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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:The Word made Flesh-We Saw His Glory
Text:John 1:14b (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2022-12-25
Added:2022-12-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Special Christmas Song Service

“Silent Night! Holy Night!” # 315
“What Child Is This” # 317
“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” # 321
“As with Gladness Men of Old” # 320

Song of Praise: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” # 311

Christmas Day Scripture Reading: Luke 2: 8-20
Song of Response: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” # 310
Song of Preparation: “Angels We Have Heard on High” # 318

Service of God’s Holy Word

Scripture Reading: John 1: 14-18 (Exodus 40: 34-38)
Sermon: “The Word Made Flesh: His Glory Revealed”
Prayer of Application
Song of Response: “Angels, from the Realms of Glory” # 313:1-4
Benediction
Doxology: “Angels, from the Realms of Glory” # 313:5
“All creation, join in praising God the Father, Spirit, Son; evermore your voices raising
to th'eternal Three in One: Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the
newborn King.”

* 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, besides the actual event of Christ’s birth, one the most important elements of the Christmas story is the testimony of those who bore witness to what they had seen and heard or what they had been told about the birth of Christ.  

 

Boys and girls, without the witnesses telling everyone Christ had come, Christmas would be one big secret. And who were some of those witnesses? There were the Christmas angels who appeared to the shepherds out in the fields. They told the shepherds: today in the town of David of Savior has been born who is Christ the Lord.

 

Then the shepherds became witnesses. After they went to Bethlehem, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby, lying in the manger, then they left and spread the word concerning what they had been told them about this child.

 

The idea of bearing witness is a prominent theme in the entire Gospel of John, and especially in these opening words in chapter 1. In verse 6 he writes: there came a man who was sent from God; his name was John (John the Baptist is the man in view here). He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; He came only as a witness to the light.

 

Then moving on to verse 15, it says: John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, this was he of whom I said he who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.

 

Besides John the Baptist, Christ’s own disciples were witnesses. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John  bore witness and gave testimony to everything they had seen and heard. And John discloses something of what they saw in the second half of verse 14. John writes:  We beheld his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.

John and the other disciples, bore witness to Christ’s deity, to being the Word of God in the flesh, and this is his testimony. So tonight, we consider that testimony: The Word Made Flesh: We Saw His Glory!

 

People of God, as we consider the second half of verse 14, we are going to take the same approach we did this morning when we looked at the first half of verse 14. We begin by looking back to the Old Testament, to the Tabernacle, so we can see the connection that John is making.

 

In the first half of verse 14, John stated that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. From what we heard in the sermon this morning, we know that John is drawing on the rich imagery of the tabernacle and how God dwelled with his people in that manner.

 

But something that we did not get into this morning is this: how God made his presence known among the people. Yes he said he would dwell with them, but how would they know that? How could they be sure? God provided a very visible, unmistakable sign: he revealed his glory.

 

God’s glory could appeared before them. Exodus tells the story of how God delivered Israel from Egypt, then as they made their way to the Promised Land, they were accompanied by God, they were guided and protected by God, every step of the way.

 

God guided them by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. Exodus 13:21-22 records this miraculous revelation of God’s presence among His people. (This was shortly after Israel left Egypt): And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

 

That pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night is referred to as the Shekinah cloud. The word Shekinah is not found in the Bible, but it is a Hebrew word meaning to dwell or reside. It is used to describe that visible manifestation of God (what we refer to as the glory of God).  

In other words, God’s presence on earth was made evident to the people of Israel by the supernatural revelation, the visible, tangible, eye-witness proof of His presence. And this was, of course, all by God’s gracious design. For Israel was so weak in their faith. They were like little children, spiritually speaking, who lacked faith, who lacked maturity, who panicked and cried out at the least bit of adversity or trouble. They didn’t trust what they could not see!

 

Therefore, God in his kindness and grace revealed gave them this sign. What did this sign symbolize or communicate to the people? It reminded them of God’s constant presence among them, of His almighty power, of His faithful protection and guidance, of His promise to be a God to them – to dwell among them and be their God.

 

And as we read tonight from Exodus 40, that same glory cloud rested over the tabernacle. We read: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out until the day it lifted. So, the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.  

 

This is the backdrop, this is the image, the visual picture that John is painting for us when he writes what he does in the second half of verse 14: we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son.

 

The word John uses for glory is the Greek word doxa from which we also get the word doxology or praise.  That’s quite fitting since the manifestation of the glory of God must always move saints and angels to praise and worship God; that is the appropriate and fitting response whenever creatures encounter the glory of God.

 

But now we must ask: how exactly was the glory of God made manifest in Christ? What exactly is this glory that John and the others saw? We made the point this morning that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was the Word made flesh, he embodied the tabernacle. He was the living, breathing representation and fulfillment of the Old Testament tabernacle.

 

But while that is true, we also know that when Jesus was born, there was no glory cloud that circled or hovered above in the night sky. Yes, there were many irrefutable signs that Jesus was the Son of God; Immanuel. But the face of Jesus did not shine more brightly than that of any other newborn baby. And during his life, Jesus did not walk around with a permanent halo affixed to his head – a crown of light shining above him wherever he went. No.

 

And we also know why that’s the case. Jesus humbly and obediently chose to set aside his glory – the glory that he had with his Father from the beginning; the glory that belonged to him, that was rightfully his, as the second person of the Trinity, as the Lord and King of Creation!

 

For the sake of our salvation, Jesus who was rich in glory, made himself poor. He willingly set aside his glory and made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself. This is why we say and sing that when Jesus was born, his glory was veiled. Veiled in flesh the godhead see! Hail the incarnate deity.  

