Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas, December 29th, 2019
Lessons: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3; Psalm 147; Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7; John 1:1-18
Text: John 1:1-18
Topic: The call to receive and follow Jesus Christ as Lord
Two boys went to a priest to make a private confession of their sins. The first boy waited for his friend to start making his confession. But the second boy was so afraid of the priest and of making a confession that he could say nothing. The priest, in an effort to get him to speak, asked him, “Where is God?” When the boy remained silent, the priest asked him even more loudly, “Where is God?” At this, the boy was overwhelmed with fear and ran away with his friend. After the two had run quite a distance from the church, the first boy asked his friend, “Why are you running? What made you so afraid?” To this question his friend replied, “They’ve lost God and are blaming it on us!”
Of course, it is not God who is lost, or dead, as some theologians in the sixties proclaimed, but mankind who is lost and in the darkness of sin and error, wandering far from God. What we must take care to ensure, is that our lives do not so reflect material concerns, that our example communicates to others the message that somehow we have lost God, or that He is no longer our first love, as the Holy Spirit warned the Church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation:
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
(Rev. 2:4-5, KJV)
The passage which forms the Prologue to the Gospel according to St. John clearly proclaims the eternal existence of God and the Word of God, as well as the truth that the Word of God became human, and revealed the glory of the Only-begotten Son of God, being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c).
JOHN 1:1-14: THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS
The joy of the Christmas celebration arises from the fact of God’s love for the world being so great that He gave his only-begotten Son that all who believe in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. The Prologue to St. John’s Gospel, unlike the infancy narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke’s Gospels, or the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel, shows that the Word of God, the eternal Son, exists eternally, but became incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ born in this world. He is the Life of the world and its Light, which shines continually in the darkness of sin and has never been put out or overwhelmed by the darkness. Here in the Prologue, the key to having eternal life is given, the key to being found by God and adopted as his child.
JOHN 1:12-13: BECOMING A CHILD OF GOD
The good news about the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is that to those who received Him, that is, those who believed on His name, He gave the power to become God’s sons, or children. Without believing in the Lord Jesus Christ one cannot receive Him. What, then, does it mean to “receive Jesus Christ”? It means to acknowledge Him as Lord, as God, as Messiah, or Christ, and to accept His lordship and rightful dominion over one’s life. This is the key to becoming a child of God. If one asks why St. John does not here mention the necessity of repentance as well as faith in receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, it must be answered that one cannot receive and follow Jesus Christ as Lord without repentance. For the same Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples later in St. John’s Gospel, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” A little later, our Lord adds the promise, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
All this shows us that to receive Jesus Christ includes believing in His name, repenting of sin and keeping God’s commandments. How important it is that each one of us knows that he is born of God! We all know that we were born humanly speaking, but we must also know that we have been born again, born from above, born of the Holy Spirit!
This, too, is the responsibility and privilege of the parents and godparents of every child who is baptized, as Owen Petersen will be today, to lead their child or godchild to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and to experience for himself what it means to be born again, born of the Holy Spirit.
The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is such cause for celebration, but everyone who turns from sin, believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and receives Him, becomes born again, and this causes great rejoicing in heaven, a joy shared by God with the angels of heaven. This experience of being born again, and of receiving the Holy Spirit is for all, since it is promised to all, adults and children. It is the beginning of a new life, proclaimed indeed by Baptism, a life in which we no longer live for ourselves, but for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who was born on earth and died on the cross out of love for all mankind.
Have you truly received Jesus Christ as Lord and are you truly following Him as Lord?