The Light Of Christmas PT. 2 - A Cosmic Christmas

How The Christmas Story Is Told In The Gospel Of John

Tim Lundy
Dec 12, 2020    36m
Most of us are all familiar with the Christmas story as it's told in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, with the virgin mother, the manger, and the shepherds and wise men. Yet, this message shows us that it is both important and interesting to see how the Christmas story is told in the Gospel of John. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy: 00:01 Well Venture, as we're in this Christmas season, I want to encourage you, we have been busy as a staff, we've had a lot of volunteers, we have assembled 4,000 boxes, 4,000 gift boxes to give away. And so I hope, if you didn't have the opportunity on Saturday, that you come Sunday afternoon and you pick up boxes or you let us know how we can deliver boxes to you, because this is our invitation to the community to be able to engage with us this Christmas. And through all of that, as JC told you, you can see on the website, things that you can deliver, toys, other items, things that we're giving away. Even though this is a different Christmas than we've ever had before, we want to make the most of it, and see what God does through it.

Tim Lundy: 00:59 And I want to encourage you, this truly is a different Christmas than ever before. In fact, this weekend as I was thinking about the message, we're going to look at a different kind of Christmas story. You think of all the Christmas stories, and all the times, and if you've been in church very much, you've probably heard the stories over and over again. And I was thinking about it at Christmas time, we kind of go one of two places, usually to Matthew or to Luke. Now, if you didn't grow up in the church, or maybe you're not familiar with the Bible, Jesus story is so important to us, and it was so important to the world, that God had four different writers present his story from different perspectives. And we call those the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and each of them approach it a little bit differently.

Tim Lundy: 01:48 And when you come to the Christmas story, you know, one book we don't talk about a lot is John's Gospel. John wrote his last, John would be probably the most familiar with the Christmas story. Because if you remember in John's life, when Jesus was being crucified he looked at John and he said, would you take care of my mother now like she's your mother. And so we know from tradition that John kept Mary, and took care of Mary, like she was his mother. And I'm sure over the years, he asked her everything about the first Christmas, everything about that story. But when John sat down to write his gospel, sometime between 85 and 95 AD, and when he was writing it, it was the last of the four gospels to be written. And Matthew's Gospel was already out there, and Matthew traced the genealogy of Jesus, it traced the background, traces how Jesus was of the kingly line through his earthly father, Joseph. Mark doesn't even deal with Christmas at all, he just focuses on Jesus's earthly ministry. Luke is the most detailed story, as he was a researcher. And he tells everything from Mary story, especially about Mary's family and her perspective.

Tim Lundy: 03:05 And then you come to John, and I don't know if John knew of the other gospels, or he read them, or he determined I'm not going to write the same thing. But if you read through John's Gospel, it's a different perspective than the other three. In fact, his standout, not just with the Christmas story, but with all the stories. I encourage you, if you've never read through John's gospel, it's a great way to get this theological picture of who Jesus is and what he accomplished.

Tim Lundy: 03:35 And in John chapter 1, he tells the most unique Christmas story, I call it a cosmic Christmas story. Because instead of just starting with Joseph, or starting with Mary, or starting in Bethlehem, he backs it up and he says, why don't we tell this story from the big picture? And as you look at it, and as John walks us through it in John chapter 1, you're going to see as he points out, the story that God enacted, what God was doing is literally perfect in every way. Now, why do I say that? Look at the first part in your notes, John points out God has a perfect plan that he's been doing. Christmas didn't just happen in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, remember this is a cosmic Christmas story, so he says, let's back it up.

Tim Lundy: 04:30 Look how he does it John 1, he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning." Now, when he's talking about in the beginning, he's not talking about in the beginning of the Christmas story, he's not going back to the very beginning of the Bible, he's going back to creation itself. And so he says, I don't want to start in Bethlehem, I want to start at creation. So back at creation, and he's talking about Jesus here, but he uses a different phrase for it, he calls him the Logos. And he does his purposefully, remember he's not narrowing down into the narrative yet. He wants to back us up, and he goes, I want you to think about Jesus as God, I'm going to call him the Word. And the Word was a concept that the Greeks would've said, Oh, Logos, yes, he's the rational force of the universe, that the Hebrews would look at it and go, Oh, Logos, he's the personification of wisdom. And John grabs it and he says, I'm going to call Jesus the Logos, the Word.

