2nd Sunday after Christmas
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 1:14-18 Sermon
January 1, 2005
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
15 "Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come"
39 "Good Christian Men, Rejoice!"
590 "Forever With The Lord"
168 "O God Our Help In Ages Past"
A TEMPORARY DWELLING
TEXT: (v. 14) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
I enjoy going camping—well, at least MY version of camping. I own a pop-up camper, and I enjoy going places with it. Years ago, I had a tent which I used; but in later years, I have felt the need for more modern conveniences and more comfort. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to graduate into a motor home or a fifth wheel.
But I enjoy the lifestyle. I like to travel, and have my accommodations with me. I don’t have to worry about finding hotel accommodations or a restaurant.
I also enjoy the people I meet. They come from all walks of life, and from a variety of different places. I remember back a few years when I was camped out, that just around my campsite I had as my neighbors: a city worker from Queens, New York, a policeman from Chicago, an IBM executive from Vermont, an attorney from South Carolina, and a Methodist pastor from Pennsylvania.
When a person goes camping, it can be a rewarding experience. You make a lot of new acquaintances and friendships. And almost everyone you meet are nice people. I have certainly enjoyed my camping experiences.
The one thing about camping however, is that it is not permanent. Camping by its very nature is temporary. You go to a campsite, set up, stay for awhile, and then pull up stakes and move on. Sometimes it’s only a night or two; other times it can be for several weeks or even months. But regardless of how long you camp in one place, you know the time is coming when you will be moving on.
In our text for today, we have John’s description of the birth of Christ. Unlike Luke, who gives us the details of the nativity, John gives more of a theological description. He is telling us that the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, manifested himself in the flesh; and although he was still true God, he became a fully human man. John describes this as “The Word (God) became flesh.”
So the first part of John 1,14 reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Today, I’d like to focus our attention on that little word “dwelt.” Some translations read, “lived for awhile among us.”
The word that is translated “dwelt” or “lived for awhile” is the Greek word, “es-KAY-no-sen” which means “tabernacled.” What comes to mind when we think of a tabernacle?
Most people would associate the word “tabernacle” with a house of worship. That’s the common conception anyway. Various church groups will even use this word in their name, like the “Gospel Tabernacle.”
Historically, the word “tabernacle” was used during the days of Moses in the Old Testament. When the Israelites left Egypt and were traveling back to the promised land of Israel, they spent 40 years in the wilderness between the two places. When it came time for them to stop for awhile, they would set up their temporary living quarters. One of the things they would set up was a house of worship.
This temporary house of worship was nothing more than a big canvass tent, which was called a tabernacle. The word “tabernacle” simply means “tent.”
So when the pillar of cloud would lift, which was God’s way of guiding them, they would pack up their personal belongings, and the tent in which they were worshipping, and move on to the next location. This amounted to a lot of setting up and taking down!
While they were traveling in the wilderness, everything for the Israelites had to be temporary. They had to be able to pack it all up and move on without things being too complicated. They knew when they set up their camp, they would be taking it all down again sometime in the future, and continuing on their journey. This setting up and taking down would not end until they finally reached the promised land, which was their destination.
So now when John records God’s Word in his gospel, he uses this word “tabernacled” to describe Christ’s earthly life and ministry. We could rightfully say that Jesus became flesh and “tented” or “camped” for awhile among us. Jesus’ ministry on earth would be for a certain period of time, after which he would ascend back into heaven. Jesus came to earth on a mission; and when that was accomplished, then his earthly ministry was done.
If we look at the very beginning of John 1, verses 1-5, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus has always existed—along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was active in the creation of the world. All things were made through him. He is described as being the true light, which no darkness can overcome.
When man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, God promised that he would send a Saviour from sin—a Saviour who would crush the head of Satan, and who would deliver the people from the darkness of sin.
And so, from almost the beginning of time, Jesus knew he would be making a special appearance on earth. He would be coming just for awhile, for a certain period of time. He would be “setting up camp” here, so-to-speak.
