find somehow to’s out there to help you be prepared and get things done. And among them, you’ll also find those lists, those collections of 3 things you need to know to make your party pop; 6 insights on an orderly gift exchange; 52 ways to make the greatest Christmas dinner.

The same goes for Christmas Day itself – for your spiritual preparation and celebration.  I hope you are ready. If not, don’t worry, there’s still time even now – even on Christmas morning – for St. John brings to us an introduction to the good news of Christmas.  In his first chapter, John shares with us all that really makes things truly right and good this time of year. Together this morning, we’ll mark out 10 Things to Know for a Merry Christmas

Of course, as you prepare for anything, you have to understand the essential nature of the thing you’re doing, right? You won’t appoint your office Christmas party with Halloween decorations in black and orange, for instance. And here, on Christmas, we’ll recognize that this is Jesus’ day – his birthday. It’s all about this Christ child. That’s where real Christmas knowledge begins. This is the one St. John is talking about in his first chapter. And at v.1-2, we find the first thing to know for a merry Christmas… 

1. This one is God himself (1-2)

It’s true: babies are cute. But this one is so much more… Note what deep things John attaches to him: the Word was “in the beginning”, was “with God”, and “was God”. John’s saying that this one is one person of the three that make up the Triune God – he is God, present face-to-face with God the Father, at the very beginning. That’s a pretty epic start, but it leads naturally to the next thing to know in vv.3-4…

2. This one is Everything (3-4)

And I mean that to be as “in your face” as it sounds. Everything that is came into being through this one. Or flip it, not a thing came to be apart from his doing. Planets, light, suns, osmosis, trees, democracy, even your friend’s Tesla – at the beginning and descended from there,  all created by this one. In case there’s any thought he might not mean what he means, John makes it astoundingly broad: “In him was life…” period. The life force that creates, that animates, that sustains all life – it’s right here, in this one. Which is why so boldly we’ll confess it after the sermon: apart from him is death – physical and spiritual. Which is a likewise all-encompassing and resetting thought… And that’s what moves the next thing to know, in vv.4-5…

3. This one is Light in the Darkness (4-5)

In a world that believes in its own power and wisdom, even “unscience” like that it self-generated, that this infant is what actually drives its progress and keeps it alive? This is like a bulb lit up in a dark basement. Now you can see how things are, as God says. Or not…some prefer the darkness, skitter for the shadows – have no time for this enlightenment. They consider it a fancy, a fad, a figment of imagination. And, to translate it perhaps better than our bulletin does, they don’t understand it and won’t have it. Regardless, on Christmas we need to know one thing: whether those in darkness disregard it or try to overcome it, his light keeps on shining.

There’s a little heft to this so far, eh? If this one is God himself, the life of the world, the light of reality… That tweaks the Christmas celebration a bit…how we go about it. It’s not just how you trim your tree, whether you like a nutcracker on the mantle, or about having your figgy pudding. No, this one brings and demands much more than our tinsel dreams. As you find in vv.6-8…

4. He deserves a witness (6-8)

John says God sent a forerunner to tell the story and prepare the way – because the life of the world is not to be missed but received. And true Christmas calls us to the same testimony: that this all is about this one. So that people might know the reality – and believe it as the truth that dictates their reality. That’s part of your preparation for this event – you know him so that you tell of him so that others might know him.

Of course, you do so with sober awareness: they won’t always want to know – maybe not even most often. As John tells in vv.10-11…

5. He receives rejection (10-11)

It’s a sadness of Christmas. It’s not about Santa, but he’s out there everywhere. It’s not about cookies and frosting, but they’re all over the place. It isn’t about peace on earth through goodwill of men, but that’s the twinkle in many an eye. So, even though he owns all this and we are all “his own”, “his own” very often don’t receive him but turn away to some other kind of self-celebration. And it’s sad very most because they truly miss out. In vv.12-13…

6. He provides the gift (12-13)

At Christmas, that’s what we do, generally. Seeing someone’s face light up from a gift so thoughtful or perhaps unexpected – that lights up your face too – fills your heart with joy. It’s love, why we do that. That’s actually much of the joy of gifts – someone loves me enough to give them…The same is true here: this one gives a gift of his love. To those who receive him, who believe or trust in his name – his work and ability and promises – he gives the gift of family. Call it “power”, call it “right”, or even “authority” – he gives to you an actual claim on being God’s child – someone he’d never disown, someone in line for his inheritance, someone beloved. And that apart from whoever you are – disregarding others’ desires for you, or bloodline and family tree, or whatever you might have willed. By faith in the person, promise, and work of this one – you’re born of God.

