TITLE: Christmas Beginnings! SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-18
VERSES 1-18: THE PROLOGUE TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
The Gospel of John weds theology to poetry -- scholars refer to it as poetical prose -- prose with the soul of poetry -- prose that, like poetry, packs layers of meaning in a word or phrase. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Those few words have inspired theologians to write books -- and musicians to compose music -- and artists to paint masterworks -- and all of us to understand Jesus in a profoundly larger way. Stair-step parallelism (see v. 1) brings rhythm to theology.
"But supremely, the Prologue summarizes how the 'Word' which was with God in the very beginning came into the sphere of time, history, tangibility -- in other words, how the Son of God was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed. The rest of the book is nothing other than an expansion of this theme" (Carson, 111).
"It is essential to grasp at the start the insight that the entire Gospel will be a disclosure of God by the one in the bosom of the Father who could say, '.I know him' (8:55), and 'I speak of what I have seen with my Father' (8:38)" (Sloyan, 20). Jesus alone reveals God with perfect clarity, because he alone has shared an intimacy with God in which there
were no secrets or disagreements. Moses heard God on Mount Sinai, but could not see God. He read the words engraved on tablets of stone, but did not produce them. The Word, on the other hand, was present with God from the beginning, and participated fully in every stage of the creation. (v. 3)
"The principal topic in these verses is the incarnation, together with its astonishing sequel, the rejection of the Word by those who might have been expected to welcome him" (Morris, 63).
The Prologue closely parallels the great hymn of Philippians 2:5-11, and also has much in common with Colossians 1:15-20 and the first chapter of Hebrews. These were written earlier than the Gospel of John, and it seems likely that the Prologue borrows from them.
VERSES 1-5: IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD
1In the beginning (Greek: en arche) was the Word (Greek: ho logos), and the Word was with God (Greek: ton theon -- the God -- with the article), and the Word was God (Greek: theos -- no article). 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
"In the beginning" (en arche) (v. 1). The Jewish people know the books of their scriptures by their first words -- in the same way that we know hymns by their first lines. "In the beginning" is their title for the book that we call Genesis. In the Greek Septuagint (LXX), the first words of Genesis are en arche. This Gospel begins with those exact words by design, because the Prologue models itself after the creation account:
-- Both Genesis and this Prologue are accounts of creation at God's word.
-- Both speak of darkness and the light coming into being at the word of God to penetrate and to overcome the darkness.
-- Both speak of life.
-- In Genesis, God speaks, and that word brings man to life; in the Prologue, the Word of God brings eternal life to humanity.
Each of the four Gospels traces Jesus back to a particular beginning:
-- Matthew traces Jesus' genealogy to Abraham.
-- Mark begins his Gospel by saying, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," but starts with Isaiah, who prophesies the coming of the one who will prepare Jesus' way (Mark 1:1-3).
-- Luke begins with the word of the angel to Zechariah announcing the coming birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-24) and the announcement to Mary of Jesus' coming birth (Luke 1:26-38).
-- The Gospel of John traces the Word back to the very beginning – before time -- before the creation of the world. The Word is not part of the creation -- was not created -- but stood with God before the creation. This is important, because it is contrary to the prevailing Jewish thought of God working alone in creation.
"was the Word (logos)" (v. 1). Logos is a brilliant choice of words to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Greek worlds. The first Christians were Jewish, but the Gospel spread quickly to Greeks, who know nothing of the messiah or the fulfillment of prophecy. John's task is to couch this Gospel in language that they can understand and appreciate. Logos is a common word in Greek philosophy. Greeks believe that the world is highly volatile, but is under the control of Logos. John is saying to the Greek world, "You believe in Logos. Jesus is Logos come to earth. Jesus is the mind of God in human form" (Barclay, 13-14).
Jews also understand logos ("the Word"):
-- Out of respect, Jews prefer not to use God's name, so they sometimes use the phrase, "the Word" as a substitute for God's name.
-- Philo, a Greek Jew, brought together Jewish and Greek thought and used logos to speak of God's role in creation.
