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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:The Word made Flesh-He Dwelled Among Us
Text:John 1:14.b (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” # 319

“Song of Zechariah” # 294

“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” # 308

Service of God’s Holy Word

Scripture Reading: John 1: 14a; (Background: Exodus 25:1-9; 29:44-46)
Sermon: “The Word Made Flesh: He Dwelled Among Us”
Prayer of Application

*Song of Response: “Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come” # 299

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, to believers John 1:14 is one of the most beautiful, comforting and encouraging passages of the Christmas story. John 3:16 says God so loved the world; but it is John 1:14 that tells us how this love took shape and form and flesh. In the mystery of the incarnation our Savior came from heaven to earth to save us from our sins!   


So, to Christians, this passage is Gospel truth. But to non-Christians and skeptics it is utter nonsense. Gary Burge, a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, made the observation that, to the “ancient minds” in John’s day, this verse was perhaps the most scandalous thing that John ever penned. And why is that?


He went on to explain that to many, the idea of God was that he was completely separate from this world. This world is a world of matter and material, of flesh and blood. This world is a defective world, a dark and fallen and imperfect world.


This world is material, but God is spiritual. This world is earthly, but God is ethereal. So, it is unthinkable, it is scandalous to suggest that God would in any way connect himself to this creaturely world, to this creaturely, lesser existence – much less actually become man.   


Yet, this is exactly what John 1:14 tells us. God came into this world – but not as a casual observer standing at a distance so as not to touch or be touched by anything earthly. Rather, in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, God personally and intimately entered into our world. In Christ, God fully engaged this creaturely existence – in all it’s inglorious indignity.  


God, in Christ, came to dwell here, to live here among us, without the stain of sin of course, but he fully experienced what it is to be human. Jesus lived, he suffered and he even died here among us. And in this way, God inseparably connected himself to this world, and to our flesh, to our human nature not only for the salvation of our souls – but for our daily help and hope.

And why would God ever do such a thing? God did it to remind us of the amazing grace of the gospel. You seem our hope, our only salvation is not something that lies within the reach of sinners here below. No. Ours is not a creaturely hope.     


Rather, our hope that must come from above! It is a hope and salvation that came down from heaven in the person of God’s Son Jesus Christ – He is the Word Made Flesh. Today on this Christmas morning we will consider what it means that The Word became flesh and (Tabernacled) made his dwelling among us! Let’s walk through this passage together.


Made ‘Flesh’

Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the language of John 1:14. It begins with a reference to the Word. This is the first time the Word has been mentioned since the opening 2 verses. And if you recall in our sermon two weeks ago, we said that the Word was the LOGOS of God. It was the divine communication of God, the speech of God, the self-expression of God.


John revealed that the Word was with God in the beginning, and the Word was God. By him all things were made. Now John is going to tell us how this divine Word made himself known to us. How did he reveal himself to us?


He says: the Word became flesh. That Greek word denotes a real, physical body; a real human being with a human nature and all the creatureliness that goes with it. In the person of Jesus Christ, God became man. God took on a truly human nature.


In other words, it would be wrong to suggest that in Christ, God simply took on an outer shell of humanity, or simply wrapped himself in flesh; pretending to be a creature; pretending to be a man. Yes, Jesus had power to heal, power to cast out demons, power to raise the dead, even power to calm the wind and waves and power to forgive sins. That power belonged to Jesus as the divine Son of God. But at no time did that divine power ever erase or diminish or minimize the reality of Christ’s humanity. Jesus was just as human as any of us are here today.


And Hebrews 2:17 teaches us there was a wonderful reason for this. It says Therefore he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect (and here we always add the necessary qualifier, except for sin and a sinful human nature), so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.


We sometimes use the phrase: it takes one to know one. In this case it is especially true. It takes a human being to know what other human beings are going through (to show true sympathy and to empathize with others), to know what griefs they bear, what heartaches, pain and weakness they encounter, what trials and temptations they face. Jesus was flesh of our flesh. He knows you so well. He knows me so well – all because he took on flesh.


And now our risen and exalted Christ lives to serve us and minister his mercy to us in our time of need!! Just as we sing: Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer!  Now, the power and blessings and the grace of God lies at our disposal, and prayer is the way we access those blessings!        