If this one is very God, light and life – who demands to be known and told, who makes us belong? If such is true – and it is… If this is Christmas – and it is… Then you’d want to be sure that you grasp it as best you can, yes? And so John says, in vv.14-15…

7. This baby is God’s glory in our flesh (14-15)

It’s a real place, Bethlehem; history. And each year as we observe cattle lowing and mother’s love, in a pastoral setting lowly, we’re awed again. But, the awe is all here: “The Word [in all the ways we’ve known him now] became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The Eternal entered into time to be just like you. As John the Baptist said it, Jesus is the greatest because, in him, we see God’s glory – as this one comes from the Father full of grace and truth.

And, we could spend a day on #7, but it’s sort of intrinsically connected to the next important thing to know: in vv.16-17…

8. This baby is full of blessing (16-17)

Ironically, at times like Christmas, we sometimes don’t feel the fullest. Often like we haven’t fulfilled. Perhaps we give others that feeling by letting them see our disappointment – sometimes about things that are important, often about petty little things. Sometimes we have visions grand about what we want to achieve in our celebration and it doesn’t get anywhere close. And those are important to acknowledge in this one way… they reflect our general status with God – we fall short and we can’t do enough.

Check St. Paul, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And before that, “No one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin.” (3:20, 23) Or, by the law God sent through Moses (v.17), we only ever find out that we can’t keep it – if we’re honest. And, actually, it brings a problem – I can’t, you can’t, even holy Moses couldn’t bear to see the glory of God himself, there is no “people who fall short” doing a face to face with God and living. Moses had to hide in a rock and see God’s back. God’s glory should burn us in sin to ash. 

Ah! But in the stable, the Word of God brings eternal glory into time and wraps it in infant flesh! In his divine fullness, we receive “one blessing after another” or, literally, grace upon grace. It is God’s undeserved love as he sends his only-begotten Son to be truly God and truly human. It’s the incarnation and grace abounds here! God comes to be born with us, to fulfill God’s law because we do not, to make payment for all the time I have not done God’s will, he satisfies God’s justice by doing on his cross; he comes to rise to life again with great power and promise, and then? Well, later St. Paul will write, “[in Jesus] all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in [Jesus].” (Col 2:9-10) He comes so that his life and fullness and status would be ours. 

Do you understand what you need to be ready for Christmas? John tells you in v.18…

9. This baby makes God known (18)

 Jesus’ purpose is to expound/explain/lay forth in great detail God himself – who he is and how he thinks and what he’s doing and what he thinks about you. You’ll find there is no one else in history who expounds God like this one: the rest expound your to-do’s to meet God; this one expounds what God has done to meet you. And you can observe it in the teaching and life of Jesus – read John’s gospel, the whole thing. Or you can summarize it as John will say it later, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (3:16) 

I mean, at Christmas, if you didn’t know what God is like and what he thinks about you… With grace abounding, in the flesh, by his actions, and his words, Jesus came to say it. And that’s the last and most important thing to know…

10. Jesus is the Word of God!

John uses that strange name throughout this section. But it’s fitting. Words are important. They express what we think. What’s inside of us – who we are, how we feel, what we want – it’s expressed by word. And, of whatever is in the mind of the eternal God, we would not know it unless he spoke it. And God did speak. The writer of Hebrews says, “in these last days [God] has spoken to us by His Son”. (1:2) He is God’s Word; and what does he say? He says, from our emptiness, he is our Savior. He calls us to trust his work, to find forgiveness of sins in his death and true fullness in his achievement, to know that he makes us God’s family. The Word from God says, “God loves you.” So that we know exactly how to be ready for and what to say to life with St. Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Ro 8:31-32) Or, everything we need to be ready…

I hope that you get all the things you want for Christmas. But I pray that you receive him. The greatest gift is to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world. This Word of God makes known that God loves you. So that you don’t have to go searching for a how-to or another list. In Jesus, we have all we need to know for a truly Merry Christmas.

 

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