There are a lot of people asking one another this morning, “What did you get for Christmas?”, but I want to ask you this morning, “What did you see for Christmas?” What I pray you can say you saw for Christmas is the very same thing Jesus’ disciple John said he saw for Christmas in verse 14 – the final verse of our lesson for today: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John said that when he saw Jesus Christ, he saw God’s glory. On this glorious Christmas morning, let’s think about how we can say we have seen the very same thing.
First of all, to see God’s glory means to see something so amazing and so spectacular when we see Jesus that all we can want to do when we see Jesus is praise him and learn more about him and follow him wherever he goes, because we want to let him know that he simply is something that we are not, because he is God and we are anything but.
So, how do we end up saying something like that when what we see for Christmas when we look at Jesus is a little baby in a cattle barn, surrounded by animals and wrapped in strips of cloth? The opening verses of John’s Gospel tell us exactly what is so amazing and spectacular about Mary’s little boy: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Mary’s little boy was also God’s one and only Son, the Maker of heaven earth. In the beginning Jesus as God was with God – and stop right there, right? The Son of God, who is here called the Word – because when you see and hear Jesus, you see and hear exactly who God is and exactly what God is like – the Son of God was also with God, meaning they were two separate persons, though one divine being, with the Holy Spirit as the third person of that holy essence hovering over the waters of the dark and void world before, God said, “Let there be” – and there was…
What you see for Christmas, then, when you see Jesus in the manger is the one made the wood for that manger in which he was placed; the one who caused the hay in which he was resting to grow; the one who had caused all those donkeys and sheep that surrounded him to arrive on the earth in the first place; let alone being the one who gave the ability for Adam and Eve to start the reproduction of the world that resulted in Joseph and Mary themselves being born and now watching over him and later bringing him up with the personalities and the abilities that that baby himself had given them.
Do you remember, though, what was the very first thing God created on the first day of creation? The first “Let there be” was “Let there be light” – light which was separated from the darkness so that the rest of the created order could continue. St. John picks up on that when he says in verse 4 right after saying the Son of God was the Creator of the world, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.” The vast majority of the world which that baby in the manger created rejected the very one from whom they had received the benefit of living in a place they had done nothing to make. And the same was true when he actually came to earth and people could see him with their own eyes. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Not only did they not receive him, they made him receive something — a nailing to the cross after they made him climb a hill that he himself had created – and then put him inside a tomb made of rock he himself had fashioned.
That is what makes those times when you and I fail to appreciate all God in his love provides for us every single day — and when we waste the bounty of the abilities with which he has endowed us or the limited amount of time he gives us to live on the earth or the beautiful and plentiful resources that surround us — and when we act like we should be given more or that we deserve more or that God should listen to us more – that’s what makes all those kinds of things so humbling, when we think of how we so often sing of that baby in the manger, “Oh, come, let us adore him,” but we at the same time are acting like we are saying instead, “Just go away, we abhor him.” You have to wonder what that baby being so lovingly held by Mary was thinking when he thought about how so often you and I would not hold him in the high regard he deserves as the one without whom nothing on this earth was made that has been made.
But the one who came from his world in which he has lived from eternity came to the earth on which we live so we can someday live in his world for the rest of eternity once we leave this earth. And that means that what we see for Christmas when we see Jesus is not only the powerful maker of heaven and earth; we also see the merciful Savior of the world. We see the merciful Savior of us. We see the one who not only made us part of this world, but the one who also made us part of his family. Verse 12: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
The most amazing answer to “what did you get for Christmas” comes when you and I realize once again that what you see for Christmas is the one who gave you the right to become a child of God. And this was not a right that you or I earned or that we were born with, as we normally think about “rights.” Like John said, we weren’t born into his family. There is no automatic right to be a child of God just by being born. Just the opposite. It is a right given to us by someone who had no reason to do so because of anything in us. Instead, what Jesus saw at Christmas were people, including you and me, who needed to be rescued from a life that would be meaningless on earth while they were alive and much more than hopeless after they no longer were.
And that is why the miracle of Christmas is such a miracle. It is only God who could love us so much to send his Son. It is only God who could actually do the work of rescuing us. And it only God who could do all that by becoming at one and the same time a human being by taking on the same human flesh that you and I have – the same human flesh he created. Verse 14 – the last verse — again: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
That is why we can sing “Oh, come, let us adore him” and mean it with all our heart, because God has changed our hearts by giving us the faith to believe that miracle – that the almighty God allowed himself to have the very same flesh and blood that you and I have in the person of Jesus, except that it was without sin. He made his dwelling among us as one of us. That little baby had real fingers and real toes, real ears and a real nose. That little baby had a mouth that could speak love and forgiveness, hands that could reach out to those who thought they were unreachable, a heart that ached for those who needed a shepherd to guide them and protect them – the very same things that little baby Jesus has done for every single one of us. That’s what we see for Christmas when we see Jesus in the lowly manger: the powerful Son of God and the merciful Son of Man – the one who made us with his incomparable power and the one who saved us from our sins against him in his all-surpassing grace.
And that’s why every day for all of us in God’s family is Christmas, because the one who came to die for us also came to come back to life for us, allowing us to know that this celebration of his birth is really a celebration of his life – a life which is still going on and will continue evermore and evermore – just like we will – and all because of what we got for Christmas when we see at Christmas the glory of God in the little baby born so small, yet the Creator and Savior of us all. Amen.