The Jewish concept of the Word (logos) of God is rooted in the OT. "The creation accounts of Genesis are governed by God's spoken word; God spoke through the law at Sinai and through the prophets. The Word encompasses both word and deed, and that fits well with the image of logos in the Prologue" (O'Day, 519). The OT frequently refers to God's speaking or God's word as a creative, revealing, saving, or judging word. In each
instance, God's word is powerful and action-oriented, i.e.:
-- "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light" (Gen. 1:3).
-- "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6).
-- "he sent out his word and healed them" (Psalm 107:20).
-- See also Isaiah 9:8; 38:4; Jer. 1:4; Ezek. 33:7; Amos 3:1, 8.
The feminine equivalent of Logos is Sophia, which means Wisdom. In Sirach 24, there is a story of God granting Wisdom permission to dwell on earth. The earth, however, proved to be an inhospitable dwelling place for Wisdom, "so God made Wisdom to become a book, the Book of Moses, to dwell in the tents of Jacob" (Craddock, 44). In a present-day analogy, we are tempted to treat scripture as the ultimate Word of God. That is not entirely inappropriate, because the scriptures are a powerful word from God. The ultimate Word, however, became flesh and dwelt among us.
"and the Word was with God" (ton theon -- the God -- with the article), "and the Word was God" (theos -- without the article) (v. 1). "When Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it.... Now when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun, that noun becomes much more like an adjective; it describes the character, the
quality of the person. John did not say that the Word was ho theos; that would have been to say that the Word was identical with God; he says that the Word was theos--without the definite article -- which means that the Word was, as we might say, of the very same character and quality and essence and being as God" (Barclay, 17).
By using theos with the article in the first instance and without the article in the second instance, the Prologue distinguishes between God and the Word while, at the same time, emphasizing their unity. If those opposing ideas -- individuality and unity -- seem incompatible, consider the relationship between husband and wife. In marriage, two people who retain their individual identities, become, in some sense, one. (As one wag put it, after the wedding they learn which one.)
"and the Word was God" (v. 1). This is not traditional Jewish theology of the messiah, whom Jews expect to be like King David -- a great man – a God-empowered man -- but only a man. The Jews are fiercely monotheistic, and the phrase, "the Word was God," must set their teeth on edge.
John's emphasis on the creative role of the Word counters Gnostic heresy. Gnosticism is dualistic, saying that matter is evil and, therefore, could not be created by God. Gnostics believe that the OT God of creation is evil and must therefore be different from the NT Father of Jesus, who is good. John directly counters that line of thought, saying, "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (v. 3) (Barclay, 19)
Verses 4-5 introduce the themes of life and light shining in the darkness -- important themes in the Gen. 1 creation story -- and important throughout this Gospel. More than one-quarter of all the references to life in the NT are found in this Gospel, and usually refer to eternal life (Morris, 73) (see 3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:21-29, 39-40; 6:47, 51-54, 63, 68; 8:12; 10:1-28; 11:25; 12:25, 50; 14:6; 17:2; 20:31). The life that Jesus offers is more than mere physical existence -- it is life in relationship with God.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (v. 5). God's first creative act was light (Gen. 1). The light of creation was the first step in bringing order to the formless void, and the light brought by the Word is the first step toward bringing order into the chaos of our lives.
"The darkness stands for the state of mind in which mankind fails to welcome the light" (Howard, 466). The promise is that the darkness did not -- and, by extension, will not -- overcome the light. "Because, says the NT, this fight is not our fight, but God's; and he is in it with us.. And unless the Almighty fail, goodness cannot be conquered; and must win in the end" (Gossip, 468).
We have seen that even a small light can dispel even a great darkness -- even a tiny candle can drive darkness out of a large room. "Light and darkness are opposites, but they are not opposites of equal power. Light is stronger than darkness; darkness cannot prevail against it.... Similarly darkness cannot overcome... those who walk in the light (John 12:35)" (Bruce, 34).
VERSES 6-8: THERE WAS A MAN WHOSE NAME WAS JOHN
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness (Greek: eis marturian) to testify (Greek: marturese) to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
John the Baptist renewed the prophetic tradition after four hundred prophetless years. Because his ministry was so powerful, some people thought of him as the messiah. This Gospel makes a number of references to John -- always clearly establishing that he was subordinate to Jesus. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light (vv. 7-8).
