O Word made flesh, be present with us this day, and fill us with your limitless grace. Amen.
In the name of Jesus, the eternal Word, dear recipients of divine grace,
Are you still filled with awe? Are you still amazed? Or has the brilliance and benefit of the Christmas season left you? Be prepared to be amazed all over again! The apostle John, as he strives to point out to us the remarkable fact that Jesus is both true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the virgin Mary. More than that, John expresses the miracle of the incarnation in a very unique way: The Word became flesh!
He is called the Word. But what does this mean? The same one is called God, light, the one who came before John the Baptist, the grace giver, and finally revealed as none other than Jesus Christ. In the midst of this unique description we come to the realization that the Christ is indeed unique in that he is the eternal God and he is true man all at the same time. So we can rightly say that Christ is one person in two natures. So Paul asserts in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” So Jesus teaches in Matthew 16 when Peter confessed the truth about Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus is called “The Word,” or Logos in Greek.
This unique God-man, John tells us, made his dwelling among us or literally “he tented among us.” That phrase points back to something the Christ did before he took on human flesh. The glory of the Lord appeared to the wandering people of Israel who had left Egypt in the tent worship place called the tabernacle. The angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ led the people of Israel through the wilderness as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God was with his people. Certainly that was an incredible and loving miracle. But what we celebrate at Christmas is even more incredible!
What we celebrate is the divine Jesus in human flesh. He is the everlasting Word of the Father. He is the glory of God. Yes, all the fullness of God dwells in this human body. And notice I said he is. This is not just some old myth, some nonsense from the ancients. This, friends , is reality. And what a glorious reality it is! The Word is revealed to us today in the Word in print. In his first letter the same John who wrote this Gospel writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”
Yes, the eternal, only-begotten Son of the Father, became one of us, took on human flesh, was just like us – except was without sin. What a gift from the Father! He is the gift of eternal life, the gift of God’s grace. Yes, this God-man lived among us as one of us. This same God-man revealed God’s grace.
John, the author, writes about another John, the Baptizer. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This is he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John describes the Word made flesh as human but eternal – more of the mystery and the wonder of the incarnation. In Jesus the eternal God is dwelling among people as one of them. But why? Was this just some grand experiment? Did God just want to see what it would be like to be human? No! This was all for us and for our salvation! Jesus took on human flesh to reveal God’s undeserved love. The One who came after John the Baptist, but who was before him, because he is eternally begotten of the Father from eternity – he came to bring grace. From the fullness of his grace we have received “grace instead of grace” or “grace in place of grace.” In Christ God heaped grace upon grace on us. This pictures for us an inexhaustible supply of God’s grace. We use some, and more takes its place for us to use another time. It is there to comfort us when we hurt. It is there to forgive us when we sin. It relieves us when we feel guilty. It supports us in fear. It gives everything to us who can give nothing to earn it or to repay it. God’s love is so great that the eternal Word became flesh and sacrificed himself on the cross for us. Jesus gives us grace in place of grace. We always have his love. We cannot exhaust the supply.
Jesus continues to reveal God’s grace to us through his Word. He does this through a faithfully divided message. Law to show us our sins and our need for a Savior. Gospel to show us that Jesus has done everything necessary for the forgiveness of our sins and to give us eternal life. The Law God gave through Moses. It is indeed important and glorious. But not as important and as glorious as the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims Christ crucified for our sins and raised to life for our justification.
Jesus is indeed the unique God-man who continues to share with us a unique, one-of-a-kind message. Jesus reveals the Father’s love to us. Certainly, we can’t reach out and touch him or even have a conversation with him in the way the apostles did. We have their testimony. As John concludes his Gospel: This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. As Peter testifies: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. We may feel a bit left out – for we do not see and cannot touch the Lord Jesus. At least not yet. This is indeed a matter of faith. Faith that is miraculous brought to life in us by the Holy Spirit. He does this amazing work of creating and preserving faith through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. The same God who appeared on earth in a body and was taken up into heaven is present with his church wherever his Word is preached and his sacraments are distributed. Yes, friend each time we gather together around the Word and the sacraments in worship, each time we gather for Bible study, each time we open up the Scriptures at home – with each of these activities we are in the presence of Jesus – the eternal Word!
So, how about now? Are you filled with awe? Are you amazed? It truly is remarkable that our dear Savior left the glories of heaven to become one of us – to be our Redeemer. We have in no way earned or deserved his love. Yet, he loves us! He loves us so much he suffered and died for us! He loves us so much he conquered even the grave for us! What love amazing, love divine! That is the love God has for you! Live in that comforting confidence! Thank God for the gift of the Word that became flesh! Thank him in songs of praise and deeds of love! Amen.