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The Theology of Christmas in Three Questions


December 25, 2022 |The Theology of Christmas| John 1:1-14

JD Cutler


(Click here for the sermon audio)


I debated the title of today’s sermon for a while because of that pesky word theology. It immediately makes some of your eyes get heavy, right? Plus, our little ones are in here today, won’t something titled theology go over their heads. All of that is understandable, because we are confused and have grown timid around words like theology or doctrine. It conjures images of old, cranky men gathered around books discussing ridiculously complex ideas. We have figured it is better left to the professionals.


It could not be further from the truth. Everyone of us is a theologian, that is we are all operating with an understanding of who God is, of his creation, and his relationship with it, and at the end of the day, that is what theology is. It is the study of God.

The truth is everytime we open our Bibles we are faced with theology, but never more do I feel like it is necessary to remind ourselves on this special Sunday that what we believe affects how we live. What we understand about Christmas affects how we celebrate it. In the end, obviously, I decided to keep it so that perhaps today we will be able to better grasp the theology of Christmas so that as we have Christmas encounters with relatives, as we have conversations with our kids, as we wrestle with our own questions about the meaning of Christmas we will be better prepared and able to answer them Biblically and truthfully.


Who is Jesus?

John 1:1-9 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.


Who is Jesus?

Every gospel writer wrote to help men and women answer that question, but where they each began is unique to their writing styles and intended audiences. Mark began with Jesus’s baptism and subsequent action in ministering, showing he was a man on a mission. Matthew began by connecting Jesus to the lineage of Abraham, showing his connection to Israel and as fulfillment to promises made to Abraham. Luke takes his genealogy all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus is the promised seed of Adam that would set right what went wrong in the garden of Eden.

But John, with three words, takes us back to even before Adam.


In the beginning…


The Christmas story is not the beginning of Jesus’s story.

To truly understand Christmas, you have to understand that Jesus existed before Bethlehem, before God visited Mary, before God ever spoke a word to Abraham, before he breathed life into Adam, before anything that was created was created. Jesus was.

John calls him the Word, wonderfully bringing together the Hebrew understanding that God spoke the universe into existence and the Greek philosophy who had this idea that there was a principle that held everything together in a world of constant change, that there is purpose and design to the world and events, they called this the Logos. (log'-os) John brings both together and says, the Logos of God has come to earth as a man and we have seen him.


This Logos was with God- describes Jesus’s eternal relationship with the Father as one member of the triune Godhead.

Was God- as plain of a statement as there is of Jesus’s divinity. Not like God, not a God, but God.

In the beginning with God- He is eternal, uncreated, before anything was made.


Jesus was and is and will always be 100% God as the eternal son of the Father.

In John’s prologue here in chapter 1, he is setting up the major themes of his gospel, the things he will show to be true. First that Jesus is God, second that life and light are found in him, as well as highlight the opposition Jesus faced in his mission, here called darkness.

Life here is a rich word with multiple applications. In him was life- in the natural sense as the one by which all things were created, spiritual sense as the one by which God would mediate a better covenant, and in the eternal sense as the one who would redeem mankind and ultimately usher in an eternal dwelling for his people.

It is by Jesus that we see all other things. It is by Jesus that we see God, it is by Jesus we understand the depths of his love, the width of his concern, the breadth of his justice, and the heights of his mercy.

Jesus is not only life, but light.

It is by Jesus that we see all other things. It is by Jesus that we see God, it is by Jesus we understand the depths of his love, the width of his concern, the breadth of his justice, and the heights of his mercy.


John the Baptist may have preceded Jesus’s ministry, but it was as John himself said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’.

To understand Christmas, you have to understand who Jesus is.

He is more than a good teacher, he is more than a prophet, more than a righteous man. For that matter, he is more than just a savior.

Yes he is a historical man, but not in the sense you or I are, he didn’t begin his life when he was born at Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, that is when the eternal, everlasting, uncreated son of God stepped into his creation.


Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the eternal word of god


If you don’t start there, you can never come to any right conclusion about what he did or why he did it, which are our next two questions. Let’s look at the next question, what did he do, by jumping to verse 14 for a moment.


What did he do?

John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


What did he do?