 

So we ask, how then did they see and bear witness to his glory? How was it made obvious? In the first place, Jesus manifested his glory by the miracles he did. If you turn in your Bible to John chapter 2, there you will find the first recorded miracle of Jesus. He was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Those who were hosting the wedding faced with a very embarrassing problem that would have been a dishonor to their guests. They ran out of wine.

 

So that’s when Mary, the mother of Jesus shared the problem with her son. At first, Jesus objected, but then he miraculously changed the water into wine which made it possible for the wedding banquet to continue. After this miracle, notice what it says in the second half of vs. 11: He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

 

Then, if you turn ahead to John 11, to the account of the death of Lazarus. In chapter 11:4 Jesus pronounces to his disciples: this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it.

 

So that’s one way the glory of God in Christ was made manifest and became clear and visible. The glory of Christ as the Messiah, the eternal Son of God was revealed in the powerful works he performed.

 

A second way that Christ’s glory was seen was in the Transfiguration of Jesus, as recorded in Mathew 17. There, Peter James and John were with Jesus on a high mountain where suddenly Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

 

This was indeed a very rare moment in the earthly ministry of Jesus where these three disciples were blessed to behold something that no one else saw. They were permitted to look behind the veil, behind the curtain of human flesh, and with their own eyes they saw a glimpse of glory -- a blinding reflection of the glory of the Son of God.

 

But there is a third day that Christ revealed his glory. This third way ties in especially to what John says here in verse 14. He writes: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.

 

This passage is telling us that the glory of God’s Son was made evident by the revelation of grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ. Commentator D.A. Carson suggests that this reference almost certainly points us back to another Exodus account (33-34) – but not to the tabernacle. This takes us to the account where Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory.

 

God agreed to reveal his glory to Moses – at least in part so that Moses would not be consumed by God’s glory. In chapter 33: 19 the Lord said to Moses: I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. Notice, God’s glory is equated there with his goodness. D.A. Carson observes: God’s glory then, is supremely his goodness. He would allow his goodness to pass in front of Moses.

 

Then in Exodus 34 we read how this plays out. It says: then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and 4th generation.”

 

In this passage, the covenant faithfulness of God (the hesed of God) is on display -- God’s steadfast love, his covenant faithfulness, his relentless grace and mercy and love toward his people. And this is what is what John is getting at here in verse 14.

 

Jesus came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Those two words, grace and truth so perfectly, so beautifully capture the idea of God’s steadfast love, his unfailing, unrelenting love and faithfulness. In Colossians 1, Paul says the very same thing about Jesus in verses 19: for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. Hebrews 1:3 says: the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation obvious being…

 

Here’s a wonderful quote from D.A. Carson to help summarize all this: The glory revealed to Moses when the Lord passed in front of him and sounded his name, displaying that divine goodness, characterized by ineffable grace and truth, was the very same glory John and his friends saw in the Word-made-flesh.

 

This means that everywhere Jesus went, preaching and teaching, performing miraculous signs, in his healing of the sick, in his casting out demons, in his raising of the dead, and also in his tenderness and compassion and forgiveness for lowly sinners – in all these things Jesus revealed his glory as the Son of God, the Messiah.

 

But this grace and truth was especially revealed in a way that is actually shocking and surprising. It was in the cross. The glory of grace and truth shined forth especially in Christ’s suffering and and death.  

 

In John 12 Jesus predicts his death saying (vs. 23): the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Vs 27: and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour period father, glorify your name! Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it and will glorify it again. Then John 17:1, Jesus prays: Father the time has come. Glorify your son that your son may glorify you.

 

We ask, how can this be? How is it possible that the suffering and humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross could be the hour when the Father glorified His Son? Wasn’t that his darkest hour? Wasn’t that a shameful and lowly moment for Christ? Where was the Shekinah glory of God when Jesus was on the cross? Where was the grace and truth of Jesus then??

 

Beloved, the grace and truth of God’s Son was seen in the nails that held him to the cross, in the crown of thorns that adorned his head, in the stripes that were made upon his body with the scourges, in the spear that was thrust in his side – in the precious blood that flowed from his body to make full atonement for the sins of His people.

 

In Christ’s suffering and death, in his perfect submission to the Father, drinking the cup of God’s wrath till its bitter end, God’s supreme goodness passes before our eyes; the grace and truth of God are on full display. God’s grace – His unconditional love and forgiveness and the gift of eternal life -- is extended to unholy, unworthy sinners who deserve eternal condemnation. Yet we are saved on account of the suffering and death of Christ and his righteousness imputed to us.  

 

And on the cross, God’s truth is proclaimed: God does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and 4th generation.     

God’s truth, among other things, is the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel. We need the truth of the Gospel because the fact is: we are fallen sinners who cannot see the glory of God in Christ unless we are given eyes to see.

We cannot see, and we cannot hear, we cannot believe, and therefore we cannot be saved unless someone preaches to us, and reveals the truth of God’s Word. That’s why those who are lost need to pray to God that God would work his grace in their hearts -- that God, by His Spirit can open their eyes, illumine their minds, soften their hearts so that they can begin to see the glory, to get that first glimpse of the glory of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Then we can believe in him and put their faith in Him.

 

That is where this whole Christmas story goes. That is why John is telling us this story. He was an eye-witness. He saw Christ’s glory – the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ! And now that we see it – what are we going to do with it? Are we not also called to be witnesses of his glory? Are we not also called to shine the light of God’s glory for all to see.

 

We are living Testaments to Christ’s grace and truth. If we are saved, then we have seen and experienced the goodness of god pass in front of us – and now God calls us to live out that grace and truth each day; to shine that light, and proclaim his truth so that all may see, that all may believe. 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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