Jesus Is the Eternal Word of Life Manifested in Time . . .
Dearest Savior, as we enter Your house to sin praises to Your holy name, fill us with the joy of salvation! Do not allow our fears and sins to overwhelm us, but rather forgive us and uphold us by Your grace and through Your power. Cause us to treasure the fellowship in the Gospel that we share with our fellow believers and with You. In Your saving name we pray. Amen.
God promised through Moses to send a Prophet to speak His Word to them. He charged to hear and accept that Word. Jesus was that promised “Prophet.” Let us hear Him and rejoice in the truth of His Word, which leads us to eternal life!
John reports that Jesus was the eternal Word of God Who became flesh. Unlike Moses, through whom God delivered His law, Jesus brought the truth of God’s grace. Let us hear and always treasure His precious words!
Text: 1 John 4:1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
In Christ Jesus, the eternal Word become flesh, dear fellow redeemed:
Well, tonight is the big night—the children’s Christmas Eve service, the family gatherings, for many the opening of gifts, and tomorrow Christmas Day! Then for many it will be over—all except the cleanup with the disposal of wrapping paper, the packing up of ornaments, and the removal of the Christmas tree. My dear friends, what a shame it will be if indeed after tomorrow it will all be over except for the cleanup! For you see, everything that I have mentioned—the tree, the ornaments, the gifts, the family gatherings, and even a Christmas Eve service featuring the children are not what Christmas is truly all about.
In an editorial featured Friday in our Mankato Free Press Cal Thomas warned that the “Quiet message of Christmas (is being) drowned out by the noise level!” Thomas is referring to the holiday hustle and bustle of this world, which in our secular society often includes deleting any reference to the true meaning of Christmas—the sending of God’s own dear Son, Jesus, to become this world’s Savior from sin! Thomas aptly goes on to summarize the true meaning of Christmas by quoting the following hymn verse: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav’n. No ear may hear His coming, but in the world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in!”
This morning, on this last Sunday in Advent, let us slow down for a time to consider that Christmas is the time when we take a special time to recognize that JESUS IS THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED IN TIME to create fellowship and to bring fullness of joy!
Yes, JESUS IS THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED (that is revealed) IN TIME! This is what John is talking about as he opens his first epistle. His introduction is almost mysterious until you recognize that Jesus is the “Word of life” Who is eternal, but Who had entered the world. John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” John grew up as Jesus’ cousin. John’s mother and Mary were sisters. I would imagine John got to know Jesus very well as boys. He was also one of Jesus’ first disciples, beginning to follow him shortly after Jesus had entered his three year ministry. He had heard Jesus with his own ears. He had seen Jesus with his own eyes. He had touched Jesus himself. He was now fulfilling Jesus’ command to serve as His witness. John was ready, willing, and able to declare to his readers exactly what Jesus wanted him to do!
What was the result John hoped to obtain through his witness? He states, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Jesus, John says, was manifested in time to create fellowship—fellowship between believers and fellowship between believers and their God! What is “fellowship”? Unfortunately, in our day the whole concept of “fellowship” is often misunderstood. To some it means merely a social gathering, while to others it is tied to the principles of separation of fellowship as outlined in Scripture, which many people view negatively. “Fellowship”, however, is anything but negative! “Fellowship”, first and foremost, denotes a close, intimate, and caring relationship. “Fellowship”, secondly, means our sharing or jointly participating in a variety of wonderful things and activities.
To understand why we can properly say that JESUS IS THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED IN TIME to create fellowship, we need only look back to status of mankind prior to the fall into sin and the reason why God promised a Savior from sin. God created us human beings in His own image. That meant that Adam and Eve were perfect in every sense. They not only had perfect bodies, free of all disease or disability, but they had perfect minds and perfect morality. They both understood God and loved Him perfectly. They were in perfect harmony with God, and He with them. Sin changed all that. Sin destroyed that perfect harmony between man and God, between man and his fellowmen, and between man and himself. To put it mildly, man by nature is at odds with God, not wanting to submit to Him and refusing to accept His guidance. But God, Who understood that because of sin it was impossible for human beings to understand spiritual issues, decided to send His Son to remedy the situation. Jesus, Whom God designates “the Word of life”, Who had existed from eternity and Whose goal was to restore life everlasting to human beings, entered this world to restore what mankind had lost.
