First Mennonite Church
December 30, 2018
Making Known His Grace
Text: John 1: 1-5, 9-17
John introduces Jesus not as a baby that was born, but in a rather lofty and poetic language. John celebrates the coming of Jesus, emphasizing his origin, relationship and identity with God. He was the Word, the Word with God, and the Word was God. The Word created all things, including life. But with the coming of Jesus, John says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” He was the light, who created the luminaries in the beginning, but was now coming into those who would receive him. And to those who receive the light, they are given life—and life abundant. To those who believe and receive the Word are given the privilege of becoming children of God.
It could be that this message is very basic to most of us. It might be that you have already received the Light, the Word, and have been given the promise of eternal life. It could be that you have received grace upon grace. It could be that most of us have known and experienced the love of God beyond our ability to articulate it properly or logically. It could be that most of us have been given the assurance of having become children of God, for which we rejoice and are grateful. But is that all that is there about the coming of Jesus? Is that all that is there for us?
The power behind the Gospel of John is that it is a first-hand witness of John’s encounter with the Word become flesh. “We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth,” testifies John. John’s life was transformed to its core. He became a living witness of the fullness of Jesus Christ. John became a living example of what it meant to “receive grace upon grace” from Jesus. Therefore, even when he was persecuted, imprisoned, and exiled, the light in John did not dim or got extinguished. The truth of his message was never compromised. The confidence of eternal life as a child of God was unwavering. In one his last letter he wrote:
That which was from the beginning, which we have
heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we
have looked at and our hands have touched—this we
proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1John 1:1-3).
Now that Christmas is over and the gifts have been opened, the guests have gone back to their homes, and the left-overs of the feast are all gone, what is next? When at last the anticipation and excitement of Jesus coming as a baby we celebrate on Christmas is over, what is next for God’s people? This is where John’s portrait of Jesus’ coming is very important for us. Jesus is the presence of God come in human form. Jesus is the light, life, truth, and grace of God revealed to us. Jesus is our means to becoming children of God. But when all of these have been internalized and accepted, the most challenging phase still awaits us—becoming living witnesses of the fullness of Christ. I believe that if there was any other demand, it was this for which “He came to his own but his own rejected him.” The cost of being living witnesses of his grace was the most challenging call Jesus made, thus he was rejected. It is rather interesting that John did not specify who he meant by “his own” about those who rejected him. Generally speaking, it referred to the Jewish people, who knew the Messiah would come. The Jews had been the participants and the objects of God’s saving work from the beginning. But not everyone was ready to accept Jesus in the way he came.
We should also remember that John’s gospel was the last to be written. John was addressing a community of believers troubled by persecution, false teachings, and a little removed from the historical Jesus John was writing about. It should not surprise us that John might have also had in mind some from within his community that were drifting away from the faith. He might have had in mind those whose lives were not reflecting the light of Christ, a commitment to the truth, or reflecting their identity as children of God.
For us therefore, what shall we do with the Christ? What shall we do with respect of his light, life, truth and our being children of God? Let us once again remember the words of John: 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 . . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
The coming of Jesus as a baby was not intended only to show God identifying with humanity. It was intended to empower humans to become God’s children. Just as it was for Jesus, God too is our origin. John says we are born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. Thus, from Christ we receive grace upon grace. That is our relationship. And we become children of God. That is our identity. At the same time, just as Jesus came to reveal the glory, truth and grace of God, we are also called to become witnesses of these. The power of the coming of Jesus does not reside in a mushy feeling about a tender baby being born in a barn, but by our becoming his witnesses. Therefore, when all has been said and done about Christmas, let us go and live the light, truth, and life of Christ. Speak words of hope to those who are drowning in despair. Let us live and walk in the truth of Christ. Let us make every effort to be reliable in what we say. Let us go and live lives that reflect we have become children of God. Let us live worthy of bearing the name of Christ. Let us reveal the life-giving power of Jesus’s love with our very lives. Remember the words of Paul: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
We have been called to reveal the presence and grace of God to those around us. Paul, Peter, and all the saints before us took it upon themselves to become witnesses of God’s grace. That is our calling. Let us go and reveal the grace of God to the world. Amen!