Second Sunday After Christmas Day
John 1:10-18 (NRSV) He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.With the beginning of the New Year, we begin here with the beginning of the Gospel of John. And at the beginning of the Gospel of John, we begin with the aftermath of Christmas. Certainly, the details of Jesus birth are important and we find those in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. In fact all four Gospels make their own unique and complementary announcements of the significance of Jesus coming into the world that is the heart of Christmas.
For this reflection, we look at what the Spirit inspired John to put to paper for the benefit of the community of faith within the sound of the voice reading John 1:10-18 aloud. And so what was the significance of Christmas in this passage?
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him ...
Amazing isn’t it?
This is what we, as Jesus followers, believe: that the God who made the world entered the world!
God has been at work in the world in the past. Going back to the Hebrew Scriptures, God called Abraham and promised to bless him so that the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). God delivered Abraham’s ancestors in the Exodus and gave them leaders like Moses and Joshua and laws for life in the Ten Commandments. God pleaded with his people to turn back to him and live rightly through the Prophets.
And at that moment in history, 2000 years ago, God went to work in the most spectacular and subtle and sublime way yet: he entered human history as a human being.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth ...
Glory is an unusual word in our language. We might hear someone say, “the glory of sports.” What would they mean by that? Usually, the story would be about some good and noble aspect of sport that uplifts the human heart. For example, the story might be of the dedication of an athlete’s comeback from injury to compete again when all thought her career was over. Or maybe, the report would be about how a team pulled together after tragedy struck one of its members. Thus, the “glory of sport” would be seen in these examples.
We might hear someone talk of “the glory of love.” I know of one married couple where the husband turned out to be an immunological match and donated his kidney to his wife thus saving her life. We probably know of people who have cared for a spouse, parent, or child with a terrible disease and we feel inspired by such sacrificial love. Thus, the “glory of love” would be seen in these examples.
And so, here, John proclaims, in Jesus, “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son …” All the goodness, nobility, greatness, fill-in-any-amazing quality of God you can think of is made visible through Jesus. He embodied it and in particular “grace and truth.” John revisits that a few verses later, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Many have described grace as “unmerited favor.” Using the online Greek lexicon, we find the following for grace: that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, good will, loving-kindness, favor of merciful kindness.
We want to know what grace is? Look at Jesus! He embodied grace. It is sad to think that the church that is to be Christ’s representative in the world is often viewed as un-gracious. May we turn away from actions and words that manifest the opposite of grace.
In a world where people say there is no truth or that truth is just one person’s socially and culturally conditioned perspective, we proclaim that there is truth and that Jesus is filled with truth and that truth comes through Jesus. Once again going to the online Greek lexicon, we find the following for truth: objectively what is true in any matter under consideration, truly, in truth, according to truth, of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth; subjectively, truth as a personal excellence that candor of mind which is free from affection, pretense, simulation, falsehood, deceit.
Jesus is all of this. He spoke of truth. He embodied all of this.
But in today’s world, people get nervous when one claims to have truth. People may say if you believe in something that is nice and so it is true for you.
Dallas Willard, a Christian who was a philosophy professor at USC, offered this thought about the struggle for truth: “The bitterness of truth is its total indifference to human will and desire together with the fact that human desire and will is set on reshaping reality and therefor truth to suit itself.”
Willard thus stresses that truth comes before belief because belief doesn’t make something true. One can believe all one wants but if the subject of that belief is not true, all the believing in the world doesn't make it true. Truth come first.
And so what do we take home from all this?
Jesus is filled with grace and truth. Through Jesus we see grace and truth. Truth indeed can be a bitter thing to take. Jesus spoke the truth about the way things are between God and humanity, the way things are between peoples, and the way things are within our selves. The sad truth, the bitter truth, and the hard truth is that we are broken and are in need of reconciliation.
Jesus also spoke truth of how things could be: restored and renewed. And his actions, his words, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his return are the truths that change the truth of our brokenness.
And so a starting point is what is my response to the truth of Jesus?
Some refused to know him and some rejected him. But John says something wonderful can happen: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus has come. The Word became flesh and lived among us. We can reject him or receive him. We can belittle him or believe him. And when we receive and believe him, we become children of God!
Another point for us to consider is how we live now that we have received and believed him? How do we live now as children of God?
In our text today, truth comes in parallel with grace. Because truth can be tough, because our hearts can be tough, God, all wise and merciful comes also in grace. A tour of the Gospels reveal a Jesus exhibiting grace to those he meets. His teaching is filled with grace and calls forth grace from those who would follow.
When we hear people share their stories of their journey of faith, there are those "ah-ha" moments of clarity of the truth of Jesus and our sinful condition. But most of the time, those "ah-ha" moments come wrapped in grace, usually, a person who exhibited grace came along side with gentle pointing to the truth of Christ.
Lord, let us be buoyed with joy because you have given us grace and truth. Lord, help us share grace and truth joyfully with all you bring into our lives. Since you are grace and truth embodied, we want to be grace and truth embodied. Amen.