John 1:1-5,10-14 (NIV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Peek into The Savior’s Manger
I. See the Creator of the world
II. See the Light of Life
III. See the Word made flesh
My dear friends in Christ,
Don’t look at the light! That’s good advice on a bright summer day. It’s also good advice when you’re driving at night and someone’s LED headlights are blazing. It’s dangerous to look at a bright light for too long. It hurts. It can trigger migraines. It might even destroy your eyesight. That’s not the advice that John has for us this Christmas morning. He invites us to look directly into the Light as we peek into the manger.
Look closely this morning. What do we see? I can see a rough, wooden box, lined with fragrant hay. As I look inside, there’s a baby boy. He doesn’t look like much—he’s just a wrinkly infant who needs to be fed, and changed, and cuddled, and napped, just like every other baby. Not a very impressive sight, is it? But, as we peek into that splintery feed trough, we see more than a tiny baby. We see the Creator of the world. We see the Light of Life. We see the Word made flesh.
Jesus may not look very dazzling, but as we listen to John’s description of the child we realize he is so much more than a helpless infant. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (v.1,2). The infant is just a few hours old. Mary had carefully wrapped Jesus in cloths to keep him warm and dry. He is new to the world, and new to his surroundings, or at least that’s the way it looks. This little baby has been around a lot longer than a few minutes or hours. Before time existed, Jesus was. When there was nothing else, before the creation of the world, Jesus was. That’s quite an eyeful to take in as we peek over the edge of Jesus’ manger. Christmas morning is a good time to consider the majesty of the holy child. Before us lies the timeless God. He is not limited by time as we know it. The clock does not rule Jesus’ existence. He bends the hands of time to his own purpose and desire. The Word, Jesus, was God long before he was born on Christmas Day.
Look closer. What do you see? I see tiny hands, formed perfectly, weak, yet able to grasp mommy’s finger and hold it tight. The hands appear weak and fragile, yet they are the hands which brilliantly fashioned the world in which we live. Paul writes, “For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16,17). Normally we don’t think about the creation of the world on Christmas morning, but John says, “Take a peek.” The baby we see lying in the manger is the same God who created the universe. He designed the pecan and potato, built the atom and the molecule, even constructed man’s frame from the dust of the earth. Peek into his manger and see the creator of the world!
Look again at the Light of the world. This child, the ancient of Days, was willing to set all of that aside for us. He did not need to enter a world shackled by time and sin. Yet he thought that God’s plan of salvation was so important, we were so important, that he stepped out of eternity for us. He considered us so valuable that he set aside his power for a bed of hay.
If Jesus was going to carry out God’s plan of salvation, he needed to do more than set aside his control of time and his creating power. He needed to show the world who he was. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (v.4,5). Once again, peek into the manger. The baby is definitely alive—his skin glows a healthy pink after the trauma of birth. His tiny lips flinch as he sleeps, dreaming about another meal. He is alive. This child is more than just a living, breathing, human being. He is life, and his life shines in the darkness with the brilliance of a laser beam.
We really don’t want to look closely at the child in the manger because our sinful nature prefers the darkness. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). All those who refuse to see the light emanating from Jesus’ manger will eventually face God’s punishment for their sins. We experience a different reaction to the light. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). When we look in the manger we see the child who drives away the darkness and frees us from our sins. The baby offers forgiveness of sins, because he is the Light of Life.
Just one more time, take a peek into the manger. This time, reach in, and touch the child. What do you feel? It is the tender, smooth skin of a newborn child, perhaps a circle of downy hair, silky to the touch. We feel a child, no different from a child born today. “The Word became flesh” (v.14). This is the most familiar, yet at the same time impossible sight of all on Christmas morning. God became man! “But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4,5). Jesus’ birth means that God is now able to experience the incessant march of death. His body grew and aged. He understands our deepest, darkest fears, having been tempted and tested in every way, just as we are. Christmas Day is the beginning of the end, a day as tragic as Good Friday. Jesus’ death on the cross has already been planned, the place and time reserved, because the Word has become flesh. Jesus became a human being and endured all of this so that he might offer us life, eternal life!
Jesus didn’t appear and then immediately leave. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (v.14). John’s expression is full of meaning. After the Israelites camped at the base of Mt. Sinai and received God’s law, the LORD gave them some instructions about their place of worship. He told them to assemble a tent made of the finest materials. This tent, or tabernacle, would serve as the LORD’s house while the Israelites journeyed to the promised land. The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place, a sign that God lived with the people, loved them, and would forgive their sins. Jesus came to earth so that he might pitch his tent among us. For a time, God lived among his people, taught them, corrected them, and showed them the way of salvation. The baby in the manger was a visible reminder for God’s people of “God with us,” just as he had been with them in the wilderness.
Mary, John, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples served as witnesses to the Word made flesh. He writes, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v.14). Through the eyes of faith, they watched his miracles, heard his teaching, and followed his example. After John’s account of the wedding at Cana, he said, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11). Many paintings over the centuries have depicted the nativity and other events in Jesus life. Some of the artists paint a halo around Jesus’ head in each scene to emphasize his glory. Jesus didn’t need a halo to set himself apart from the rest of the world. The people saw his glory. He healed the sick and the lame. He cast out demons and raised people from the dead. Peter, James, and John watched on the Mount as he was transfigured before their eyes. They even saw his glory as he died on the cross, then rose from the dead.
What do you see when you look in the manger? Do you see the Creator of the world? When we see that, it changes our worldview. Everything in creation is a miracle. We have the answers that the whole world craves—we know where everything came from. We know that Jesus made it all.
What do you see when you look in the manger? Do you see the Light of life? We do, through the eyes of faith. How can we let that light shine as we go home today? We can offer them a glimpse of the Light when we wish them a Merry Christmas, when we share a simple story about Jesus that connects with their lives, or when we invite them to come with us to hear and see a little more about the Light of life.
What do you see when you look in the manger? Do you see the Word made flesh? Jesus came to live among us, to experience everything we experience. As you look in the manger, see the one who understands you better than anyone else ever could. See the one who hears your cries of pain and feels it, who understands the depth of your depression, who has been rejected by friends and ridiculed by co-workers. See the one who loves you, who walks with you, and who will never let you down. There is no friend in this world who can do what that child came to do for you!
Don’t look at the light! That warning may be true for the sun, or for bright LED lights. The world wants us to believe that warning as we look in the manger at the baby Jesus. This Christmas, look at the Light. Bathe in his glow. Treasure the warmth of his love. Praise him for his ultimate sacrifice on a cross. Share him with someone who is lost in the darkness. Amen.