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The Gospel of John always gives us a unique perspective on Jesus. And this morning, John gives us a unique reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In this fleeting world, where life slips through our fingers, God has given us something to hold onto, somewhere to get a grip on life, somewhere to stand—the man Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary. Because, there isn’t anything more to life than Jesus; all of life is found in him.
When John tells the Christmas story, he doesn’t talk about shepherds or angels, or even Mary and Joseph. Instead, he starts in the beginning of creation itself, before there was anything at all. And he starts here because he wants us to look at this person Jesus and see Life itself—not just someone who is alive, but the very source of life.
John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The Word, who was in the beginning with God, is the source of all life. The only reason that the sun rose this morning, the only reason that water flows rivers, or that trees grow, the only reason there is food on our tables, the only reason we have hearts that beat is because of the Word. The Word is the source of life. He is Life itself. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life.” So if it weren’t for the Word, there would be nothing, nothing at all. The Word is the source of all life. Everything that exists, comes from him. He is Life itself.
And, John says, Merry Christmas: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The source of life, the one who holds all of life in his hands, is the baby born to Mary. This human being, Jesus of Nazareth, is not just alive. He is Life itself.
You can see this, for instance, when Jesus was invited to a wedding in Cana. When the wine ran out, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” And what did Jesus do? He turned water into wine.
What’s amazing here is not just that Jesus turns water into wine. What’s amazing is the overflowing abundance that Jesus brings to the party. He doesn’t just turn some water into wine. He had the servants fill six stone water jars containing thirty gallons apiece. Six water jars at thirty gallons apiece makes 180 gallons. 180 gallons of wine! Jesus didn’t just fix the problem, he started a whole new party.
And the wine that Jesus brought to the party wasn’t the cheap stuff in a box. “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Just when you think the party has runs its course and is all but over, Jesus brings out 180 gallons of top shelf wine. Jesus doesn’t just fix the problem; he brings an abundance of the best. Just as in the beginning God said “Let there be light” and he didn’t just create the sun and the earth and the moon. No, God creates 2 trillion galaxies each containing millions of stars apiece—because God is an ever-flowing fountain of life, and that life is found in Jesus.
And Jesus’ birth is good news because it means that in this fleeting world, where life slips through our fingers, we have something to hold onto, somewhere to get a grip on life, somewhere firm to stand.
A few weeks back I suddenly noticed how fleeting life is. Olivia has to read 20 minutes a day for school, and she usually reads out loud to me. And so as I was listening to her read, I realized that she was no longer the little girl who mispronounced words like lightening and tarantula. She’s no longer the little girl who needs to sit in her dad’s lap and have books read to her. She can do it herself. And then it hit me that Abram is in middle school—he was in second grade when we moved here. And when I think back to when I was growing up, it was a short step from middle school to driver’s license. And from driver’s license to graduation is hardly a step at all—it happens in a flash. And it struck me: My time with them is nearly up. I’ll see the people they become for a while. But they’ll grow up and move on, and for the majority of their time on earth, they won’t be with me. In fact, maybe the richest time of their lives I won’t even be a part of. >>I think that’s the way it was for my parents. I had 18 years of life with them. But so much of my life has happened without them around. And it suddenly occurred to me that just as much as life is rich and full, it’s empty and fleeting; it passes us right by before we know it, and then POOFF!; it’s gone. As Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades.”
And because life is so fleeting, we flail about, looking for something to hold on to, something firm to stand on. We become anxious to grab as much of life as we can. And we get angry when life steals from us—when it takes our health and our ability to do things we can no longer do. We get angry when it takes from us the activities we love, the traditions we bank on, the relationships we cherish. And consequently, we feel compelled to get every drop out of life, to live every day as if “You only live once.” And when we fall short of that, we feel life slipping through our hands.
But to us, who live in this fleeting world, where life slips through our fingers, God has given us something to hold onto, somewhere to get a grip on life, somewhere firm to stand—the man Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary. Because, there isn’t anything more to life than Jesus. All of life is found in him. So if we have him, then we are not missing out. In Jesus, we have the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The baby born in Bethlehem is the one who, in the beginning, created all things and the one who, in the end, will raise the dead and make all things new. And if we have him, then we can put down the anxiety and fear that we’re missing out on life, because in Jesus we have Life itself.
This is why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper today. The Word made flesh gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. And it is true food and true drink. We can eat our fill of bread, but it will only satisfy us for a time; we will get hungry again. And no amount of that bread can keep us from dying. We can drink our fill of wine and be satisfied, but it won’t solve our problems and it will only quench our thirst for a time. But, Jesus says, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
When John tells the Christmas story, he doesn’t talk about shepherds or angels, or even Mary and Joseph. When John tells the Christmas story he says: The Word has become flesh. So let us rejoice and eat and drink the life of the world.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He 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 gives light to 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 For 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.