January 5, 2020 [Christmas 2]  John 1:14-18  J.D.Roekle

 

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.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,  who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

 

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          My wife and I received an Instant Pot for Christmas from one of our sons.  Now, I have to confess that I didn’t really know much about it before we received it, and in fact, I’ve been just gradually learning about it since.  The Instant Pot makes many claims.  It is easy to use.  It is easy to clean.  It can cook up to 70% faster than other cooking methods.  It can provide healthier, less expensive meals quickly.  It replaces up to 7 other kitchen appliances.  And of course, this isn’t a one-use gift.  This is a gift that keeps giving, since it can be used over and over again. 

          Our Heavenly Father did not have our stomachs in mind when he sent his Christmas gift into the world: his own Son.  But he certainly did have our best interests in mind.  When Jesus came to earth, the Bible literally tells us that he “tented” among us.  Just as a tent is temporary housing, so also the earth was going to be temporary housing for Jesus.  He was here and gone in 33 years.  And yet, Jesus was not just a temporary gift that was given for a few decades.  Jesus is a gift that we enjoy today.  Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving

 

          Are you one that likes to find unique gifts to give?  You search high and low.  You go to specialty shops in various places to find it.  You scour the internet for that one gift that stands out.    

          Jesus is a unique gift.  John says he is one of a kind.  He is the one and only.  At first glance, it may not appear that way.  The prophet Isaiah said this about Jesus: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” 

          Far from looking unique, Jesus looked rather plain and ordinary.  There wasn’t anything in his features, his build, or his stature that gave the appearance that this was someone special. 

          But just as the best gifts are in unlikely packages, so it is with Jesus.  Jesus appeared as he did so that he could experience all that we experience.  He would experience hunger, thirst, pain, sorrow, and even death.  He would experience all things we do, except sin.  He was born without sin, and he never engaged in sin of any kind. That’s what makes him such a one of a kind gift.  He is a one of a kind gift that keeps on giving. 

          There are people who like to overwhelm people with gifts.  They give gifts to people for every conceivable occasion.  They like to give many, many gifts.  Jesus is one who has an overabundance of gifts to give, and he gives them most generously to us.  In particular, he gives us grace and truth

          Grace is God’s unearned and unmerited favor.  He loves us unconditionally and ‘just because.’  It is the Law that reminds us of who we are.  Think of what you confessed earlier: “I confess that I am by nature dead in sin.  For faithless worrying and selfish pride, For sins of habit and sins of choice, For the evil I have done and the good I have failed to do, You should cast me away from your presence forever.” 

          If that’s the end of it, we’re in big trouble.  But the gift that keeps on giving reaches out to us with his grace.  Christ has died for you!  Christ has risen for you!  Christ will come again…for you!  Christ is the one who has made us alive even though we were dead, steeped in our sins.  And it is Christ who declares to us that because of what he has done, our sins are forgiven. 

          Now that you have received forgiveness of sins from Christ, does that mean you won’t sin once you leave church today?  Of course not.  If we say that we’re without sin or that we’ll quit sinning, we are only deceiving ourselves.  No, the truth is that our sinning will continue today and beyond.  But remember that God’s grace is like a well that never runs dry.  Next week, the pastor will announce once again that your sins are forgiven.  That will be true the following week and the week after that.  Grace is a gift that you’ll never be short of.  It will always come to you plentifully. 

          And another gift that Jesus gives you and me is truth.  The term “fake news” has been popularized primarily by our current president.  The term calls into question whether or not what is being spoken or written is true.  How do you know what to believe?  What source is really accurate?  Who do you trust? 

          Isn’t it comforting then to know that Jesus speaks truth.  In fact, Jesus is truth in the flesh.  The purpose of the Bible is to point to Jesus.  All Old Testament prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus.  The purpose of the New Testament is to point to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. 

          In our world, people want to create their own truth.  Their own reality.  “I’ll believe what I want to believe.”  Others question: “How do I know what to believe?”  What a gift it is to know the truth!  There is only one reality.  And it is all rooted in our Triune God, and revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  What a comfort it is to know this truth.  Knowing the truth changes our whole perspective on life.  Don’t take this truth for granted!

          Why is Christ such a great gift?  There are many births that have been widely anticipated.  For instance, whenever someone in the royal family is giving birth to a baby, the press is all over it.  There has not been a more anticipated birth, however, than the birth of the Christ child.  What is it that sets this child apart?  The lyrics of the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know?” express it:  “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.  Mary did you know?” 

          That seems like a contradiction when you read John’s Gospel.  He says: “no one has ever seen God.”  So how do we understand this?  If we are to see God in all his glory, as sinners we could not survive such an encounter.  God is too holy for us.  So what does God do?  He makes himself known to us by toning down his glory.  He puts himself into the form of a tiny baby, whose brain needs to develop and who needs to learn to crawl and then walk. 

          But make no mistake.  Mary was kissing the face of God.  She and Joseph raised the Son the God.  The gift of this child is so special because only God can be such a blessing to so many.  From him, John says, “we have all received one blessing after another.”  Jesus gives us one blessing after another.  But you know, that doesn’t tell the real story.  More literally, those words of John read: “we have all received grace upon grace.”  That tells you even more about the gift giver.  It tells you his heart. It tells you that he has an endless supply of love for you. 

          You may have received some very useful gifts for Christmas.  Ones that you will use over and over again.  But one day, those gifts you reuse will break or wear out or become obsolete.  Jesus Christ is the one gift that is always needed and is always useful.  And it is the one gift that truly never stops giving.  Amen.