The Word Tabernacled

Next, we’re told that the Word made flesh “made his dwelling among us”. The word for dwelled, or made his dwelling is the word abide, or more literally, to pitch a tent, to “tabernacle”. John uses the word “tabernacled” or “dwelled” because he wants us to see the glorious truth -- the beauty and majesty and marvel of the gospel: that in the coming of Jesus Christ, God has drawn near to his people once more. God our Redeemer has come to save and deliver!


Now, the revelation of God coming down from heaven to earth, is not a rare occurrence in the Bible. In Genesis 3:8, we’re told that in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden God walked in the garden in the cool of the day. This tells us that our Creator God who made heaven and earth and all things, and who made man in his own image -- enjoyed what he had made. God took pleasure in his creation, especially in mankind, and God enjoyed fellowship and communion with man and creation.  


But sin destroyed that fellowship. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, it defiled not only humanity, but the curse and consequences of sin were experienced by all creation. As a result, our holy God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden, out of His presence. Sinful man was separated from God. Now man, in his fallen condition, could no longer come into the presence of God without a Meditator, without God making the way clear for man to come to him.  


That brings us to the Old Testament Tabernacle. In order for us to fully appreciate the significance of the Word coming in the flesh and dwelling among us – we must first understand the significance of the tabernacle – its purpose and function in the life of Israel.


Earlier we read from Exodus 25:1-9 where the Lord instructed Moses to build a tabernacle, according to the exact plans and specifications He would give him. In the chapters to follow, the Lord laid out those plans, describing the overall layout of the tabernacle -- from the outer courtyard, to the Holy Place, to the Most Holy Place.


The Lord also described in intricate detail the furniture that was to be used, as well as the ark of the covenant, and the material and fabric for the curtains and wood. The Lord described how the walls were to be constructed and carried for ease of portability from one place to another. Nothing was overlooked. No detail was too small or insignificant.


The Lord went on to describe what sacrifices were to be offered, and what was required for each sacrifice, and how the priests were to offer the sacrifices. The Lord instructed the priests on what they were to wear and how they had to consecrate themselves before offering the sacrifices.


 And why all this minutia? Why all this attention to detail? It is because the tabernacle was to be a sanctuary for God. It was to be the “meeting place” literally “the tent of meeting” where God would dwell among his people.


Exodus 29. 43-45 says: there I will meet you and speak to you, there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar, and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am their God, who bought them out of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.


So think of that: as high and holy and righteous as God is, as majestic and glorious and radiant as He is – God still came down. God still condescended to His people – to meet with them; to come to their aid. As unbelievable as it sounds, God still loved His people -- as unholy, ungrateful, unworthy, and undeserving as they were. God still desired to tabernacle with them; to dwell with them! That in itself is a beautiful picture of his grace and mercy and steadfast love!!


So right there in the Sinai wilderness, in that dry and barren wasteland, God came to His people in a very personal and powerful way. The tabernacle was a visible and physical symbol of God’s presence among His people. The tabernacle was also a place where man received help from God – help for man’s unholiness. Sinful man come before God to present his offerings and sacrifices and then receive the blessing and assurance and pardon of God’s forgiving grace.


And the tabernacle was also a place of revelation from God, as God promised not only to meet but also to speak to His people (usually through God’s appointed Mediator Moses). And finally, the tabernacle was a place of where God’s glory shined forth for all to see – but we’ll talk more about that this afternoon. (represented God’s presence, his help, his revelation, his glory!)


In pastor Danny Hyde’s book on the Tabernacle: God in our Midst, Danny traces the essence and purpose of the Tabernacle right back to the beginning – right back to the Garden of Eden. He writes: This is yet another indication that the story of Scripture is about how human beings, who were expelled from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden, after the fall of Adam and Eve, can return to the garden and dwell once again with God. (chapter 2, section on holiness).


Going out a bit later he writes: the Tabernacle was a way of recreating the situation that existed in the garden of Eden, where the Lord dwelled with his people, Adam and Eve. Thus the Tabernacle was his way of bringing them to that original peace and fellowship with him.


By this, we see what God desires: peace and fellowship and communion with man. We hear a faint echo of that in the Angel’s song which they sang at Christ’s birth. Peace on earth, and good will toward men upon whom God’s favor rests. Or as the Christmas anthem puts it: Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.


