Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Day (John 1:1-14)

Of the Father’s love begotten Ere the worlds began to be

He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He.

Of the things that are that have been, and that future years shall see

Evermore and evermore.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Before the worlds began to be, before there was anything in all creation, from all eternity, is the Word; uncreated, outside of time, eternally begotten of the Father. The Word is with God, in fellowship with God, as God’s only-begotten Son. He dwells in heaven with God, enthroned in the splendor of the only true God. The Word is no creature, but is Himself eternal, Himself true God. The Word is God, the second person of the Trinity, one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. There are not three Lords, but one Lord, just as there are not three almighties, but one almighty, and not three eternals, but one eternal. Yet, in the mystery of the Godhead, the Word is one person, the Father another, and the Holy Spirit another. There is plurality in the unity; one God, three persons, three persons, one God. The Father is God, the Spirit is God, the Word is God.

He is Alpha and Omega, evermore and evermore. He is the beginning and the end, He is the source of all things, and He is their end. “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” God spoke, and it happened, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” God spoke a Word, God spoke the Word, and all things came into being, the Word that was with God and the Word that is God. He is the source of all in creation; every creature, every detail, came forth by the Word, the Word that created in the beginning, the Word that still sustains creation, through the mandate given to all creatures: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Nothing has its being apart from the Word, nothing has life without Him. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Word who is God dwells in heaven, with the Father, enthroned in glory, evermore and evermore. We sing stanza two.

Oh, that birth forever blessed, When the virgin, full of grace

By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bore the Savior of our race.

And the babe, the world’s redeemer, First revealed His sacred face

Evermore and evermore.

“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.” The Word who is with God, the Word who is God, the Word by whom and through whom all things were created, the Alpha and the Omega, the source and ending of all things, this very Word took flesh. Very God of very God, the eternal Word, who exists outside of time, who created time, entered time. The Creator entered creation as a creature. In the womb of a virgin, without human participation, by an act of the Holy Spirit, the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. God of God and Lord of Lords is now a man, He has become flesh. God takes up residence among His people; as the tabernacle of old was the place where God was present in the midst of His people for their good, so now, in the body of Jesus, God dwells among His people once again. The cloud covered the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled it, but now the glory of the Lord dwells in flesh; the glory of the Lord is a man, a human being, one of us, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

We have seen that glory, “glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John saw the glory upon the mountain; He saw Jesus revealed to be the Word from the Father, the very Son of God, full of grace and truth. The glory of the Creator, present in a creature, the glory that filled the tabernacle, once again present among His people. The light that shone forth in the darkness on the first day of creation, the light that existed before sun and moon and stars, had its source in the Word, who is Himself the Light, and now that uncreated, eternal light shines in the darkness of this sinful world. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We sing stanza three.

This is He whom seers in old time Chanted of with one accord,

Whom the voices of the prophets Promised in their faithful word.

Now He shines, the long expected; Let creation praise its Lord

Evermore and evermore.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Like a choir, an assembly of beautiful voices, the prophets sang in unity. Each sang a different note, each brought their own unique voice to the choir, each added to the rich tapestry, but all were singing same song: the Word made flesh, the long expected Messiah, the coming the Savior of the world. Moses and Isaiah, David and Micah, Malachi and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Elijah and Elisha, and finally, the last prophet, the final member of the choir, John. “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” They were not the light, no matter how bold their words, no matter how powerful their miracles, no matter how strong their voice. They came to bear witness to the light.

Their word was faithful, for it pointed away from themselves and toward the Word who was coming in the flesh. “He came as a witness to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him.” The Light, the Word, must increase, they must decrease; they pointed away from themselves and toward Jesus, crying out with John, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” One who follows Moses must believe in Jesus, he who clings to Isaiah’s words of hope must worship the One he proclaimed, those in awe of Elijah and Elisha’s great deeds must marvel at the One who fulfills their works. With their voices, voices raised in one accord, the prophets, the saints of old, from Adam and Eve who received the first prophecy to John who baptized the seed of a woman promised to them, the prophets pointed to Jesus, and cried out, “Let creation praise its Lord!” We sing stanza four.

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; Angel hosts, His praises sing.

Powers, dominions, bow before Him And extol our God and King.

Let no tongue on earth be silent, Every voice in concert ring.

Evermore and evermore.

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” The prophets proclaimed Him, the angels sang His praises, the shepherd and the magi were His ambassadors, John pointed to Him, and God the Father Himself declared of Him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But the world did not know Him. He created all things, He was the instrument by which God spoke creation into being, but the creatures He gave life to did not receive Him. He was the One proclaimed by the prophets, promised to our first parents and every generation since, but when He came, His own people rejected Him. He came to save, and they put Him to death. He came of the Father’s love begotten, and they hated Him. They spat in His face, they scourged His back, they pressed thorns into His brow. Heaven sings His praises, and the world shouts, ‘Crucify!’ The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness gathers around it, the darkness tries to destroy it.

But the darkness has not overcome it. “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Let creation praise its Lord, high and exalted upon the throne of the cross, winning there the peace promised by the angels on the night of His birth. Let the angel hosts sing as He sheds His blood for the life of the world. Let powers and dominions bow before them, acknowledging as Lord the One declared the King of the Jews. Let no tongue on earth be silent, let every voice echo the concert of the prophets, singing with them, pointing to the cross, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And all who thus sing, all who thus believe, are reborn, made the children of God, “not of blood or of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” All who sing His praises are His children, all who sing His praises are reborn, all who receive Him have a new identity: children of God. We sing stanza five.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, and O Holy Ghost to Thee

Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving And unending praises be,

Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory

Evermore and evermore.

Evermore and evermore, heaven and earth is joined together in praise of the Word made flesh. Evermore and evermore, heaven and earth, long divided, long separated, stands unified by the peace promised at the manger, the peace won at the cross, the peace delivered by the risen Christ. Evermore and evermore, this Jesus is praised in heaven and on earth in unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Evermore and evermore, we who are children of God, born of God through Christ, will stand praising our Lord. Evermore and evermore, creation is restored, evermore and evermore, the curse will be removed, evermore and evermore, the Word is flesh and ever will be flesh. Evermore and evermore, His praises ring, evermore and evermore His saints sing, evermore and evermore the manger, the cross, the empty tomb stand as tokens of our salvation. Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory; evermore and evermore. Amen.

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