Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 6, 2015
Today marks the 2nd Sunday of Advent. For those of you who are familiar with Advent, it is a tradition of the Church. By this I mean that it is not a Biblical ordinance, such as Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Advent is a mere construction of man, so whether you celebrate Advent or not is not a sin issue.
Personally, I did not grow up in a Church that focused on Advent, and I do not believe my parents or Church were wrong in this approach. Having said those things, I do believe Advent like thinking is good for you, and good for our Church.
I say this because Advent is the intentional focus of the Incarnation of Christ. Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent encourages Christians to dwell upon the unsearchable riches of God’s Grace in the giving of his Son to the World for our eternal joy. Thinking about that reality is a good thing. Granted, this good news of great joy should not be limited to one month a year, it should be dwelt upon every day for all eternity, but let us be honest, we have a tendency to forget, and this is why I think Advent has its advantages. It helps us to remember.
Therefore, this advent, I want to encourage each of you to be intentional in dwelling upon the coming of Christ. I want you to lay aside things that interfere with your ability to see that Glory of God in the face of Jesus. Be intentional and read all four Gospels this month. Commit yourself to extended times of fasting and praying. Read an Advent devotional such as John Pipers, “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.” Men, this is a great time to launch family devotionals every night before your children go to bed. Let us not allow for another December pass by without standing in awe of Emmanuel.
With this in mind, for the next three Sundays and then concluding on Christmas Eve, my goal is to help set your minds and your hearts on Christ. I want to spend the next four weeks pointing you to the Universe shifting realty that God became a man. I want us to dwell upon the fullness of Christ, and the unfathomable love that was displayed in his humbling himself to become a man.
The Problem with Christmas
The title of this sermon series is the Incarnation of Christ. The word incarnation means to become flesh, to become human. Therefore the Incarnation of Christ is the act of Jesus becoming a man. One of the familiar verses that summarizes this reality is found in John 1:14.
This incarnation of the Word, which is the Son of God, aka, Jesus, is the essence of Christmas. This is what we are to be celebrating during the Christmas season, the Son of God becoming a man.
With this said, one of the biggest problems during the Christmas season is that we spend too much time focusing only on the Christ’s humanity. Our eyes go straight to the manger and we fixate on baby Jesus. We sing songs like Away in the Manger, which are great song, but can have the potential, if we are not careful, to cause us to focus only on the flesh of Christ.
Now some of you are now saying, wait a minute, didn’t you just tell us that the essence of Christmas is the incarnation, the becoming of the flesh, Jesus becoming a man. Yes, I did, but we must not forget that this was not any old baby. This was the Word becoming a baby.
When we celebrate Christmas with only a manger mentality, we undermine the awe of Christmas. We reduce the magnitude of what we are truly celebrating. In fact, when we do this, we easily can set aside Jesus, or replace Him. If Jesus is just a man, then Santa Clause can compete. If Jesus is just a man, then his birth is not any more special than Aristotle’s, Shakespeare’s, Abraham Lincoln’s, or Albert Einstein’s. If Jesus is just a man, then like so many people commonly say today, he is a good teacher and nothing more. So today, we are going to shine the light on who this Jesus was and is before he stepped into the world 2000 years ago.
“My Lord and My God”
As we begin, let me just say this, no legitimate scholar denies that Jesus from Nazareth existed. The historical “experts” who spend their lives studying this stuff, overwhelming agree that there really was a Jesus. This is not just the Christian historians, it is nearly all historians. So the question is never, if Jesus is real. He is real, no doubt, the whole world turns on this reality. The question is, is Jesus God.
We have already looked at John 1:14, let us step back and look at John 1:1.
There may not be a clearer declaration of the divinity of Jesus then John 1:1. The logic of the statement is rock solid. As we have stated the Word as used in John 1 is Jesus. So we can easily replace the Word with Jesus, “In the beginning was [Jesus], and [Jesus] was with God, and [Jesus] was God. 2[Jesus] was in the beginning with God.”
What is interesting about this statement is who is making it. The writer of the Gospel of John is the disciple John. John was one of the original twelve that walked with Jesus during his Earthly ministry. In fact, listen to what the Apostle John says in another letter he wrote, 1 John 1:1-4.
John was one of the few people who were able to be with Jesus while he walked on this planet in the flesh. He watched him sleep. He heard him chew. He smelled him. And after three years he concluded, He was God. John was not the only one. Listen to what Peter said in Matthew 16:15-16.