Tim Lundy: 05:34 Now, the Word was with God. So back at creation, Jesus was there, and he was with God. And then he adds this little line, "And the word was fully God." He was God. You go wait a second, he's with God, and he was God? There's a mystery here, that even in understanding God, we know God is one God, but he's three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And John just presents this and he says, at the very beginning, he was there, "All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created." And I love this line, he says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind." So he's going all the way back to creation. And remember this thing that we have, the light of Christmas, John's going to talk about the light in his book, more than the other authors, "The light that came into the world." And he traces that light, and that life that comes in it, all the way back to the very beginning. And he says, "And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it." It hasn't overcome it.

Tim Lundy: 06:46 See, I told you it was a cosmic story. He says, let's go back before there was time and space. There was God, and God came up with the plan, and in that plan, God created, and he created a universe. And he spoke, and what's the first thing he spoke, let there be light, and there was physical light. And he breathed, and there was physical life. He says, but now let's look at the story, and what God's doing, and it's not just physical light, it's not just physical life, he's doing a new creation and it's spiritual, and it's going to be revolutionary, it's going to change everything. And God has been doing this plan, and battling this darkness, from before time itself. And the central figure in that plan is Jesus, the Word, who's God himself.

Tim Lundy: 07:46 I love the way John starts it, because one, he backs us up and he makes us realize again, wait a second, God is in control, God has a perfect plan, God has perfect timing. And if you read through the Old Testament scriptures, you'll see God talking about this plan over and over again. You see it all the way in the garden of Eden, when he promises that he's going to send one who will crush the head of the serpent, the head of that darkness. You see it when he tells Abraham, I mean, you're going to have a child that comes through you, that's going to bless the whole world. You see it when he tells David, hey, one of your sons is going to sit on the throne forever. You see it when he tells the nation of Israel, even though you're in a land of darkness, there's a light that is coming. He's got a perfect plan that he executes, Galatians 4:4 says he executed that plan in perfect timing, because in the perfect time, Jesus came.

Tim Lundy: 08:43 Now if you lived back then though, you might look at it and you'd go, well, it doesn't feel like perfect timing. I mean, if you told Adam and Eve, hey, here's the promise, but it's going to be thousands of years. If you told, Abraham, hey, here's the promise of your son, but it's still thousands of years. If you had told the nation of Israel, this one is coming, but it's still hundreds of years away. I mean, you look at that and you might go, we'll God, are you sure this as the perfect time? Here's the thing I love that scripture teaches us about God, God is never slow, but he's always patient. He's never slow about what he's doing, but he's always patient about what he's doing, it's perfectly in its time.

Tim Lundy: 09:31 You know, as I think about the birth of Christ and when he came, it's the perfect time. You know, years ago there was a debate between Christopher Hitchens, who was kind of a famous atheist, and William Lane Craig, who was very smart Christian. They were talking about this, the timing of when Jesus came, and Hitchens kind of brought up and you go, well, God must not have cared about all the people before Christ came, and Craig pointed out all the ways that God had revealed himself before them. But it was an interesting fact, he said, you know, of all the people that live on the planet, the population Bureau estimates from the beginning of time, there's been somewhere between 105 hundred and 6 billion people, do you realize that 98% of that population has been born after Christ coming? In fact, the elements of his coming, that came together so perfectly, what was going on in the world, that you finally had a world empire like Rome that brought a peace around the world. You finally had a global system of roads that could carry good news around the world. You finally had a common language, and a common culture, and a common government over all.

