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The Light in the Darkness - Various Scriptures

The greatest miracle the world has ever witnessed is the perpetual veiling of the resplendent glory of God in the Man, Jesus Christ, for 33 years

John 1:1-18, 4:9, 20:28; Exodus 34:29; Luke 2:8-9; Matthew 2:11, 17:1-2; 1 Kings 8:27; Colossians 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:16;

Dec 25, 2011 12:00 AM

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At Christmas, there are two biblical texts that are generally considered to be THE texts most closely associated with the entire Christmas season.  Matthew 1:18 - 2:23 is the first.  There we read of the angel’s revelation to Joseph of the miraculous nature of Mary’s pregnancy, we read of the wise men of the East who seek out the child Jesus and worship Him, and of the work of the maniacal King Herod who sends soldiers to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the child Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Then we have the passage that Linus has been reciting from memory since 1965 in A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is kind of amazing in itself: Luke 2:1-20.  There we learn of the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, that the inn was full, that the only thing available was a stable, and that was the birthplace of Jesus.  Angels appear in the night and herald the good news to shepherds who then leave the sheep and run into town to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  When they arrive and tell Joseph and Mary their story, she ponders these things in her heart.

These are the things we most often hear about in Christmas messages: Angels and shepherds, wise men and a crazy king, cattle lowing and sheep bleating, an unsympathetic innkeeper, and two amazed and probably somewhat confused parents.  All of this is wonderful and it makes for some powerful story-telling to children and grandchildren of Christians all over the world.  It even impacts the adults telling the story of how God sent Jesus into the world as a baby.

The Matthew account and the Luke account are both amazing.  But I believe John’s account of the birth of Christ is absolutely earth-shaking.  There are no cattle or donkeys or kings or shepherds in his telling of the Christmas story.  His story does not begin in Nazareth, and he doesn’t mention Mary or Joseph at all.  His story begins at the beginning.  At THE beginning.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He 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 enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 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.

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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-18 ESV)

It is evident from this passage that the Person repeatedly referred to by John as “the Word” is the Lord Jesus.  He does not introduce Jesus as “a Word” but as “the Word”, the definitive and precise communication of God to men.  He is the One and only perfect expression of Deity to men and He did this by taking onto Himself, or even more precisely, by actually becoming a human being like us: And the Word became flesh.  This divine Person became ALSO a human person.  The Lord Jesus, even from before His birth into this world by Mary, even from the womb, even from His conception by the Holy Spirit, was fully God and fully human simultaneously.

You know how much I enjoy reading A.W. Pink’s writings.  Here is some of what he said about the incarnation of Jesus: “The word became flesh:" He became what He was not previously.  He did not cease to be God, but He became Man.

“The One born at Bethlehem was the Divine and eternal Word.  The Incarnation does not mean that God dwelt in a man, but that God became Man.  He became what He was not previously, though He never ceased to be all that He was before.  The Babe of Bethlehem was Immanuel—God with us.”

“‘And the word became flesh.’  The plain meaning of these words is, that our Divine Savior took upon Him human nature.  He became a real Man, yet a sinless, perfect Man.  As Man He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26).  This union of the two natures in the Person of Christ is one of the mysteries of our faith—"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16).  It needs to be carefully stated.  "The word" was His Divine title; "became flesh" speaks of His holy humanity.  He was, and is, the God-man, yet the Divine and human in Him were never confounded.  His Deity, though veiled, was never laid aside; His humanity, though sinless, was a real humanity; for as incarnate, He "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).  As "the word" then, He is the Son of God; as "flesh," the Son of man.  This union of the two natures in the Person of Christ was necessary in order to fit Him for the office of Mediator.  Three great ends were accomplished by God becoming incarnate, by the Word being made flesh.  First, it was now possible for Him to die.  Second, He can now be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.  Third, He has left us an example, that we should follow His steps.”

Thursday night, we were talking about this and I asked the question, “What do you think is the greatest miracle in the Bible?”  Several things were mentioned: The creation of the universe from nothing; the resurrection of Jesus; and a couple of others, I think.  The miracle of salvation should rank highly in the minds of the redeemed.