Despite all of the rumors and conversation about Jesus being a prophet, a mere mortal, Peter, just like John concludes that Jesus is different. He is not just a prophet, he is not just a man. He is the Son of God.
Likewise, how can we forget the disciple Thomas. He is best known for his lack of faith after the resurrection. This is where he picked up the discouraging nickname of Doubting Thomas. He had been told that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but Thomas stated in John 20:25, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days after saying these words Jesus appears and he has Thomas touch his hands and his side and Thomas responds with the echoing words of “My Lord and my God.”
In addition to this, time would not allow us to go into all the miracles that displayed the divinity of Christ.
Make no mistake, those who knew ministered along side Jesus believed him to be God. In fact, these eye witnesses were so convinced that Jesus was God that they laid down their life defending this singular truth. Every single one of the first 12 disciples, except John, was killed because of their belief that Jesus was God.
But it does not end there. Let’s take a second and look at James and Jude. These two men were believed to be the half brothers of Jesus. After Mary gave birth to Jesus, she and Joseph had other Children. Matthew 13:55, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” James and Judas are counted as being the author of the book of James and the book of Jude, listen to what they say:
I would think it would be fair to say that these two men spent more time with the man Jesus Christ than any other men on the planet. Only Mary would have spent more time with Jesus then they would have, and what is their evaluation of him? He is the Lord of Glory, he is the Christ that leads to eternal life.
Once again, Church tradition teaches that both of these men, half brothers of Jesus were killed because of their belief that Jesus was more than a man. James, it is believed, was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten and Jude was crucified in Persia.
Then of course there is Paul. Paul whose original name was Saul hated the name of Jesus. He spent he days trying to figure out how to arrest so that the Christians could be fed to the lions, but everything changed on the road to Damascus, when he had a personal encounter with Christ. After that moment, he no longer saw Jesus just a man. Colossians 2:9 summarizes Paul's new found understanding of Jesus.
Like the others, Paul died standing on this truth. His head was cut off in Rome because he believed Jesus was more than a man. So was Jesus God? For those who knew him best, the evidence seemed to be overwhelming.
Before Abraham, I Am
But there is more. It wasn't just that the followers of Christ believed that Jesus was God. Jesus himself believed he was God. This is what is so inconsistent about the common misunderstanding of who Jesus is. Jesus leaves no wiggle room when it comes to who he is. As CS Lewis stated, you either have to believe he is the Lord, he is a liar, or he is a lunatic. Here is a sampling of a few of Jesus' comments about his identity.
For those who say Jesus was just a good teacher, or just a prophet, those people just don't get it. When I hear people compare Jesus to Ghandi or Muhammed, I want to shake them and ask, “Have you not read the Bible.” That statement is so inconsistent with who Jesus said he was. One of the main reasons they killed him was because he claimed to be God.
Jesus made it abundantly clear that he was not just a man. He told people to drink from him, eat him, that he was the truth and the life, that he had a first row seat when Satan fall from heaven. The claims of Jesus were outrageous. When you read the Gospels, there is not a more self-centered person than Jesus. Why? Because he had to be. Everything was created through Him and for Him. If Jesus wasn't self centered, then he would be sinning, for He is God, and the chief end of man is to glorify God.
Moses and the Prophets Testify
But we are not done. There is more. Not only did the disciples believe he was God, not only did his family believe he was God, not only did Paul believe he was God, not only did Jesus claim to be God, but the Old Testament testified he was God.
This is the most popular Christmas verse in all the Bible, and rightfully so, for it summarizes what we are celebrating. Isaiah wrote these Words 700 years before the actual historic event of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Isaiah predicted that everything would change when this child stepped onto the scene. And who was this child you ask? Isaiah tells us point blank, this child is none other than God himself.
The Creator of all things, becomes a creature. The author of the play writes himself into the story. The Potter covers himself with His clay. God takes on flesh, incarnate. He will be Emmanuel, God with us.
What kind of God does this? What kind of all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient being humbles himself to the point of a 8 lb baby whose life is handed over to a teen Mom and a blue collar worker? I will tell you. A God who is sovereign. A God who is both the just and the justifier. A God who uses the foolish things to shame the wise. A God who loves you enough to become you, so as to die for you, in order to save you.
This Christmas, let us not stop our gaze at the manger, but cast our eyes beyond and see the glory that Christ, Emmanuel, had prior to his arrival. Let us join the chorus of Angels and sing about his coming as glory in the highest.