Tim Lundy: 10:46 All these thing that put together, that literally said, listen to what one researcher said, Eric Kreps from the University of Michigan. He said, God's timing, couldn't have been more perfect, Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world's population. See God has had this perfect plan, and as John's pointing out all the way from before creation, God has been executing his perfect plan, down to the perfect details. Down to little things like where Jesus would be born, in Bethlehem, because he had promised that and he had declared it. And so God moves to the events of human history, that you've got this world ruler, Caesar Augustus, who decides it feels like it's kind of on a whim, that he wants to have a census. That tells everyone in the world, you have to go back to the land of your father, the home of your father, the very town of your father, and be counted in the census.

Tim Lundy: 11:50 Now I know we know this in the story, but can you imagine the disruption of that? Can you imagine the outrage, everyone felt? I mean, we're talking a lot right now about governmental control and things that we're told. Just think with me, could you imagine the outrage we would have, if they told us when the vaccine, hopefully the vaccine is going to roll out soon, and this promise of the vaccine. How would you feel though, if the government said, yeah, in order to get the vaccine, we need every one of you to travel back to the birth town of your father, that's the only place you get to have the vaccine. And so for me, that would mean my dad was from Los Angeles, I'd have to pack up the family and we'd have to travel to Los Angeles. And they said, we just want you to wait there until we give it to you. I mean, could you imagine the outcry that would happen all over this country? Everybody would be up in arms, we would be so frustrated, there's got to be a better way. You're telling me we have to do that? Guys, that's exactly what happened to Mary and Joseph, except it was over something a lot more arbitrary. You had this ruler who decides, you know what? I want to know how many people are in my empire. I want to know so I can raise their taxes. I want to know so I can feel like I'm bigger and better than anybody else. I want to have an exact count, and I don't care if it disrupts your life, I don't care if you have to stay there for weeks, I don't care if your wife is expecting a baby anytime now, you've got to go where I tell you to go. And if you were Mary and Joseph, I promise you, it would feel so arbitrary, it would feel so outrageous.

Tim Lundy: 13:39 But we know backing up, wait a second, God even used that to execute his perfect plan. See from before creation, God has been executing, God has been acting a plan that came to fruition, not just with the coming of Christ, but a plan that's still working today.

Tim Lundy: 14:04 Here's the second thing that John teaches us though. God has a perfect purpose. God has a perfect purpose. Why did Jesus come? Why did he come into the world? Well, he tells us in John chapter 1, the true light, that's Jesus, gives light to everyone, he was coming into the world. " He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him." That is an interesting verse right there, notice what he says in his purpose. He is the true light, remember he came to bring light in the darkness, and he came to bring the light to everyone. Jesus literally came to give everyone light. But notice the response, he came into the world and the world, even though it was made by him, didn't recognize him. A lot of people on the planet, they look at Jesus and they go, oh, he's not the light. He's a good man, I mean, it's a good story, worth celebrating, he's a good teacher, but we don't recognize him as the light.

Tim Lundy: 15:17 He came to his own people, and they didn't even receive him. These are people that look at it and they go, well, I might not even recognize them. No, they go even further, they reject him. We're not receiving him, we're not believing that, we're not embracing that. He said he came, but then look at his purpose here, "But to all who have received him." And John wants to be really clear that we know what does it mean to receive him, "Those who believe in his name.". Those who actually believe in him, and believe in what he did, and believe in what he accomplished. Look what it says here, "He has given the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but children who are born by God." See, that's why he came. That was the whole purpose behind the plan, that he could come into the world and shine light into the world. And some people aren't going to recognize that light, and some people actually reject the light, but those who believe in him, but he came for one purpose, so that they could experience, what does it mean to be in God's family? What does it mean to be born again with God? What does it mean to receive this?

Tim Lundy: 16:41 That's why a couple of chapters later, John's going to write the most famous verse in the whole Bible, that emphasizes this purpose in it, John 3:16, "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." See this light, and this life, go hand in hand. And John tells us, oh, it's not just any light, it's an eternal light, it's the light that was with God, the light that is God from before creation. It's the light that came into the world, and whether people recognize it or receive, it is the light that changes everything, because it's the light that brings eternal life, and that's why he came.