But for the second Person of the Trinity to condescend to this degree, to leave the glories of Heaven and become like the inglorious creatures He Himself has made?  Let me ask another question of you: When Moses looked for a moment at the glory of God, what was the effect of that experience on Moses?  When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. (Exodus 34:29 ESV)

When the angels came to the shepherds and lit up the night around them, was the glory of the angels an inherent glory?  Do angels naturally shine because they were created as brilliantly shiny beings?  Or are angels glorious because they live in the presence of the Trinity?  Do angels shine because they have seen the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus in all of His glory?  Do you remember what the text says:

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. (Luke 2:8&9 ESV)

The reflected glory of God as it was seen in the angels was such great glory that it immediately caused the shepherds to tremble in fear.  And that was second-hand glory.  The angels merely radiated light and glory that did not belong to them.  In Matthew 17, we read this:

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2 ESV)

From the moment Jesus was born until He rose from the dead He perpetually veiled this light, His inherent glory and majesty.  The brilliance of His inherent holiness, except for this one occasion when He revealed it to Peter, James and John, was always covered for our sakes.  When the baby Jesus was born, the greatest miracle the world has ever seen was witnessed by Joseph and Mary and some shepherds: that totally human newborn was the fully divine Creator of the entire universe, the glorious and holy and almighty God.  I believe (and this is my opinion) that display of infinite humility, that containment of His infinite glory, may be the greatest miracle God ever performed.  And He did this so that we might have access to God.

If it is possible to rate the magnitude of miracles, this one may be the most magnificent.  I think it is obvious that some miracles are more impressive and more important than others.  The resurrection is significantly more important than God making an axe head float for Elisha.  Many miracles we read of in the Bible seldom get mentioned or discussed.  From our perspective, it would seem that our own redemption would be the most important miracle.  It is truly astounding that a holy God would willingly, out of love for His own sinful creatures, take their sins upon Himself and die in their place.  That is hard to fathom.

But is it possible that the act of Christ’s incarnation is an even greater miracle than His act of redeeming us?  Because in His becoming a man, He does so in order that He might suffer and die and be resurrected from the dead and save us from our sins.  This incarnation, this act of God becoming a man is the first step, the first act through which He begins His 33 years of work as a human being in order to accomplish our redemption.  It was a 33 year long miracle.

When King Solomon dedicated the newly constructed Temple in Jerusalem, he prayed to God and said, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV)  Even Solomon’s Temple, great as it was, was ridiculously inadequate to house an infinite God.  And yet, miracle of miracles, the great and awesome Jehovah in all of His fullness and glory is contained in the body of a newborn child, for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19 ESV).  We agree completely with Paul: "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16),

It took the church many years to deal with this mystery of Jesus being both God and man.  In an attempt to make the mystery a little less mysterious, J.I. Packer says this:

“The Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451) affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes.  In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee.

"The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness.  That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing.  Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine.  They all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man."

This is exactly what Jesus is saying when He says to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?” (John 14:9 ESV)  And it is exactly what Thomas is saying when he sees the resurrected Jesus and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28 ESV).

With the help of God and His grace, I have begun to comprehend to some small degree how God might want to glorify Himself by a magnificent display of His love for sinners by making Jesus our substitute, a holy sacrifice for the sake of His elect people.  I can see, I think, why God might want to do something like that.  What practically unbelievable love that is!  But I can see how it works.  I can grasp sacrifice and substitution.  I can see how the Old Testament sacrificial lambs foreshadowed the future Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world by His own sacrifice.  I grasp that concept.

I can even see to a degree how God can raise the dead, both the physically and the spiritually dead.  If He was powerful enough to create everything from nothing, and if He was capable of breathing the breath of life into an inanimate Adam, surely He can do the same for spiritually dead people.

But if the Tabernacle in the Wilderness could not contain God, if the Temple of Solomon could not contain God, if the heavens and the entire earth could not contain God, how is it that Mary’s baby is God?  And how is it that God would ever choose to come into this world and live in our midst in this manner, by becoming Mary’s child?  That, my brothers and sisters, is a fantastic mystery, far beyond mortal comprehension.  Who would believe these things if God had not moved John to tell us?

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. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:14&18 ESV)

Today is Christmas day.  It is usually a happy day typically filled with much that is trivial and trite and flippant and inconsequential.  I don’t suppose a day of frivolity is necessarily evil.  But I don’t want my Christmas, my Incarnation Day to be like that.  And I hope I’ve helped you keep yours from becoming that.  The wise men from the east got it right.  Surely they didn’t understand then, when they journeyed to Bethlehem 2000 years ago, what we understand today from reading the entire Bible.  But they got one thing quite right:

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV).

Jesus is the One to whom we should be giving both our worship and our gifts.  The great and awesome King of Glory, the One who is Light and Life, the One who gives eternal life to all who believe in Him, He is the One to whom we bow the knee in reverence and awe and praise and worship.  Mary’s baby is the eternal and almighty and infinite God.  Let’s worship Him at Christmas.


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