John chapter 1 is filled with many images and beautiful descriptions. Today, I want to take just three of the images that appear in our short text. These images also represent three important invitations that each of us receive.
In verse 9 we read that Jesus is the true light that brings light to all people. Into the darkness of our lives, comes the true light that is Christ. But we see that there is a problem. In verse 5 we read the following: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Although the true light has entered the world, those in darkness have not always been able to comprehend it, to understand it, to see its importance.
In verses 6-8 we read the following about John the Baptist: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all people might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
Jesus himself later spoke of us as salt and light. That we should shine our light. We’re not the true light, but we give witness to the light. And so this is our first invitation: Become a Light!
Shine your light. Become a light in the darkness around you. Of course, we’re not the true light. But we share the truth of Jesus, in order that people may leave their darkness and live in the light.
At Christmas we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born as a human baby. He becomes quite literally the child of God, later called the Son of God. Were people happy to welcome him? Did people welcome him as God’s child… as God’s son? We read in verses 10-11: “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.”
But some people did recognize him, and accepted him. And do you know what happened to them? It says in verse 12 that everyone who received him, recognized him, and believed him, were allowed to become children of God. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
And so this is our 2nd invitation in today’s text: Become a child of God!
How are we supposed to become children? Become like the infant Jesus? Are we supposed to return to our mother’s womb and be born as children again? No. Remember Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3. Jesus tells him – being born again, becoming a child of God – is not a physical but a spiritual reality. By accepting Jesus as the true light, and believing in his name, we become children of God.
This is a difficult word. It means that God, who is a spirit, takes on the physical body of we humans. Jesus is born as a human baby. In verse 14 we read: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God became flesh and lived among us. Another famous paraphrase puts it like this: “God moved into our neighborhood.”
God became human so that he could communicate most effectively to us about his love, about the need for salvation, about eternal life which he offers to all people.
Jesus taught his disciples: “Do as I do, wash each others’ feet as I have washed your feet, spend time with those who are rejected by others, feed the hungry, heal the sick, sit with the dying, visit those in prison, give water to the thirsty.” In short, come along side of people, join their world, take on their problems, listen well to those around you. Just as Jesus came into OUR world and our neighborhood, we are commanded to go into the neighborhoods and “worlds” of our friends and neighbors. Join them where THEY are.
This is our 3rd Invitation: Practice Incarnation! It’s a bit more abstract than the first two invitations, but it basically means that we need to live as Jesus lived. Live our lives in such a way – as good neighbors – that we will have the opportunity to share the love of God and the good news of the gospel with those who we meet and interact with.
As a church, how do we practice living incarnationally?
- It means getting to know our neighbors
- It means getting involved in their lives, in their struggles
- It means communicating the love of God and the good news of salvation in language that they can understand.
So let’s joyfully accept these three invitations this Christmas:
Become a light – witnessing to the truth and light of Christ
Become a child of God – accepting Jesus, believing in his name
Practice Incarnation – join “the world” of those around us