Tim Lundy: 17:37 But even as you hear that, you go, well, okay, that sounds great. But we've got a problem here, I mean, God wants to save us, Jesus shines a light on us, but if he's bringing the light into the world, and we're part of the world of darkness, isn't that's going to just produce a problem? Because all the light is going to do, is show us how bad we are. And if God's a just God, and if God is true to his word, and if God's Holy, and if God says what he says about sin, isn't the light just going to bring more judgment on us as it reveals who we are?

Tim Lundy: 18:15 See, what I love in this plan, the third part is, it shows us God provides the perfect solution. God provides the perfect solution. How does a God who's Holy, and have to judge sin, also forgive. Here's how he did it, look what John tells us, "Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us." Now the first readers of this would have been like, wait, what did you just say? Didn't you tell me earlier, the Word was God, he wasn't just with God, he is literally God himself, and now you're telling me he became flesh?

Tim Lundy: 18:55 The Greek audience in particular, they would hear that, and Greek and Roman thought was all flesh is bad. Spirit good, flesh is bad, bodies are bad. And they had all different ways of dealing with it. The stoics would go, your body is bad, so you just have to control all emotion, you have to control your body. If you rigorously follow these rules, you can control that. The hedonist, they embraced it, they kind of said, your body's bad, you might as well live bad, live out what you were made to be. You be you, you do you, and do it really well. Hedonist would love our culture today. Even the Jewish audience would look at it and go, yeah, but the flesh has been so tainted by sin, and we read that term, Paul uses it a lot, he's talking about the fallenness of flesh.

Tim Lundy: 19:41 The Word became flesh, how does God do that? Because don't all of us admit, to err is human, that's just part of who we are as humans? How do you combine God with humanity, without losing who God is, but being truly what a human is? And God goes, I've got a unique way of doing it. What if the Father is God, and the mother's a human and there'll be a birth, like no other. That's why we celebrate the Virgin birth, that's why that miracle...And I know even as I say that, some of you go, man, I have a hard time believing that. But here's why it's so important, because God, to dwell among us, and live with us, to become one of us, had to do it in a miraculous way. John says, "We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father." For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ."

Tim Lundy: 21:02 See, because Jesus became one of us, he was able to bring both grace and truth. See, that solved the problem, that's why it's such a solution. See, here's the problem, if God's a just God, and he's going to really judge sin. Well, if he just stayed purely just, and he lived purely in that truth, he'd have to destroy us because we're all sinners. You flip over here and go, okay, if he's a gracious God, and he decides I'm going to forgive sin. Well, then you look at it and you go, well, is that right? He just overlooks it, he doesn't care, justice doesn't matter. And if somebody's done something wrong, it doesn't matter, and all the injustice in the world doesn't matter. That would not be very satisfying either, so how do you combine the two? How do you have grace and truth?

Tim Lundy: 21:52 Here's how he did it, what if God determines I'll become one of them? And yes, they need to pay, that's the truth. But I'll take the punishment, that's the grace. And that could only be accomplished by one who not only came to us, he was one of us. See, this is the mind blowing part of what we call the incarnation. All those years they would say, Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle O come Emmanuel, come God with us. They had no clue when God came to be with us, he would literally be one of us. He would take up residence, he would do life here, he'd experienced every temptation, but never sinned. And that he would take on himself, what should have been our punishment? An unbelievable part of the incarnation.

