John 1, Advent IV
- 19 December 2022
- Stuart Robinson
Lessons and Carols
Introduction: A Spiritual Quest.
We are, in my view, at a point in history where people are craving some form of spiritual reality.
Have you noticed that the secular book-shops – in the ‘spirituality’ section are filled with everything from witchcraft and love potions (and these are serious books intended for adult audiences), through to angelology, mantras and healing prayers – or one I saw recently on ‘Practical Voodoo’ (a hands on guide to the ancient craft).
And the market for this kind of information is expanding exponentially; the market is insatiable.
Even business management texts now speak about spirituality in leadership and enlightened leadership, and so it goes.
I want to suggest that the gospel of St. John (a segment of which was read to us a few moments ago) speaks to our generation.
For John’s gospel is all about reality, and truth, and spiritual fulfillment.
Though ancient (and I am persuaded it was penned by John the Apostle in around AD 85) – it speaks to our deepest needs.
John states his purpose thus;
These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing; you may have life in his name. John 20: 31.
In John’s gospel we come face to face with the God of the universe, in the person of Jesus Christ – an encounter, which will (or should) inform our ‘spirituality’ and more significantly, determine our eternity.
- God the ‘Word’.
John quite literally starts his gospel at the beginning:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ v.1.
Co-existing with God and as God – is the Word.
Furthermore, this Word is not to be understood as a philosophy, or a collection of deep spiritual truths but as a person.
He was with God in the beginning.
The Creator God, we’ve just been told existed before all things with the Word.
What is more, this Word is the active force in creation:
Through him (v.3) all things were made.
John is quite insistent that this is the case –
Without him (without the Word), nothing was made that has been made.
Here’s the point:
With intent and in very close fellowship, the Creator God and the Word, jointly and cooperatively bring into being life and existence as we know it.
I often hear people referring to the ‘life force of the universe’ – and their quest to get ‘in touch’ with it.
John speaks not of some impersonal life force but of a personal, intelligent Creator for whom relationships are of supreme importance – as evidenced by his close and intimate connection with the Word.
John now expands the picture.
It would seem that God is also offering something of the life and the fellowship, which he and the Word enjoy, to mankind.
2. God the Word; life and light.
In him, (in the Word) was life, and that life was the light of all people – v.4.
- Life (in John’s gospel) pertains to spiritual health, friendship, and everlasting fellowship with God.
- Light (among other things) is an allusion to direction, and clarity, and ultimate truth.
How might people experience real life and true light?
Now that’s a great question, isn’t it?
Women and men attend courses, visit shrines, climb mountains, read books, and engage gurus in the hope they’ll experience or achieve life and light.
You may be on such a quest this very day.
How might one experience real life and true light?
The answer – according to John, is in and through the Word.
He, the Word, is the source of light and life.
That is, spiritual health, friendship, and everlasting fellowship with God; spiritual clarity and ultimate truth come through the Word.
This then begs the obvious question: How might a person access this Word and thus appropriate the life and the light?
Well, it will not be through religious observance, or through clean living, or through charitable giving, or by trying your hardest or through a plethora of re-incarnations.
Skip down to verse 14; this is what we read:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have beheld his glory, the glory of the One and Only (or of the only begotten), who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God, you see takes the initiative.
In time and in history – before a host of witnesses, God publicly and intentionally reaches down to us.
The Word (who was with God and who is God v.1) – takes on flesh – becomes a human person – and enters time and history.
V.14 in its original rendering quite literally reads: God ‘pitched his tent among us’.
Or as one writer put it – ‘God slipped on the glove of humanity and came among us.’
John then concludes his introduction with these words (v.18).
No-one has ever seen God, but God the only begotten who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
It is this only begotten one – this unique Word become flesh – alone, who makes God known (or knowable) to us.
And to ‘know’ in this sense means relationship, and friendship, and intimacy.
3. God the Word: Mercy and Kindness
Do please note that whilst God takes the initiative and comes among us, it is our responsibility to receive or reject his gracious initiative.
The darkness (v.5) or the world (v.10) (shorthand terms used by John to describe people and philosophies that are not God-centred) and the nation of Israel (v11), have rejected the Word.
The true light which gives light to every man (v.9) is of no interest to them.
To all who [did in fact] receive Him (v.12), to those who believed in his name (i.e. his character and his work), he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’
Any wonder that John describes this Word as the embodiment of grace and truth (v.14).
For in his mercy and kindness (in his grace – his unmerited generosity), the creator God, through the Word of God, comes among us and makes it possible for us to become members of his family – reborn, so to speak, as children of God.
Who then is this Word, about whom John speaks?
Who is it that created the universe, yet took on flesh and came among us?
Who is that existed before all things but with intent subjected himself to the ravages of time and history in order to draw us to himself?
Who is this the embodiment of grace and truth?
Listen to verses 16 and 17 (not printed):
From the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another. For the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came …..through Jesus Christ.
The ‘Word’ is the Lord Jesus.
The title ‘Word’ is most apt.
Let me explain: As our words give expression and meaning to our thoughts, and our passions, and our deepest concerns – our character even, so Jesus, the Word-become-flesh, gives expression (gives voice and form) to the mind of God the Father.
In Jesus, God’s character is revealed fully and finally.
Light and life comes through him who defeated darkness and death.
Jesus, God with us, the Word become flesh comes into our world for the express purpose of rescuing or saving people from the consequences of sin.
His death brings to all who will receive him, life and light.
That’s the good news of Advent: God in Christ come among us so that we might know and experience the love and the friendship and the fellowship and the security and the grace and the acceptance of our Heavenly Father.