Jesus took on humanity, fully. He became flesh. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. This is the miracle and mystery of Christmas.

If we try to fully wrap our minds around this truth, like the trinity, we will inevitably wander into some sort of heresy because of our finite mind's ability to understand God. I find, in times like that and with doctrines like this, returning to the confessions and catechisms of the church to be helpful.


Question #36 of the Westminster Larger Catechism- Who is the mediator of the covenant of grace? The only mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.


God the Son, when the time was right, became man, not losing anything of his nature as God and not gaining anything to his nature as God, and yet took on the nature of a man forever. Let us not get too deep into that this morning. If you can remember 100% God and 100% man, two distinct natures in one person, you may not be able to fully understand but you will be biblically correct in what you do. Amen?


That is what John means when he says the word became flesh. How does John know this?

Because he says, he dwelt among us. Again, I love John’s word choice here. Dwelt literally means tabernacle, to pitch a tent. John says God became flesh and tabernacled among us. No doubt, for his Jewish audience, immediately sending their minds to the tabernacle. Where God dwelt with his people. Where his manifest presence was located, where he was to be understood, worshiped, and obeyed. Perhaps John had a secondary emphasis for his non-jewish readers where tabernacle would have implied that although Jesus had dwelt with them for a time, this was not his home, he was simply passing through, as it were. Either way, the imagery is a beautiful expression of God coming to be among his people.


As John reflected on his experience with Jesus as he walked this world he compared it with the Israelites traveling with the tabernacle, the housing of God’s glory. He says, we have seen his glory.


His majesty, his excellence, the very glory of God, full of grace and truth.

He goes on to talk about receiving from the fullness of that grace and truth, grace upon grace.

Grace in the place of grace, the idea is a continued, never ending, provision of grace for those who come to him. His grace is inexhaustible. In doing so, John goes on to say in verse 18, he made God known.

By becoming a man, by dwelling intimately with his creation, Jesus brought the light of himself to man and now God could be known in ways previously unavailable to his creation.


What did he do?

He became flesh and dwelt among men.


Who is Jesus? He is the eternal son of God, of one substance with and equal to the Father, and yet distinct in person properties. What did he do? He became flesh by humbling himself and being born to a young Jewish girl, betrothed to a Jewish man, in the small town of Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. But why? Why did he do it? For that, we back up a few verses to verse 10.


Why did he do it?

John 1:10-13 (ESV) 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.


When God became man and walked and talked among his creation, healed and taught about himself, performed miracles only he could do, the people didn’t recognize that he was God. By and large, he was ignored by his created world. Very few gentiles took notice, and his own people, God’s chosen people through which he would bring about his redemption, rejected him.

Not recognized and not received.

But the son didn’t come to be universally recognized, he did not come to be set on a Jewish throne or praised in the temples, he came to make a way.

To reconcile men and women to himself by dealing with the problems of sin and death, both of which he conquered in his humanity.

He did this by living a perfectly sinless life, tempted in all ways as we are and yet without sin. Encountering every human emotion and condition, he perfectly served the will of the Father, voluntarily submitting himself in obedience, even to the point of death.

The darkness of sin could not overcome the light of God and at the end of his mission, Jesus stood victorious over life, death, sin, shame, and the grave.

Why?

So that, being the firstborn from the dead, having ascended back to his rightful place in heaven, could welcome men and women to himself as their redemption.

To pay the sin debt that you and I owed.

The infinite dying a finite death so that the finite could live eternally.

This is the ‘why’ of Christmas. The eternal son of God taking on humanity so that he might become the living way to himself. That mankind, long estranged from their heavenly father, through faith and belief in Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection may have the privilege of becoming children of God. Not because of who they were born to, not because of the life they lived, not because of any plan or purposes of man, but because God willed it to be so.


Why did he do it?

So that we might become children of God


Conclusion:

What is the meaning of Christmas? How do we understand its significance?

We answer these three questions. Who is Jesus, what did he do, and why did he do it?

Jesus is the eternal word of God, who became flesh and dwelt among men, so that we might become children of God.

If you are celebrating anything less than that, you have missed the true meaning of Christmas. As we finish our celebrations, as we gather with family and friends, as we give and receive gifts, let us remember the reason we celebrate and let us point others to it as well.



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