Tim Lundy: 22:59 You know, I'm reminded of the story of father Damien, who years ago on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, he went to a leper colony. And this colony, when he showed up, basically it was before there was any treatment or cure for leprosy. And so if you were diagnosed a leper, they just put you on the Island to die. And when he showed up, it was just dreadful conditions, and he immediately went to work. As he started caring for the lepers, he started treating their needs, he set up a school, he set up a church, they had a choir. He literally built 2000 coffins by hand, because he was determined when they die, they will be buried with dignity. And the village turned, in fact, it was known, this used to be the village where you go to die, now it's the village where you can live, because he brought hope. But as he did this ministry, as he did life with them, he didn't do it from afar, he did it among them. He shared what they were dealing with, Sunday morning, as he stood up to preach, he began with these two words, "We lepers." See, life had changed, in his years there instead of just ministering to them, he had become one of them. He took on their disease, and he would die in the same way they would die. It's a powerful picture of how Jesus came into the world, he came as one of us, he died instead of us. And because he did, he brought grace and truth, and it changes everything.

Tim Lundy: 25:02 You know, there's a final perfect part of this Christmas story, God gives us the perfect promise. He gives us the perfect promise in this passage, and I'll go back to verse 5, this is what I'm pointing to. John makes this declaration, 'The light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it." I love another translation, "The darkness hasn't overcome it, the darkness doesn't win." It doesn't win.

Tim Lundy: 25:31 And when John wrote these words, I mean, again, it's somewhere between 85 and 95 AD, he's an old man at this point. And he's seen a lot of darkness, he seen, in 70 AD when the Roman armies came and they destroyed Jerusalem. And hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, literally just wiped out, and they estimate up to 200 to 300,000 were taken as slaves throughout the Roman Empire. He saw his whole country, his culture, his background, and people, they're gone, they're eradicated. He saw the tide of persecution that came. He heard the news, as his good friend. Peter was crucified. He heard the news, as Paul had been beheaded in Rome. Ultimately, he would be exiled on an Island to die as an old man. John's seen all this, do you want to talk about seeing darkness in your time, he saw it.

Tim Lundy: 26:39 But when he's writing this story, you don't hear him focused on the darkness. Look how he puts it, "And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it." That the darkness doesn't win. And the reason he can say that, is because he heard the promise from Jesus himself. He heard Jesus stand up, and we see it in John 8, when Jesus made the declaration, he spoke to the people, "I am the light of the world, and whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but we'll have the light of life." That's what Christmas is about, this new creation, where there was light, and there was life. And John, at the end of his life could say, I know the darkness never wins because Jesus made a promise. He's the light of the world, and if you follow him, you always have the light, no matter what. Do you know that this Christmas? Do you believe that this Christmas?

Tim Lundy: 27:49 In fact, as we close out, you know, we've been talking about this big cosmic story of Christmas. We've been talking about this big scale of what God has done. We've been looking at all these perfect ways that he's interacted and he's moved. But that's really honestly, it can be very meaningless, if we don't embrace it personally. Let me just ask you as we finish out, as we think about it on a personal level, just kind of four things with it.

Tim Lundy: 28:18 If you look at the first thing, do you trust that God's perfect plan includes you? Do you really trust the same God who was working a plan from creation, the same God who could execute that plan through the children of Israel, he can execute it through Abraham, and through David, and he could do it through the nation, and through Mary and Joseph, the same God who led them to Bethlehem, the same God that guided them, the same God that guides the wise men, the same God that guided John throughout the rest of his life, and Peter, and Paul, and the early church. The same God that's been working this plan, do you believe that plan actually includes you too, and he's actually in control of our world events, and he actually knows what he's doing, and his timing is still perfect?