The other Gospels call him John the Baptist to distinguish him from John, the son of Zebedee, but this Gospel refers to him only as John – and makes no mention of John, the son of Zebedee. The traditional explanation is that John, the son of Zebedee is the author of this Gospel, and prefers not to mention himself by name (Carson, 120).
John's purpose was to bear testimony to the light -- to serve as a witness to the light (v. 7). The word for witnessing -- martureo -- is the word from which we get the word martyr. To witness for Christ often provokes the forces of darkness to violence, and Christian witnesses often become martyrs -- a reality as true today in many parts of the world as it ever was in the Roman world. John died as a martyr because of his testimony
regarding Herod's marriage (Mark 6:14-29).
VERSES 9-13: HIS OWN PEOPLE DID NOT ACCEPT HIM
9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (Greek: kosmos). 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children (Greek: tekna) of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
"The true light...was coming into the world (kosmos)" (v. 9). This is quite a statement, because the kosmos, in this Gospel, is a world in rebellion against God -- a dark world. The fact that the light comes into the kosmos or that God loves the kosmos (3:16) is no endorsement of the kosmos, but instead bears testimony to God's capacity for love.
"He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him" (v. 11). "We might translate (these) words, 'he came home.' ...The Word did not go where he could not have expected to be known. He came home, where the people should have known him. And it was the home folk, 'his own,' who 'did not receive him' " (Morris, 85-86). He came to the Israelites, God's chosen people. God prepared them for centuries to receive him into their midst, but they rejected him.
However, we should be careful not to judge. "The rejection of the Word by Jesus' own people is restricted neither to the time of Jesus nor to that of the Fourth Gospel" (O'Day, 525). Much of the world today is still in rebellion -- still prefers darkness to light, because its deeds are evil (3:19-20). That is true of all of us at certain points in our lives.
"But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children (tekna) of God" (v. 12). In this Gospel, Jesus is the Son (huios) of God -- and is the only one who is called huios. This Son is empowered to bring those who receive him and believe in his name into the family of God as children (tekna) of God -- adopted into the family, but full heirs -- entitled to all the rights and privileges of family members.
"born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man" (v. 13). The Jewish people trace their ancestry to Abraham, thus establishing themselves as heirs to the covenant between God and Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). However, it is not this physical lineage -- this bloodline -- that is important. "It is spiritually irrelevant to be descended from Abraham in the natural order if one is not a child of Abraham in the only sense that
matters before God -- by reproducing Abraham's faith" (Bruce, 40).
"but of God" (v. 13). God's children are brought into God's family by God's action. We will hear more about this in chapter 3. Jesus says, "No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.... without being born of water and Spirit" (3:3, 5).
"Verses 11 and 12 seem to be a summary of the two main divisions of John. Verse 11 covers the Book of Signs (chs. i-xii), which tells how Jesus came to his own land...and yet his own people did not receive him. Verse 12 covers the Book of Glory (chs. xiii-xx), which contains Jesus' words to those who did receive him and tells how he returned to his Father in order to give them the gift of life and make their God's children" (Brown, 19).
VERSE 14: AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US
14And the Word became flesh (Greek: sarx) and lived (Greek: eskenosen -- tabernacled) among us, and we have seen his glory (Greek: doxan), the glory as of a father's only son (Greek: monogenous -- one and only offspring), full of grace and truth.
Verse 14 is the centerpiece of the Prologue -- "the sentence for the sake of which John wrote the Fourth Gospel" (Barclay, 44).
"And the Word became flesh (sarx)" (v. 14a). This is a startling statement -- expressed in bold, nearly vulgar, language. Sarx is an ugly-sounding word that depicts an often ugly reality. For dualistic Greeks, who believe that all matter is evil, the thought of God becoming sarx is unimaginable -- the equivalent of God becoming a pornographer or a
prostitute. Paul uses sarx to speak of the sins of the flesh, but then he also says that God "by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful sarx, ...he condemned sin in the sarx" (Rom. 8:3). It is as if God has climbed into our sewer to deliver us from our sewage. John may have used this stark language, in part, to counter Gnostic or Docetic heresies that would deny Jesus' humanity because of their dualistic philosophy.
The Word becoming flesh is the zenith of God's revelation. God, who spoke earlier through the prophets, now speaks through his son (Heb. 1:1-2).