This is what stands behind this beautiful verse from John’s Gospel. John is revealing to us the Good News, the Glad Tidings that in the coming of His Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, God has not forgotten his people. God did not give up us. And this brings us to Jesus – the tabernacle made flesh.


Jesus – the Tabernacle Made Flesh

Just as God had done in the past, through the physical presence of the Tabernacle where God met with His people, through its sacrifices, through its priesthood, through its revelation from God where he spoke to his people – God has come again in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.


In that way, it can be said that Christ was the living, breathing, human version of the tabernacle – as everything it represented, every purpose and function it served, from the altar, to the ark of the covenant, to the priesthood, to the very blood sacrifices that were offered up to God as atonement for sins, everything was embodied in Christ and in His earthly life and ministry.


And perhaps most of all: no message could be more clear or more obvious as to God’s intention, as to God’s sincere desire and determination to dwell with his people than when He sent His only begotten Son in the flesh, into our world, to tabernacle among us.  


And Jesus tabernacled among us in every sense of the Word. He was the holy one of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. Jesus was untouched and untainted by sin or a sinful human nature. And even though he was tempted by Satan throughout his life, Jesus never sinned. 1 Peter 2:22 says He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.


Jesus also embodied God’s revelation as He spoke the truth, as he preached the Gospel, and instructed the people in the ways of God. And Jesus also embodied God’s help for fallen and sinful man, as Jesus was both priest and sacrifice; as Jesus came to make the once for all sacrifice for sins by offering His body on the altar of the cross, so that by the shedding of his blood, atonement for sins could be made, God’s wrath could be satisfied, and we could be made right with God.


1 Peter 2 also says something about this: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.


And of course, the reason Jesus did all this was to bring to completion, to bring to fulfillment and fruition and perfection God’s design to dwell with man. It was something that the Old Testament tabernacle could never provide or produce – and was never meant to – which tells us that:  


Jesus was “Superior to” the Tabernacle!

That tabernacle was only a shadow of the reality to come; it was meant to point ahead to the one who would come, in the flesh, to secure our dwelling place with God.       


And when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose in victory on the third day, and ascended into heaven wearing our humanity, still wearing our flesh, and when he sat on the throne to be our heavenly high priest -- that signified that our eternal dwelling with God was secure.


No, Jesus is not physically here, visibly present right now, and yet Jesus dwells with us in a way that is far more personal and powerful than ever before. It is not yet what it will be, but it is better than it has ever been since the Fall into sin.


Before his ascension Jesus promised that He would be with us even to the end of the age, and He has not broken that promise. God sent His Holy Spirit to abide with us, to dwell with and within us. In God’s Holy Spirit, the holy God draws nears to us once more, comforting us, speaking God’s Word to us, and urging us and our hearts to draw near to God.       


And with Christ in heaven as our high priest, we are guaranteed that all the help we need for this life is fully met in Him. Hebrews 4 assures us of this when it says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Do you find that you are a sinner, like me, in need of God’s forgiveness? Then go to God through Christ the Son and seek God’s forgiveness and grace. Are you sick, are you weak, are you troubled? Are you hurting inside – feeling lonely and unloved and cast out this Christmas especially? Approach God in Christ, go to God with confidence, and you will find help – mercy and grace – for your every need. It’s the most wonderful, comprehensive, all inclusive Christmas gift we could ever imagine: Christ dwelling with us, helping, healing, forgiving, abiding!      


And it will be like this until the end – until the last day. And on the last day when Christ returns he will bring to consummation – to its ultimate fulfillment everything he has promised us in Christ. That day will mark our final return to Eden as it were, the re-creation of Eden, only now Eden will comes to us as an Indestructible, eternal, Holy City, where God dwells with man forever more.


In Revelation 21: 1-4 John writes what he sees: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


People of God, this is why the Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us. So far from being a scandalous thing – it is a most glorious thing! For, Christ came to restore to us all that we lost in our fall into sin, in our fall from grace, and Christ did it all at his own expense. Now God comes to you and to me and He calls us to respond to this amazing gift of grace.


How do we respond? By believing in the Son He sent; by believing in the Christ of Christmas and all that Christ represents, and all that He is; by believing that for our own salvation, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. All glory and praise be to God!! Amen.   

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Pastor Keith Davis

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