Tim Lundy: 29:08 I'll be honest, I struggle with that. I mean, I look at COVID, and part of me, I know God's patient, it feels like he's slow. I mean, if you had told me last March, I remember sitting and thinking, okay, we'll be out for a few weeks, but we'll be back at church for Easter, and then Easter came. Well, surely we'd be back by summer, and then summer came. Surely as we go into the fall, I mean, if you had told me, we'd be looking at a Christmas where we're not having services together, where it's actually spiking with higher numbers, it would have been so easy in this to look at it and go, God, what is going on? And so I've got to trust, wait a second, if you're the same God who orchestrated a perfect plan for my salvation, that began all the way before creation, and to this day. Can't I trust you with the events of my life right now? Can't I trust you with the events of the world? Can't you trust him too? As you do that just, I would encourage you, embrace his perfect purpose in you. I mean, his purpose in coming was eternal life, his purpose in coming was to be adopted in his family, his purpose was so much bigger than some of the things that we get caught up in. And maybe this Christmas season is not going to deliver some of the experiences I'd like to have. And maybe this Christmas season I can look around, and I'm separated from people, I don't get to do things. Maybe this Christmas seasons harder that has been before. What would it look like to embrace though, all right, God, work, your perfect plan. Prepare me in this season for what real life is, for eternal life. And that you're doing it, and I can trust you in it.

Tim Lundy: 31:15 I'd say the third thing, here's what I would encourage you, you've got to believe his perfect solution is for you. You've got to believe his perfect solution, the fact that Jesus became one of us, should give hope to all of us. OI heard one writer put it this way, "The fact that Jesus became human meant that God hadn't written off humanity." It's not wrong to be a human, and it's not wrong to be you. The fact that Jesus became one of us, gives hope for all of us, and it should give hope for you no matter what you're facing, and no matter what you've done. Because frankly, maybe the darkness you feel right now, is the darkness you've created, and some of you live under that all the time. And Jesus has come with this light, and with this life, and there's a part of you that wants that so bad. There's a part of you is like, oh, I'd love to experience that life, I'd love to live in the light, I'm tired of the gloom, I'm tired of the darkness. There's also a part of you that's a little scared by that, because you know if you came into the light, would I be exposed, do I have to deal with it? Here's what I want you to know though, when you come into the light, do you know how he deals with you? With grace, and with truth. Some of you need to embrace, it's not just true for everybody out there, it's true for you. He's not given up on you, so embrace his light.

Tim Lundy: 32:56 Final thing I just would call you to, is hold onto his perfect promise to you. Hold on to that perfect promise, that when John wrote those words, "The darkness will not overcome the light, the darkness has not mastered it." The darkness does not win, no matter what, no matter what John faced in his life, no matter what we face in our life, the darkness doesn't win, because Jesus not only came and brought light and life, he's coming again. And as we talked about last week, you read the Revelation, he tells us how the story ends. And when you get to the final part of it, it says that we're going to live with him, and we won't even need the sun because he's the light. Life is so bright, there is no darkness, it's an unbelievable image.

Tim Lundy: 33:53 But I think it's also an unbelievable promise that some of you need to hear today, because frankly, this Christmas feels pretty dark. And it feels like the darkness is winning, and you're not sure you can make it. Jesus made a promise, he said, I'm the light of the world and if anyone walks in me he's always in the light. And do you know why that promise is true? Because he's the light, and he promised I will never leave you or forsake you.

Tim Lundy: 34:33 Guys, this Christmas story of John, it's a little different than the others, there's not wise men, and shepherds, and a manger, it's this big story of what Christ is doing. But I think it's the story that many of you need to hear today, of a God who's in control with his plan, a God who loves you and he had a perfect purpose to save you, a God who had a solution that brings both grace and truth no matter what you've done in life, and a God who has a promise that if you are in him, you're in the light , and the darkness does not win.

Tim Lundy: 35:23 Let's pray. Father, I thank you, I thank you for Jesus, I thank you that he is the light of the world, I thank you that he's the light of my life. I confess, I can feel the darkness in different ways, I see it all around us, and it's easy for me to focus out there instead of focusing on Jesus. Lord, I pray this Christmas, I pray for so many, some feel the darkness because they're alone, some feel the darkness because they've frankly made some really bad mistakes in their life, some fill the darkness because they just don't feel like they can see you, or maybe they've never chosen to see you before. Lord, I'm asking for a breakthrough, a breakthrough of the light of the world, who is the only one who can bring life. Give us the courage to trust you, to look to you, and to embrace you today. I pray this in Christ' name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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