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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The God of glory has come to dwell among us!
Text:John 1:14 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2014-12-21
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 76:1,4,5

Psalm 25:2

Psalm 8:1-5

Hymn 20:1,2

Hymn 20:3,4

Read:  John 1:1-34

Text:  John 1:14

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every year the city of Perth puts on its annual Christmas Pageant and this year was no exception.  On December 6 almost 300,000 people, many of them children, lined the streets of Perth to be a part of the Christmas magic, as they call it, to watch the parade go by and to catch a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh.  It would have been most impressive, no doubt, an amazing spectacle to watch as a make-believe world of fairies and dancers, a Chinese dragon and wise men on camels, kids in tinsel-covered soap-box cars as well as Thomas the Tank Engine and other TV characters made their way down the city streets of Perth.  There is something about the Christmas season that makes people want to make it special, to make it “magical”, want to make it a “pinch-yourself-to-see-if-it-is-real” experience.

But all the glitz and all the glamor and all the hype that surrounds the lead-up to the 25th of December is as nothing compared to the real thing that December 25th is supposed to be about.  The make-believe world of Santa and snow, of turkey and tinsel, of gifts and gingerbread, in fact, can conceal that which is truly wonderful, that which is truly amazing – and that which is not make-believe but very real!  And that is the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ was born.  And even more, that is the fact that

“. . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  This is something that no Christmas Pageant and no nativity scene could ever bring home to us.  It is a wonder to behold that the Son of God who is and remains true and eternal God was born a man, took on our flesh and blood.  Reflecting on this the Church Father Augustine wrote the following:

Man’s maker was made man,

That He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;

That the Bread might hunger,

The Fountain thirst,

The Light sleep,

The Way be tired on its journey;

That the Truth might be accused of false witness,

The Teacher be beaten with whips,

The Foundation be suspended on wood;

That Strength might grow weak;

That the Healer might be wounded;

That Life might die.

(Augustine of Hippo, Sermons 191.1)

You see, this is the most amazing thing about the birth of Christ: that the Word of God, that is the one and only Son of God who is and remains true God would come into the world as a man so that men could see Him.  The most amazing thing about the birth of Christ is that the God of glory has come to dwell among us.  And that shall be our theme for this morning’s sermon.

The God of glory has come to dwell among us!

  1. He has come in the flesh.
  2. He has come in glory.

1. He has come in the flesh.

It was an incredibly special thing for the Father to send His Son into the world, and John wants to underline this by reminding us in John 1:14 just what sort of a Son this Jesus was.  He was, he declared.

“. . . the only begotten of the Father.”

The word “begotten” is an interesting one, which is also used in John 3:16 where it says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  The word “begotten” does not mean that God gave birth to His Son.  That can not be so because, as it says in John 1:2,

“He was in the beginning with God.”

In other words, God the Son has been there from eternity.

and, verse 3,

“without Him nothing was made that was made”

- which must include the Lord Jesus Himself.  The word translated here as “only begotten” is used nine times in the New Testament and in every case the point is not that the child was the birth child of the father or mother concerned but upon the fact that the father or mother only had one child.  And that is perhaps a better way to translate the Greek word that is used in John 1:14 as well as in John 3:16, that the Son is an only Son, a unique Son.  And so John 1:14 emphasizes that this Jesus who was born into the world is the one and only Son of the Father.

But then why did He have to come in the first place?  Why was it that God the Father would send His Son – His only Son – into the world?  Why is it that He came to dwell among us?  That is an important question, a question that every one of us needs to know the answer to – and we also need to be able to explain our answer to everyone who asks what Christmas is all about.

And to answer that question, we have to go back, as John 1 does, to “the beginning”.  From the very beginning, God wished to be with us.  When the world was created, the LORD God placed Adam and Eve in a special garden, the Garden of Eden.  This garden was a beautiful place with rivers and fruit trees.  But what made it Paradise was the perfect relationship between God and creation.  The LORD God had full fellowship with man, and in the cool of the day He would come and walk in the garden with Adam and Eve.  In Paradise, therefore, the Lord God “dwelt among us” and Adam and Eve could behold His glory.

