Excerpts from “A Christmas Message” by John Piper
Posted by Jonny Whisenant
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. (John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'") 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. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
"The text begins with this statement. Verse 14 says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Now to hear the full force of that verse you have to go back up to verse 1: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Word was God and the Word became flesh. If the Word was God and the Word became flesh, then God became flesh. God became human. Jesus Christ was human and Jesus Christ was God.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The word for "dwelt" is the word for "set up a tent" in Greek. I used to think that implied mainly that he was here only temporarily. But when I looked up all the places this word occurs in the New Testament, I found that it doesn't imply temporary status. For example, in Revelation 21:3 where the eternal new heavens and new earth are described, it says, "Behold the dwelling [tent!] of God is with men. He will dwell [pitch his tent!] with them, and they shall be his people."
I think what pitching a tent with us implies is that God wants to be on familiar terms with us. He wants to be close. He wants a lot of interaction. If you come into a community and build a huge palace with a wall around it, it says one thing about your desires to be with the people. But if you pitch a tent in my backyard, you will probably use my bathroom and eat often at my table. This is why God became human. He came to pitch a tent in our human backyard so that we would have a lot of dealings with him.
In Jesus we see God. Verse 14 says, "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."
Notice: "we have beheld—seen—his glory." Who does "his" refer to? It refers to the Word. "The Word became flesh, and we beheld HIS glory." "And the Word was with God and the Word was God." So in Jesus we behold God—the glory of God.
God came to live in a tent so we can watch him more closely. God wants to be seen and known in his Son.
The same point is made in verse 18. "No one has ever seen God; the only Son [other older manuscripts say "the only God"], who is in the bosom [in the lap or the embrace] of the Father, he has made him known." Here the point is that even though God is a Spirit and is therefore invisible (John 4:24), he has now revealed himself in an utterly unique way—by the incarnation of himself in his Son Jesus. In Jesus we see God.
You don't need to be in the dark about God. He has gone beyond parchment and paper. He has gone beyond tapes and cassettes. He has gone beyond videos and even beyond live drama. He has actually come and pitched his tent in our backyard and beckoned us to watch him and get to know him in the person of his Son Jesus. When you watch Jesus in action, you watch God in action. When you hear Jesus teach, you hear God teach. When you come to know what Jesus is like, you know what God is like.
What do we see when we see Jesus? John is very clear in what he wants to stress. We see the glory of God's grace and truth. Verse 14: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Then John repeats this in verse 17, "The law was through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
The point is this: the essence of what God reveals about himself in Jesus is, first, that he is true—that is, he is real, more real than all that you can see. In a sense everything that looks so real to us is like a short dream. (2 Corinthians 4:18, "We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.") God is truth. God is reality. And that is what we see in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
And second, God is grace. Or as John says in his first letter: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God is free and overflowing and lavish in his goodness to sinful creatures. This is grace. This is the essence of God's reality because nothing reveals the fullness of his deity more than the freedom of his grace. He is full, happy, and sufficient in himself so that he does not need us to meet his need but is surging with infinite energy and fullness to meet ours. That's his grace. And that's the capstone of his glory. "We saw his glory . . . full of grace and truth."
God doesn't just want to stock your head with knowledge about his truth and grace, he wants you to receive it and experience it. This Christmas he wants to give you personally a foundation of truth and reality to stand on so you won't cave in under stress. This Christmas he wants to treat you with grace—to forgive all your sins—all of them!—to take away all your guilt, to make your conscience clean, to help you with your problems, to give you strength for each day, and to fill you with hope and joy and peace. Isn't that the meaning of grace? And isn't that why he pitched his tent among us?
But note well the word: "From his fullness we have received grace upon grace." Don't spurn it this morning. Receive it. Welcome it for what it really is. And let it fill your heart with everlasting joy—joy to the world! "
Teach your children that the true meaning and joy of Christmas is that God sent His Son to be made in our same flesh, as one of us, to be with us so that we could see Him, hear Him, and touch Him, and that we might never have to be alone, left, or forsaken again.