"and lived (eskenosen -- tabernacled) among us" (v. 14b). "Verse 14b. should be read alongside v. 1.. The Word who dwelt with God now dwells with 'us,' human beings like himself" (O'Day, 522) -- again, a startling statement referencing two very different worlds -- God's world and our world. Between these two worlds lies a great chasm, apparently unbridgeable (Luke 16:26). However, God, in love, bridges these worlds,
using himself as bridge-building material.
This word, eskenosen, "tabernacled," is quite familiar to Jewish readers. During their wanderings in the wilderness, God commanded the Israelites to build the tabernacle -- an elaborate and beautiful tent that served as the symbol of God's presence in their midst (Exod. 25-27) -- and the precursor of the Jerusalem temple. Verse 14 declares that the God who once dwelled among them in the tabernacle and the temple now chooses to dwell among them in Jesus' sarx. At 2:19-22, Jesus makes it clear that his sarx
supercedes the tabernacle and temple.
"and we have seen his glory (doxan)" (v. 14c). "To see the glory is to see Jesus for who he truly is, God's emissary, God's Son" (Smith, 59). In the OT, Moses asked to see God's glory, and was allowed to see God's goodness, but not his face -- "for no one shall see me and live" (Exod. 33:20). Now, however, we are allowed to see Jesus' glory -- and his face
-- and thus the Father is fully revealed to us, because "Whoever has seen (the Son) has seen the Father" (14:9).
Jesus enjoyed glory with the Father from the beginning, even before the creation (17:5). His works on earth reveal the glory of the Father and the Son (2:11; 11:4, 40). He will speak of his death as his glorification (12:23; see also 7:39; 13:31; 14:13; 17:4, 10).
"The other Gospels depict the glory of God coming upon Jesus at the transfiguration. John does not relate this, for he sees the glory of God in all Jesus says and does; supremely the hour for Jesus to be glorified is the crucifixion (12:23; 13:32; 17:1)" (Burridge, 475).
"the glory as of a father's only son (monogenous -- one and only offspring), full of grace and truth" (v. 14d). "That God the Father's only Son is full of grace and truth is another way of asserting his close relationship to God. For God is ultimately the source of grace, as outgoing beneficent love, and the ground of truth, as what is real and reliable as opposed to all that is false" (Smith, 59).
VERSES 15-18: WE HAVE RECEIVED GRACE UPON GRACE
15(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.' ") 16From his fullness (Greek: pleromatos) we have all received, grace upon grace (Greek: charin anti charitos -- grace on top of grace). 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known (Greek: exegesato -- explained).
"John testified to him" (v. 15). This Prologue has already mentioned John as the one who bore witness to the light (vv. 6-8). Now it mentions him again in this parenthetical note as bearing witness to the person (we will learn in v. 17 that his name is Jesus Christ) who is the light. Just as the Prologue subordinated John to Jesus in v. 8, so it also subordinates
him here. John began his ministry before Jesus, so it would be possible to believe that he is senior to Jesus -- more important. Not so, this Prologue tells us. Jesus began his work even before the creation (vv. 1-3), so he is prior in time and pre-eminent in stature to John. This mention of John in the Prologue helps to prepare us for his witness to Jesus, the story of which we will find immediately following the Prologue (vv. 19-34).
"From his fullness (pleromatos)" (v. 16). To understand "fullness," we must go back to v. 15, which tells us that the Word is full of grace and truth -- attributes of God -- attributes that the Word shares with God as the "Father's only son" (v. 15). It is from this one who is full of grace and truth that we receive grace upon grace.
"we have all received, grace upon grace (charin anti charitos)" (v. 16). This is another "packed-full-of-goodness" phrase -- probably best translated "grace upon grace" or "grace on top of grace." It tells us that we draw grace from the total resources of God, an inexhaustible warehouse. Regardless of our need for grace, the supply is greater. Imagine standing on a seashore watching waves roll in. They come every few seconds, and the supply never fails. If we had been there the day before -- or the year before -- or a thousand years ago, we would have seen the waves maintaining their steady tempo. If we were to return tomorrow -- or a thousand tomorrows -- the waves would be rolling in as
faithfully as when we first saw them. So it is with the grace of God -- faithful -- inexhaustible.