Everything human beings lost can be summarized in the word “fellowship!” When we sinners recognize that in and of ourselves we have no hope, then the gospel enters our hearts and lives and uplifts us with its message of love and forgiveness. The faith that is generated through the gospel reestablishes our relationship with God and reinvigorates our relationship with one another. You and I may not know each other well, but when we both share a common faith in our Savior Jesus we become brothers and sisters—children of our heavenly Father! Automatically, I am interested in your welfare and you in mine, for we shall share eternity together in heaven. We share a common faith in God, a common means of spiritual growth—God’s Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, a common mission to spread the gospel to every creature, a common work of educating our children in the Lord. All of our differences of racial or family backgrounds, our varied interests and abilities, which tend to separate us, pale in comparison to those things we share in Christ! Let us recognize these intimate ties and strive to develop them for they are a foretaste of the unity and blessings we will experience in heaven. Truly, JESUS IS THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED IN TIME to create fellowship!
JESUS IS also THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED IN TIME to bring fullness of joy! John writes, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full.” There are many things about the holidays which bring us joy: the smile of a grandchild, a cool glass of eggnog, a visit with a friend, a new toy or article of clothing, a few days off from work, or an excellent football game. None of these things, however, are what John had in mind when John spoke of the gospel bringing us fullness of joy. Oh, yes, any and all of those things I mentioned along with dozens of others may bring us momentary emotional and physical lifts, but they are momentary. They soon pass and the weight of sin and the results of sin in this world return. The gospel John and the other evangelists and apostles proclaimed brings us a joy which is complete and unending. It is a joy filled to the brim so to speak. It is as if you have a cup of joy and your cup is so full that if you were to add one more drop of joy to it, it would begin to run over its edges!
What is that joy? It begins with the knowledge that through Jesus our sins are forgiven and we are right with our God. King David once wrote, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7-10). When our sins are removed and forgotten, then we can stand before our God without fear of personal condemnation. We know that He will welcome us and strengthen us!
That, of course, leads us to a second aspect of our joy—the fact that because of Jesus our God will always be with us to guide and bless us, thereby enabling us to fulfill our respective callings. St. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). What confidence we can have when we have come to know and place our trust in Jesus, the eternal Word of life!
A third aspects of our joy is that even though we face many critical issues in our lives, which cause us much sorry, when we know Jesus we can have confidence that everything ultimately will work out. St. Paul assures us, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Even when our very lives are at stake we need not lose heart, for with joy we can join the Psalmist David in confessing, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:1,4a).
This brings us to a fourth and final aspect of our joy in Christ Jesus—the assurance that we do have when facing death. The world does not do a good job of this. Oh, it likes to put up a false front with a lot of bravado at times, but it really does not fool many people. And, yes, there are many who like the dream of having a series of renewed opportunities to get it right through reincarnation, but that teaching simply is not true. No, it is the gospel of our Savior, the Word of eternal life, which comforts, consoles, and inspires us with joy. It is Jesus alone Who can say with absolute authority and certainty, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
This past Friday I was privileged to participate in the portion of our high school’s Christmas party, in which they divided into groups and traveled about singing Christmas carols to a variety of our members. I happened to take a small group up to Immanuel-St. Joseph’s Hospital where we sang to two of our members who find themselves hospitalized this Christmas weekend. I want to end this Advent sermon and season with the testimony of one of them, Hildegard Kuehne, to the truth of our text. When we arrived we were greeted with a cheeriness that belied Hildegard’s rather frail condition. While the six students and I sang our carols and read portions of St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, Hildegard would close her eyes and sing and recite from memory with us. When we were finished, she thanked us profusely for coming and sharing with her the true meaning of Christmas. She commented that this would be the first year she would have to miss attending the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services here at Immanuel for as many years as she could remember. She concluded by saying that she was quite old and did not know what the Lord had in mind for her—whether she would continue to live or whether she would die, but that was all right for the Lord had everything in hand. In those few moments and with those few words Hildegard expressed the truth of our text—JESUS IS THE ETERNAL WORD OF LIFE MANIFESTED IN TIME! He created a fellowship, which Hildegard and each of us enjoys, and He brings us fullness of joy, which even in the face of the uncertainty of this present life gives us the quiet confidence that all is well, for we lie secure in the hands of our Savior! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting