14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John *bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”
16 For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:14-17, NASB).
The point of Christmas is grace. I’m not making this stuff up! Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is the Word who has become flesh. When He became flesh, there was glory which was observable by humankind, and John describes that glory as being “full of grace and truth.” It was not that rainbows shined forth from His ears or that His hair was like cotton candy. It wasn’t His miracles, as real and as important as these were. John doesn’t say, “we beheld His glory, full of miracles and power.” Miracles and power are wonderful, but they are not the manifestations of His glory that John means here; they are subsidiary fruits. It was that He was begotten from His Father, and full of grace and truth.
In John 1:1 it says that the Word was in the “beginning”. This is the Greek word “arche”, which means both the beginning in time (think “ARCHEology”) and in authority (think monARCHY). John implies that Jesus has preeminence in both time and authority and that there is a causality between the two ideas. He existed first, and He therefore has a higher rank. He is the beginning in both senses.
He was “begotten” from the Father. This is an important point – it is a crucial antecedent to the main point of Christmas. I love the way the Nicene Creed puts it:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
As C.S. Lewis notes, I make a statue, but I beget a son. There is a huge difference. God created us, but Jesus Christ is the only begotten son.
When God manifested Himself on earth, He could have appeared as a 500 ft. apparition that came down from the clouds and said, “I am God Almighty, believest thou in Me!” He could have made an overwhelming case. Instead, God thought this humble way was better. He wanted to start off as a baby, and grow up, and all of that. He wanted us to see that His fulness was not made of apparitions and signs and unassailable miracles, but of grace and truth. The point of Christmas is grace.
His appearing may have been humble, but make no mistake. He is begotten not created from the Father, very God of very God, and is therefore the very root and spring of truth. You don’t flipping ARGUE with flipping GOD. He is God incarnate, and whatever He says is true is true. Where were any of us when He laid the foundation of the universe, and calculated Planck’s constant and the weak nuclear force and the original idea and design of the DNA molecule? He invented time and space. He crafted the insides of stars. He made you, inside and out. You want to argue with Him about what is glorious? Be my guest.
According to the Scripture, His immense authority points to this: grace and truth. Grace upon grace. Apparently, He is full of grace and truth. There’s nothing else there BUT grace and truth! Could John have emphasized this any more?
John 1:17 is the crowning jewel of this passage. The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. Maybe all of us law and gospel fanatics are not so far off! Notice that the Law was “given”, but grace and truth were “realized”. There is a world of difference. Behavior-based ideas of holiness are a theoretical construct which are impossible to put into true practice. This why the law is given, but not realized. Grace contrasts with law in that it harmonizes with truth, with reality. It acknowledges the reality on the ground and gears the gears for honesty and action. This is wrapped up in the nature of authority, of “arche”. Under Moses, authority confers the power to condemn, but in Christ, authority confers the power to bless.
The truth is, we are all sinners and the the theoretical holiness the law espouses is not working. This is the truth. In 1 John 1:5-10, this pretense of the legalist is condemned soundly, and the acknowledgement of failure and the need for mercy and cleansing is seen as the highest virtue. Grace and truth. We want truth to be some grand hugeness, some philosophical and metaphysical perfection. It may be, but it is also walking in the light with our actual imperfect lives, and God’s love for us despite this.
So, if you are a pragmatic “roll up your sleeves and get-er-done” kind of person, it is time to see that legalistic religious practices will not work for you. You don’t want to hold to a theoretical religion, you want real life stuff! Well, you need to look into grace and truth. You need to start seeing that the glory Jesus wants us to behold is not carrot-on-a-stick legalistic success, but grace and truth. This is why the baby was born, begotten not made, who realized grace and truth. Christmas is about grace.
Merry Merry Merry Christmas! Have fun this season swimming in the ocean of grace and freedom and joy He has provided for us! Blessings forever! Amen.