Wait! We read the gospel reading and this is a Christmas celebration … Where is the Babe in the Manger?
The four gospels each begin differently.
Mark’s Gospel skips the birth and goes to when Jesus began His public ministry.
Matthew and Luke’s Gospels each have stories of the miraculous birth,
John’s Gospel, as we just read, does not give us the traditional “Christmas Story” with shepherds, angels, and wise men.
There is no mention of the Christmas birth.
Or maybe there is!
John is not interested in relating the story of Jesus’ birth on earth.
In John’s gospel, he makes it clear that the Christ who came into the world, predates the world and in fact is the one who created all things that were created.Hear again his words, “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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all.”
It helps if we understand that the Gospel of John was written primarily to a Jewish audience who were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.
So, his gospel begins with a retelling of the creation story from Genesis.
Those faithful Jews understood that the Word of God was a powerful force for creation.
So he was just explaining that Jesus was the Word of God personified.
There is no question here of John’s theology. Jesus is God in human form.
Let’s take a look at what Paul has to say along that same line in his letters.
We think of Paul mostly ministering to the Gentiles – non-Jews –US.
However, Paul always began by going to the local synagogue and explaining to the Jews how Jesus was the Christ and how He fulfilled all that was written in the Law and the Prophets.
In First Corinthians Paul tells his readers, “I first gave to you that which I also received; the Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures.” This makes it clear that he expected his audience to be somewhat familiar with the scriptures, that is what we call the Old Testament.
Here in Paul’s general letter to the Hebrews, he echoes John’s Gospel by saying, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
He and John were in total agreement that Christ predates the World and is in fact God.
And how were these messages received by the people who heard them? “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him,”says John.
His own people – who were “his own people”?The descendents of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac; those who followed the Law of God and revered the prophets of old; the people who had been prepared, generation after generation; these were the people who rejected Him.
It was the religious people who could not see past their own self-important, self-proclaimed role as “God’s chosen people.”
And in the book of Acts, it relates how when Paul stood preaching (not just in a synagogue) but in thetemple at Jerusalemhe was dragged out and it was these religious who then attempted to kill him.
There is a warning to us here. Right?
Lord, Let us not get too sure that we have all the answers and that others are always wrong in their beliefs.
There is still much for us to learn.
So the Jews, his own people, rejected Him.
Now, wait!, let us not assume that ALL the Jews rejected this new understanding about the messiah.
Jesus was not just the Messiah, a godly leader, but that He also is the very embodiment of God.
Most of the early “Christians” were Jewish.
Christianity was not a NEW religion it was just another sect of Judaism.
And in the beginning, many thought it was ONLY for the Jews.
So, I guess even those who got it right – still got it wrong!
We have got to be so careful not to limit our God! Amen?
Remember the promise from God to Abraham that we talked about several weeks ago? The promise that ALL people everywhere would be blessed because of his seed.
Over the past several weeks we have seen that promise passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob.
Over the years, some people forgot the purpose of the promise and began to think of themselves as “specially entitled” by their status of caretakers of the Law from God.
John realized that the Good News was meant for all people when he said, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.“
Praise God that he had a plan for the non-Jew – US! Amen?
Likewise, Paul had the awakening of his ministry to non-Jews and it is recorded in Acts22:17-21 where he says, “
After I had returned to Jerusalem. While I was praying in the temple courtyardI fell into a trance and saw Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalemquickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in You. And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.’ Then He said to me, “Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”
Some Christ Mass story so far – Huh?
Are you still wondering where the new born baby is in this Christmas story?
Hang on just a little longer and I’ll show you where I found the baby in this lesson.
Christ’s birth was miraculous and marvelous.
The fact that it conformed to the predictions of the prophets helps to confirm it.
The fact that shepherds and wise men were informed of it was wonderful.
However, as we celebrate this Christ Mass in July, let us remember that Jesus was an active force in the worldL-O-N-G before He was a baby.
He was STILL an active force in the world while He walked it as a man.
But more importantly He IS an active force in the world TODAY!
Through Him WE, who receive him and believe in his name, He gives power to be REBORN as Children of God.
It is We who are born again because of Christ’s birth, WE are the true babies in this Christ Mass story.