The God Who Shows Up
Text: John 1:1-14
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” And if that was all that we knew, it would do us no good. Knowing that God exists, and that He has always existed, is a good start, but knowing only that does us no good. It would benefit us no more than knowing that Eifel Tower exists, or that Julius Caesar existed. Knowing that there is an everlasting being called God is not enough. It tells us nothing of what He thinks of us.
“All things were made through Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made.” And if that was all that we know, it would do us no good. Religions of all sorts, from all times and places, have been full of creator gods and goddesses. Some were good and benevolent, some were dark and deceptive, most were somewhere in between, changing their attitudes toward their creations constantly. So simply knowing that God created everything brings only the lightest kind of comfort. He created the sunrise; and He created black holes. He created cute woodland creatures; and He created their predators. Simply knowing that He is everlasting, all-powerful, and all-knowing is not enough. We need to know where we stand with such a powerful being.
So this God sent a man, whose name was John. “He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” God sent this man to tell us exactly what the all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal Creator of heaven and earth thinks of us. John was not the only one sent with this message, nor was he the first, but he was the latest, the one who would sum it all up.
Thus John preached, as we heard all Advent, “Make straight the way of the Lord; the kingdom of heaven draws near.” But even that message would do us no good unless something else happens. We all know that drawing near is not the same thing as being there. Ask any child in the backseat on a long car ride to their Christmas destination, and you’ll learn the same. It’s pointless to make a path straight and ready if it’s not going to be used. Something else must happen.
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is what makes God, the true God, our God, different from all the fairy tales and false gods of the world. It’s not His power or glory or majesty or all-knowingness. What makes Him different is that He shows up, and that He shows up for our good. He shows up, and He does it by taking on the frailty of our flesh, sharing our human nature. He shows up and He becomes one of us.
The false gods never show up. They promise a lot, but they never deliver. The priests of Baal can dance and sing all they want, as they did on Mount Carmel, but it does them no good. Baal never shows. The myths of the Greeks may have gods and goddesses that trample through mortal realms, but they’re never clothed in human flesh. They’re always too powerful and too glorious for the humans they’re meddling with. If they ever show up it’s never for the good of all involved.
What makes our God different is Christmas. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God comes in weakness, not in overwhelming power or terrifying spectacle. He comes and dwells among us. That means He lives among us. He makes His home among us—not up there somewhere, or far away out there in the universe. He dwells among us; He became flesh so that He can dwell as one of us. He’s not come to overpower. He’s not come for shock and awe. He’s not come to tell you to get everything fixed up or else. He’s not come to transfigure you into what the world says you should be. And that’s why the world has never understood our God. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” The world—and if we’re being honest, we do this too—wants God to come in power and thunder and fire. The world—and we, at times—demand it of Him. But if that was His goal, to impress with majesty and might, then Mount Sinai with the smoke and fire and earthquake and the giving of the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, if that kind of display was His goal, that mountain would be the conclusion of the Bible. “For the law was given through Moses;” and what a show of force that was.
No, God’s purpose for showing up is different. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” God shows up, and He does through His Son, the Word made flesh. He enters this created world of His as one of us, so that He can tell us what He thinks of us. He can tell us what He’ll do for us. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son.” That’s what a Word does, after all. It speaks. It tells you something. It makes something known to you. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” And that, more than anything, is finally enough. That’s the knowledge that does us every good. That’s the knowledge that enlightens everyone, that opens every eye to the see the salvation of our God. Our God shows up to save us.
The Word, Jesus, has come to bring grace and truth to you. Christmas is not only about something that happened 2000 years ago. It’s about what He has accomplished, what He is accomplishing, and what He will accomplish—for you. “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” That’s you, a child of God. He’s not concerned only about all those other people, like you might suspect at times. He’s not waiting for you to get it all perfectly together before He acts. Through another man sent from God, the prophet Isaiah, God has said, “Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.” Did you hear that? He tells the waste places to sing, not the shiny city halls or the glittering markets. He’s come to those broken places. He’s come to adopt those who are alone, to give them the right to become children of God. He’s come to heal the shattered in body or spirit. He’s shown up to comfort the hurting. He’s here to share from His fullness—and His fullness is a lot, He is the infinite God, after all—with those who whose hands and hearts are empty. “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Christmas means God is for you, no matter who or what you are; no matter who or what you have been. He’s the God who shows up, and He’s shown up for you. He’ll always show up for you. That’s what Christmas is about. God is here, sharing your nature, and He’s here for your good. He’s here to take on your weakness. He’s here to restore everything that’s been lost to your humanity. He’s here in the manger. He showing up here at the altar in His body and blood, for you. So rejoice, your God is different. He’s real, He’s powerful, He’s wise, He’s present, and He loves you. “And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” In the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Amen.