The beginning of John reveals a slow unfolding of the revelation of Christ. Perhaps we could not take the fullness of God in one swoop. When Moses first saw the burning Bush in the book of Exodus, it was off in the distance, almost certainly by design. First he wondered, then as he got closer, the truth become more evident that the Burning Bush which did not consume itself was the presence of God. If Moses had turned the corner to be confronted with the fullness of the Burning Bush, perhaps he would have gone mad, but the Lord had him walk up to the Bush from a distance. Moses could not comprehend all that God had to reveal to him without a time of preparation. Perhaps some people are going to understand the Lord more quickly than others, see the Lord in his fullness. There is a slow unveiling of the meaning and significance of Jesus Christ. Salvation may come in a moment – only God knows that moment when a person is saved – yet understanding Christ, growing in Christ, takes a lifetime. Listen to the scripture, the unveiling of Christ.
READ John 1:1-18.
The unveiling of Christ. We’ll walk through the scripture of the unveiling of Christ. And in each movement, in order for us to best grow in our understanding, in order for us to come to a greater awareness of God, the most appropriate response is silence. Just as the scripture says when she was told of her role in the birth of Jesus, “Mary pondered these things in her heart.” No immediate conclusion, but to wait, to listen. Silence. The impact.
The Christmas story is very noisy with the Angels belting out their song of pronouncement, the struggle to find a place to sleep, the hurried journey to Bethlehem, the flight to Egypt, the Wiseman disturbing the king…yet at it’s deepest level, the most profound response is one of silence. It is no coincidence that references to silence make it into the Christmas songs. Silence is the natural expression when confronted with the overwhelming. At the birth of a new baby, when the baby finally arrives, there is a natural moment of silence. When a person takes his last breath, silence. No words will do. Mother Theresa said it well: “The fruit of silence is prayer.”
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
The first glimpse of Jesus Christ is to stand off in the distance. A broad sweep introducing the Lord and putting him in the context of creation. Those who appreciate nature never grow tired because nobody can fully comprehend. There is a sense of awe, a sense of wonder. Silence is the natural response.
It seems like a trivial question in the context of creation, but fitting. If a tree falls in the middle of the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? In the beginning was the Word… an obvious reference to Genesis 1:1. As unfathomable as creation is the meaning of the birth of Christ, and the second phrase if fellowship and the third is identity. And notice the fourth line (v. 2) the Word is now “he”. The attempt to grasp God is necessary, but unreachable in its fullness. To stand in silence in awe of God is good.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
The creation drama continues. The fruit of silence is prayer. The words are given for us to consider how we fit into the unfolding revelation of Christ, the unveiling of Christ. What is our place. We are created by Christ, from his life, we become light. There is a high and there is a low. The high is the introduction of light, the low is the darkness, no understanding.
The implicit invitation in this verse is to draw a little closer to God, to take one more step towards the burning Bush that the Lord may cast his light a little brighter, revealing a little more, exposing yourself a little more. The natural response is silence, because there is at once a repulsion, not so different from Adam and Eve whose first response was to hide from God, and there is an intrigue. A curiosity. A need to be drawn to God. When we talk about God in terms of being an unfolding mystery, God incognito, the problem is that it is not God that is revealed, it is us, exposing our nature to God, who we really are, willing to expose ourselves for who we really are in the light of Christ.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Here is an incontrovertible truth: your greatest need is the Lord Jesus Christ, but you do not have the power or the ability or the knowledge to find Christ within yourself. You need help. Christianity is not for stubborn self-sufficient, proud men and women who dig in their heals and say they need no help. God sends a witness to tell us about his son Jesus Christ. If you let him, God will find you. You remember the story of Zacheus…”the wee little man”… intrigued by Jesus but repulsed because of his own status, his own self, so he climbed into a tree for a better glimpse, a place of hiding, a good vantage point, and it is Christ that found him. God takes the initiative to find us. He sends a witness, he goes out into the world…. The first witness is John the Baptist, who prepares the way, who prepares the hearts of men and women. Like a counselor talking to a young couple about to be married, the role of preparation, this is what you can expect, this is what you’ll see, this is what Christ means… Silence is the appropriate response, because preparation is a time to listen, to gather information, to study, to learn, to consider. Listen for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Consider the message. Ponder the words. One philosopher wisely said, "We have two ears and only one tongue that we may hear more and speak less” (Diogones).
Listen for the witness of God. The voice may no longer be John the Baptist with his thundering voice in the wilderness, but it may be a believer in Christ, the words of scripture, a lesson from the most unexpected place. Listen in silence. Climb a tree to get a better view, to watch, to listen as the Lord passes by. And when you are ready, the Lord will find you.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
Some will receive the witness of Christ, others will reject. Some, like Moses, will take off their shoes to walk into the presence of the Holy, others will return home. Listen to the testimony of Augustine: “I was weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when I heard the voice of children from a neighboring house chanting, "take up and read; take up and read." I could not remember ever having heard the like, so checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where I had laid the volume of the apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: "Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not is strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”
The moment of salvation is birthed in silence. An amazement of what Christ has done for you. We, who are sinners by nature, children of the dark, to receive the light of Christ, revealing who we are in our fullness, yet to realize that God loves us anyway.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Silence. Tell me another response that is more appropriate. To realize that God in his fullness sends us his son Jesus Christ to dwell among us. Incredible. One person said it this way, “There is a hush that comes with Christmas, life’s hurry and its cares seem far away.” And isn’t that the truth. A healing silence. The fullness of God.
Silence is an incredible sound of Christmas. For everyone of you who are here this morning, that tells me something. It may be that you are silently standing off in the distance wondering what this God thing is all about. God is at once intriguing and repulsive. Intriguing because of who he is, repulsive because of who you are. Yet if you stand in silence long enough, his light will find you, he will reveal himself with more clarity. Climb a tree for a better view, and he’ll find you. And he will love you. And he will give you the greatest gift that you least deserve: the gift of Jesus Christ. Receive Christ in silence, there is a hush that comes with Christmas, for no words can express the incredible grace of God to shine light into the darkness of your life. Whether you are standing off in the distance wondering what it all means, or you have taken off your shoes and can feel the heat from the burning bush, respond in silence, for God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to reveal himself to you, and to find you.