After the fall, sin became rampant in the world. The hearts of men were full of wickedness and vice. People were not living God-pleasing lives at all. Even God’s faithful were infected with sin.
But God’s faithful also knew that a Saviour had been promised. And so they looked forward to his appearing on earth. They knew God would be faithful in his promises, and he certainly wouldn’t let them down here either.
And so, after several thousand years, when the time was right, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his one and only son. God impregnated her, so her offspring would be both true God and true Man.
Jesus had to be true man, so he would come under the law of God which is intended for human beings. God’s law had to apply to him. He was circumcised on the 8th day following his birth, which was part of God’s law. Because he was true man, all of the requirements God laid out in the Scriptures for the human race included him as well.
But Jesus did something no human being could ever do. Because he was also true God, he was able to keep the law perfectly. He was able to be sinless. As true man he was indeed tempted to sin, but as true God he was able to prevent that from happening. That’s something that we could never do.
And then came the punishment for sin. The price for sin had to be paid. And so God punished his own son Jesus for sins he didn’t commit. He was illegally tried in a mock court, and he was crucified. He experienced separation from his Heavenly Father. He died, and he even went to hell. But Satan and hell could not hold him. The grave could not hold him.
Jesus arose from the grave. Even death could not hold him. No human being could ever, or can ever accomplish that feat on their own. Only God has the power over death. In order for Jesus to rise from the dead and take up his life again, he had to be true God.
So Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live. He bore the punishment that we all deserve. In Christ, God’s demands for perfection and punishment were both fulfilled.
In verses 16 and 17 of our text for today, we read: “And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
That word “grace” means “undeserved love.” This describes the way God loves us. Christ came to this earth in the flesh as a baby because he loved us. He lived his whole life because he loved us. He suffered and died because he loved us.
Everything Christ did for us is ours through faith. When we believe in Jesus as our Saviour, then his righteousness becomes ours. Our sins are forgiven. He bore the punishment he did, so we wouldn’t have to bear it ourselves. He rose again from the dead, so that death and the grave will not hold us. He did it all out of a love that we have neither earned nor deserve.
Jesus is described by John as “the light;” “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.” That light is what leads us to heaven. Faith in Jesus is the only way that can happen.
It’s sad to think about those who turn away from the light and continue to sit in darkness. Jesus has paid for their sins, but they choose to reject God’s grace. They refuse to believe. And so many will be in hell—not because God wants them there, or doesn’t love them, but because they have made that choice themselves.
When we have faith in Jesus our Saviour, then his light illumines our soul. This is the light we not only have ourselves, but is the light we want to show to the world. People no longer have to sit in darkness. God the Son became a truly human man to bring this light to all the world.
Christ’s ministry on this earth lasted a little over 30 years. His time here was temporary, but completely necessary. He came and camped with us for awhile.
As we enter now another New Year, we have a vivid reminder before us as to the passing of time. The years just seem to fly by. And as time passes, we are reminded that our life on earth is temporary. God places us upon this earth for a comparatively short time, and then our time is done. Even though we might not like to think about it, the mortality rate for people is still 100%.
We can look at our earthly life in much the same way we look at a camping trip. The planet earth isn’t our real home, it’s only temporary quarters. Earthly life is, by its very nature, temporary. Sometimes it lasts only a few days or years; other times it lasts upwards of a century. Regardless of how long we are camped in one place or another, we know the time is coming when we will be moving on. And when God finally calls us home, we’ll know our temporary quarters on earth will be over, and we’ll inherit the heavenly mansion he has prepared for us.
As we enter this New Year, may we be reminded to keep our faith strong in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. May we keep our eyes focused upon him, and may the true light of his grace fill our entire being.
And so, as faithful Christians living on this earth, let us always remember the words of the hymn writer:
“Here in the body pent, absent from him I roam, and nightly pitch my moving tent, a day’s march nearer home.” (SBH 590, v.2)