Sunday, December 24, 2023

“We Have Seen His Glory” Christ Candle Lighting 2023 [Matt's Messages]

“We Have Seen His Glory”
Christ Candle Lighting :: Christmas Eve
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
December 24, 2023 :: John 1:1-18

Everybody, listen closely.

Listen closely because tonight I’m going to tell you some of the deepest truths in the whole world, some of the most profound truth in the whole universe.

This is the stuff that makes sense of everything including all of the stuff you’ve heard read and sung and played tonight. 

It’s the story behind the story.

It’s what was going on with Mary and Joseph and the Angels and the Shepherds in that “crazy” story that Keith read in the Gospel of Luke. 

It’s the deep truth of the Gospel of John chapter 1. The ancient Prologue of the Gospel of John in the holy Scriptures.

If you are our guest tonight, welcome. We’re glad you have joined us here. As a church family, we have been studying the Gospel of John together ever since the beginning of August when I got home from my sabbatical. You can actually go back and listen to all of the messages from the Gospel of John so far online.

We’ve actually reached chapter 6 as a church family, and we will return to it at the first of the year.  We’d love to have you join us on Sunday mornings at 10:00am as we learn Who Jesus really is and how we can life in His name.

So we have studied this passage once already this year, and we said then that every phrase is full of fireworks.

I wish these candles were fireworks instead so that every time we lit up one on these profound statements, it just fired off in all directions. 

That would be a Christmas Eve to remember!

But these bright candles will have to do. We’ve been lighting them now for four weeks.

On the first Sunday of Advent, Scott and Karen lit this first candle and then read John chapter 1, verses 1 through 3 which says these breathtaking things:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

John begins before the beginning. He rewinds the tape to the beginning. All the way to the very beginning and before that. Before there was anything. When all there was was God.

Before the beginning, there was this Person called, “The Word.” The expression, the communication, the message. The Word.

And this Someone called “The Word,” the Bible says, was with God. He existed in perfect intimate fellowship with God the Father for all eternity. They had what we called “with-ness” “togetherness.” The Word and God were with one another.

But it’s more than that. It goes on to say, “and the Word was God.” The Person called “The Word” was, is, and always will be God Himself. He is fully God in every way. And at the same time (forever), He is also with God.

And He’s called The Word because He Himself is God’s message to us. He is God’s self-expression. God’s communication. He is God speaking to us.

And when God speaks, we should always listen.

Are you listening?

And that’s just candle number one! Do you see what I mean by “every phrase is full of fireworks?!”

On the second Sunday of Advent, Frank and Joan and Jim and Eli and Kailyn lit our second candle which gave a second name for this amazing Person called “the Word.”

They read John 1:4-5 which names Him as “The Light.” Listen:

“In him [the Word] was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” And verse 9, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

This says that this “Light” Person was coming into the world. 

What does the word “advent” mean? We haven’t said it yet, and some of you have been waiting:

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming tomorrow! Jesus has come and is coming again.

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”

That’s what was going on that first Christmas! There is a battle raging between light and darkness, and when Jesus came, the darkness lost.

Jesus said, “I am light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Are you following Him? 

Because you have to choose. On the third Sunday of Advent, D.J., Desiree, Jacob, Eli, and Eden–lit our third candle and told us that we have to choose.

They read chapter 1, verses 10 through 13 which says that when the Word arrived, the world rejected Him. 

It says, “He [the Word] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. [Did not know Him. Did not want to know Him.] He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

They rejected Him. He was their Messiah. He was their Christ. He was everything that had been promised, but they said, “No thanks. We don’t want you.” In fact, they went so far as to kill Him.

But the darkness does not ultimately win. The Word comes back to life, and then He gives life to those who will believe. Verse 12.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

Supernatural, eternal life for those who receive Him instead of rejecting Him. Which are you?

Have you received Him?

If you have not, we invite you to. You will never regret it.

If you have received Him, then you can legitimately say that God is your Father! You have become one of the “children of God.” And there is no greater privilege than that!

And here is how He did it.  The fireworks just get more brilliant.

Just this morning, Roper and Lita lit our fourth candle and read John 1:14 which tell us the astonishing thing that the Word did.

The Word Who was in the beginning.
The Word Who was WITH God.
The Word Who WAS God.

Listen to this. This was what was happening near that manger.

“The 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.”

The Word of God who was fully God became fully human and came to live among us as Jesus Christ. That’s what we call the miracle of the incarnation, and we have gathered here tonight to worship God because of it.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

“Glory hallelujah to the newborn king!”

If this doesn’t blow your mind, what will? The Word of God, who was fully God, became fully human and came to live among us as Jesus Christ. And John says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

We have seen the glory of God the Son who came (advent) from the Father (because He was WITH the Father) and He came full of  grace and truth.

The Bible calls him the “the One and Only,” which emphasizes how unique He was.

There is no one else like Jesus.
There is no one else like Jesus.
There is no one else like Jesus.

He is in a class by Himself. He is in a “genus” by Himself.

He is Ultra-Unique.
He is Unparalleled.

He is God’s Son in a completely singular way.

You and I can become God’s sons and daughters by adoption and by new birth. We just said that with candle number three. But Jesus is God’s Son by His eternal nature. He is not just the Son of God, but He is God the Son. The Only Begotten Son. God the One and Only!

Do you see how this is the deepest truth in all the universe?

This is Who God is!

Are you worshiping Him?

There’s just one more candle to light to radiate the truth of Who Jesus is and what He has done. And it corresponds to the last verse of the Prologue of the Gospel of John. Chapter 1, verse 18.

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.”

I don’t know if my brain can take on any more wonderful news! This says that God can be known because of Jesus.

Known. You can know God.

It says that “no one has ever seen God” (meaning God the Father), so that all of those times that God showed up in some way in the Bible were just partial, just shadowy, just glimpses of His glory.

Nobody has ever seen God except God. But[!] God the One and Only, the God Only Begotten, God the Unique Son Who is at the Father’s side (with God and now from God), has made Him known.

God the One and Only Son has taken on humanity and made God the Father known.

That’s why He’s called “The Word” because He is the Message of God come in the flesh so that we can know God Himself.

Isn’t that wonderful?!
Isn’t that astonishing?!
Isn’t that glorious?!

We have seen His glory.

The glory of the One and Only.

O come let us adore Him!