But then sin came into the world, and this sin changed everything.  Soon after Adam and Eve at of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, when they heard God walking in the garden, they ran and hid themselves.  Because of sin Adam and Eve were no longer holy, they could no longer come close to God and so they were banished, sent away from the Garden of Eden.  And an angel was placed there at the garden, with a flaming sword in his hand.  The way for man to find his own way to God had been cut off.

Now unless you are visiting with us this morning and unless you are not a Christian and you are not familiar with the Bible, you would know this story of what happened in the garden of Eden very well.  But we need to know this and we need to keep going back to it because it explains so much of the sin and of the sadness that we experience in this life.  And not only that, but it explains our own hearts.  It teaches us who we really are and what is really wrong with us.  You see, for as long as we make up our own rules of what is right and what is wrong, and for as long as we compare ourselves to others, we might think that we are ok and we might even think that in and of ourselves we are able to make the world a better place.  But when we consider the holiness and the glory of God, when we consider His perfection and His sinlessness – and then when we realize that we were created to reflect that holiness and glory, that perfection and sinlessness, it is then that we begin to see ourselves for who we really are, it is then that we see the world for what it has become.

And it is then that we might wonder how we, sinful creatures, could ever approach a holy God.  It is then that we might wonder how we could ever come back to Him, even how we could ever find Him in the first place, how we could even learn Who He really is and what He is really like.  It is then that we might wonder how we can have our sins forgiven, how we can once more be accepted by Him and how we can even think of beholding His glory.

And it is then that we see something of the miracle in those words,

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Concerning the miracle of the Incarnation, of the Son of God being born a man, John Calvin wrote,

“How great is the distance between the spiritual glory of the Word of God and the stinking filth of our flesh!”

But that is exactly what Jesus did.  When we had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, no way to draw near to God and be accepted into His presence, God the Son came down as a man, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

And when John 1:14 says that the Word, which is Christ, the Son of God, dwelt among us, it is making a very special point here.  What John 1:14 literally says in the Greek language in which it was written is this:

“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

And that word “tabernacle” points us back to how the LORD lived with His people in times past, in the Old Testament. 

When God’s people Israel were at Mount Sinai the LORD said to Moses in Exodus 25:8,

“And let them [that is the people of Israel] make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Or, as He said in Leviticus 26:11,12

“I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

This was an incredible act of God’s grace in itself.  Even though we sinned through Adam, and we continue to sin, our holy and perfect God does not abhor or despise us.  God decided that a tent should be built, a special tabernacle, where He could dwell among His people.  So that He could walk among them in a sense, just as He had walked with Adam and Eve! 

And so a tabernacle, a small tent, about 15 metres long and 4.5 metres wide, was made.  It had beautiful linen curtains on the inside and was covered with goats hair on the outside.

  But sin was still there and that sin was still a barrier between holy God and His unholy people.  And so around the Tabernacle was a courtyard, separating God’s holy tent from the rest of the Israelite camp.  And only those who were clean, ritually pure, could come to the temple to worship the Lord there.  And even in the tabernacle itself, the people of Israel had to be very careful in how they approached the Lord.  Sacrifices had to be made every day to take away sin.  Incense was burned on an altar also and only the priests could enter the holy place in the tabernacle.  And then there was a further curtain separating the holy place in the tabernacle from the Most Holy Place, where the golden ark of the covenant was placed.  And only the high priest, and him once a year, could enter the room where the ark of the covenant was, taking with him blood and smoking incense to shield himself from the glory of God.  And it was between those cherubim, above the mercy seat that was sprinkled with blood, that God dwelled with His people. 

But the tabernacle was not God’s ultimate plan for Him to dwell with His people.  Rather, the Bible teaches us that it was only a foretaste, only a shadow of what was to come.  God’s plan was not to live forever in a small room, separated from His people, but He planned to live among us!  And that is what He did when He sent us His Son.

“And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

And so it is that in Christ, the only begotten, the one and only Son of the Father, we truly received our Immanuel, our God-with-us.  In the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to live on earth there would no longer be any need for that wall of separation to be there between God and His people.  In Jesus Christ our holy God could come to live with sinful man.  In Jesus Christ our sins can be forgiven, our evil natures purged, and in Him we can behold His glory.