"The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (v. 17). This is the first mention in the Prologue of Jesus' name. Until now, the identity of the Word has been a mystery. "Like a whodunit waiting to spring the announcement of the killer, the prologue waits until the last moment to mention the name of the one whose
life-creating story is being told" (Howard-Brook, 60).
"The gift that is the truth surpasses and perfects the former gift given through Moses.... This is not a negative assessment of the former gift; it is a Christian perspective that respects the gift of God given through Moses but insists that the former gift is now perfected in the gift of the truth that took place in and through the event of Jesus Christ" (Moloney, 40). The new is better than the old -- whether wine (2:10) -- or temple
(2:19) -- or birth (3:3-5) or water (4:13-14) or bread (6:30 ff.). "Verse 17 does not disparage the previous gift, but points to the gift now available through Jesus Christ as something new" (O'Day, 523).
Note the contrasts between Moses and Jesus:
-- We received the law through Moses, but we receive grace and truth through Jesus Christ (v. 17).
-- "No one has ever seen God" (vs. 18). When Moses asked to see God's glory, God said, "You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live" (Exod. 33:19-20). Now, "It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (v. 18). Now, because of Jesus, we can see God clearly.
John's "entire Gospel is in a sense an elaboration upon 1:18: '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' " (Craddock, 43). "We might use an English word derived from the Greek verb and say that the Son is the 'exegete' of the Father" (Bruce, 45).
" 'Seeing' includes but goes beyond mere sense perception; it has to do with becoming children of God, with discovering the divine benevolence and reliability" (Brueggemann, 86).
Verse 1 declared that the Word was God, and v. 18 declares that the Son is God, thus forming an inclusio that brackets the Prologue, marking its beginning and its ending.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
So begins the story of Jesus in this Gospel of John. The other Gospels begin differently -- telling us of angels and shepherds -- that's our favorite ---- or Jesus' genealogy -- that's not our favorite. But John's Gospel starts with these beautiful and mysterious words:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Many years ago, in a seminary classroom, I asked a professor why John referred to Jesus as the Word. Why not just call him Jesus? Why not just say, "In the beginning was Jesus"?
The professor paused for a moment, and then asked me a question. He asked, "What do we use words for?" I said, "We use words to tell people what is on our minds -- what we are thinking." He said, "That's right! And that is what Jesus was doing! He lived among us as the Word of God -- telling us -- and showing us -- what was on God's mind!"
I spent lots of years in classrooms, but nobody ever answered a question better than that. "Jesus lived among us as the Word of God -- telling us -- and showing us -- what was on God's mind!"
-- He showed us what it means to live a Godly life.
-- He showed us what it means to love.
-- He showed us what it means to care about little people and outcasts.
-- He showed us how to become Godly persons.
The Word was born in a stable and cradled in a manger at Christmas, but that was not the Word's beginning:
-- The Word was there when Moses led Israel through the Red Sea.
-- And earlier, when Abraham left his home to go wherever God would lead him.
-- And even earlier, when Adam and Eve walked the pathways of the lovely garden.
-- Even before there was a man or woman -- before there were cattle and creeping things -- before there were birds of the air or fish of the sea.
-- Before the two great lights began their rule over day and night.
-- Before there were plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit.
-- Before the waters of the skies were gathered together so that the dry land might appear.
-- Before there were heavens and earth.
-- Before there was light -- when all was quiet and dark -- a formless void -- the Word was there.
The Word was there in the BEGINNING! In the beginning with God! And the Word was God! So, we might say, THAT was the beginning of Christmas!
John continues the story this way. He says:
"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."
That's when Christmas really got into gear! First, God did everything possible to help the Israelites. He showed them miracles -- led them out of Egypt -- gave them the law and the prophets -- and then watched them self-destruct!
God must have felt about the Israelites like we parents sometimes feel about our children. We try and try -- give them every advantage – warn them of dangers -- show them the right way -- and then watch in dismay as they make their mistakes. It isn't easy to be a parent. I suspect that it isn't easy to be God either!
Some of the mistakes that the Israelites made were disastrous! God must have been so frustrated!
And so God decided that they needed more -- more than scriptures and prophets. They needed to see God.