2. He has come in glory.

It is indeed a miracle that that the One through whom the universe was made has come down, has become flesh and has dwelt among us.  As the hymn writer Edward Casswall put it,

“Lo within a manger lies He who built the starry skies.”

It was the Son of God, His only begotten Son, His one and only Son, who was born and could be seen as a baby crying in His mother’s arms.  It was the Son of God who entered this world as a child, a human being, as One who needed to be fed, to be changed, to be washed.  He came down as One who needed to learn to walk, to talk, to read and to write.  He was – and He remains – a true man.  He is a man, fully and completely and like His brothers in every respect apart from sin.  But at the same time He is more than man.  For when He took our flesh and blood upon Himself, He did not take away His divinity but He came to us as the Son of God.

  And so John the Baptist could witness concerning Him in John 1:34,

“And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

And it was concerning the Son of God that John could write in his gospel,

“We have beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

His glory is the same as the Father’s glory, and revealing this glory to us, He showed us His grace and truth.

  He revealed God’s grace to us, His underserving love and favour for sinners who deserved no grace.  And He revealed God’s truth to us.  The truth the God is good, that He is holy, that He is perfect.  The truth that we are not good, that we are not holy, that we are not perfect.  The truth that we are sinners in need of God’s grace.  The truth that we need to be forgiven.  And the truth that in Christ we receive this forgiveness and that through the Holy Spirit we may live a new life before God’s face.

But when John writes “We have beheld His glory”, when was it that he beheld this? What was it that our Lord said and did that displayed His grace and truth? 

In the first place John and the other disciples with him witnessed Christ’s glory in the miracles that He performed.  In John 2, for example, He went with His mother and His disciples to a wedding feast at Cana – a normal thing for a normal person to do.  But then when He was there and the wine ran out, He commanded that the water pots be filled with water and from that He created new wine, better wine than they had had before – which is not a normal thing or a person to do.  In this way He revealed Himself to not only be a true man, but also to be the Son of God.  And so it says in John 2:11,

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

He also revealed His glory, His divinity in how He stilled the storm.  In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus, who was exhausted from all that He had done that day, fell asleep in the boat as He and His disciples crossed the sea of Galilee.  He was exhausted and so He slept; He suffered our human limitations.  But then when a storm arose and His disciples shook Him awake, crying out,

“Lord, save us!  We are perishing!”,

He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And then His disciples marveled, saying,

“Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

And then in Matthew 17, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a high mountain, He was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light, a bright cloud overshadowed them all and a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is My beleoved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!”

These were all displays of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.  But the greatest display of Christ’s glory was revealed through the shame and suffering on the cross.  As Jesus Himself said in John 12:23,

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

For it was on the cross, where our Lord suffered the greatest pain and the deepest shame that God revealed to us His grace and His truth.  His truth that sin must be punished and His grace that God so loved us that He sent His Son to die in our place. 

And now the amazing thing is this.  We who have beheld His glory, we who look to Jesus that we might have life in His name may now live in that glory and even reflect it.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says,

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We are being transformed, changed through the Holy Spirit to be like Jesus Christ.  We are not perfect and we will not be perfect in this life, but when we look to Jesus and when we seek our salvation in Him then we receive a new life in Him also!

Do you experience that?  Do you see how God is at work in your heart, in your life?  Do you see yourself for who you really are?  Do you hate your sin and do you fight against it?  Do you look to Jesus for your salvation and do you then rejoice in the sure promise that whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame but have everlasting life?  Is your life now changed and changing so that already now you begin to reflect the glory of God as you live for Him?  For that is what God has promised us.  That is what the gospel is all about.  That is why Christ came, that is why the Word became flesh and dwelt, tabernacled, among us.

But the best is yet to come!  Towards the end of his life, John wrote another book, the book we call Revelation.  At the end of that book, in Revelation 21:3 it says

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell (tabernacle) with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be their God.”

The day is coming when we will dwell with God forever, in the fullness of His glory!  And all this is promised to us because of Christmas, because of the birth of our Saviour who is Christ the Lord.  That is the wonder of Christmas!  That is the great miracle of what it meant that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  And that is the most mighty wonder, the most wonderful news that we could ever hear.

Amen

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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