They had never seen the face of God -- that holy face -- lest they be consumed by the white heat of God's holiness -- lest they die. But God decided that the time had come for them to see his face, and so he sent his Son -- the Son who bore his image.
But how could people withstand the holy presence of the Son if they could not withstand the holy presence of the Father? If they looked on the face of the Father, they would surely die! Why would they not die if they looked on the face of the Son, who was the spitting image of the Father! Why would they not be consumed by his holiness, just as they would have been consumed by the Father's holiness!
That was a real problem. So God planned this plan:
-- First, the Son would come into the world in the most ordinary way possible -- would almost sneak into the world. He would not come as king or conqueror or judge, but would instead be born as an ordinary baby to an ordinary mother in an ordinary town. He would grow up gradually so that people could experience his warmth before they felt the heat of his holiness.
-- And, second, he would be born in the midst of people who were prepared to receive him -- Israelites -- the people of God. They had the scriptures and the prophets to get them ready for Jesus.
-- And, third, God would send John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus -- to get the people's attention -- to call them to repentance – to point them to Jesus.
So the Word came to his own -- but his own received him not! It was a sad story! Jesus came to tell them about God -- to show them God -- but found himself faced with hostility from people who didn't want to listen. They tried to embarrass him -- to trip him up. They asked him hard questions in front of crowds -- and when he answered well, they plotted behind his back -- and finally they killed him. And that seemed to be that!
But John continues the story. He says:
"But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God."
The Israelites thought of themselves as children of Abraham, but Jesus gave them power to become children of God. And some did receive him – a few at first, and then more and more -- until finally Christians were scattered across the whole face of the earth.
And we are among them! Take a moment to look at the person sitting next to you in the pew. Then say to yourself, "That is a child of God! I had better be nice to him or her, because God is watching!" Then say to yourself, "I am a child of God too. I have received the Word -- I have believed in Jesus -- and now I am a child of God."
A couple of years ago, John Kass wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune about a man whose last name was Bouch, a waiter in a local tavern. Bouch was Moroccan, and knew that the king of Morocco, King Mohammed, had been very responsive to his subjects -- so Bouch decided to write to him – and the king wrote back. It made Bouch so happy! He said, "Look at the letters! These are letters from the King! If I meet him, I'll be so
Kass, the columnist commented, "How many guys hauling beer and burgers in a Chicago tavern have a correspondence going with a royal monarch?"
I agree that a personal letter from a king is wonderful -- but we have something even more wonderful -- a personal visit -- and an invitation to becoming children of the King -- part of the family -- heirs to the kingdom. How can it get better than that!
Christmas Day has come and gone. Some of the presents that we have given or received have already been broken or misplaced -- but don't misplace this one. You are the child of God. That is the present that keeps on giving all year long.
Stand a little straighter! Walk a little prouder! Love a little better! Someday you will walk into the throne room -- into the presence of God. You will see him face to face -- have him greet you as his beloved child. Until then, spend every day preparing for that moment – preparing yourself to stand in the presence of the Almighty Father.
In that regard, I would like to close with this brief prayer by Thomas a Kempis.
(NOTE TO THE PREACHER: If the bulletin has not already been printed, print this prayer in it so that the people can take it home. When you come to this point in the sermon, call their attention to the prayer in the bulletin, and give them a moment to locate it. Encourage them to take it home -- to cut it out -- to post it on their refrigerator -- to pray it each day this week, perhaps at their dinner table. Be sure to put a good solid "t" on each of the "nots" in the prayer.)
Let not thy Word, O Lord, become a judgment upon us, that we hear it and do it not, that we know it and love it not, that we believe it and obey it not.
This is the advice that newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer gave to his
writers. It is good advice for anyone who wants to communicate in any
medium -- not just newspapers. It is as applicable today as when Pulitzer
"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."
Doesn't that sound exactly like what God has done by sending the Word into
* * * * * * * * * *
Lord of the Dance (CO #527; GC #708; JS #554; PH #302; TH #352; UMH #261; VU #352) also known as I Danced in the Morning
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (BH #208; CH #517; CO #454; GC #622; JS
#391; LBW #315; LW #286; PH #376; TH #657; TNCH #43; UMH #384; VU #333)