Publication: Pastoral Letter, December 2007
Dear Friend in Christ:
This is a great season for us to celebrate Jesus Christ and witness to who He truly is. So much that happens in the cultural observances will fall short of a true celebration of Christ, but we need not fall short. I hope this letter will reinforce your desire to stay focused on the real reason for celebration.
Much will be made of Jesus’ virgin birth and the nativity scene, and rightly so. But Jesus’ incarnation(becoming flesh) gives a window into His pre-existence and clear view of His Divinity. The Scriptures are clear – He is God made flesh dwelling among us. But He was God, and with God, prior to His birth, and that is my focus here – it’s why His birth is so vital to us.
I love all of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and usually we look to Matthew and Luke for the Christmas stories. But I want to look with you at John’s account that reveals Jesus’ pre-existence. John calls Jesus “The Word,” and John’s account enhances and magnifies the other stories of Christ’s birth. John takes us back into eternity prior to creation.
BEFORE THE BEGINNING (JOHN 1:1-2)
Did you ever go someplace where you could really see the stars, some place away from city lights and polluted air? I have. I once sat on a Caribbean beach where it was pitch black at night, and looked heavenward as the waves rolled in. The stars were brightly shining as on the night of Jesus’ birth. There seemed to be millions of them like tiny lights on a vast Christmas tree. They covered the dark canopy from horizon to horizon and fell into the ocean on either side.
As I sat there, I thought of how it all began and what was before the beginning. Jesus must have discussed it with the disciples, because John said, “Before the beginning began, He already was.” Jesus is eternal. Now that word supersedes my intellectual capacity! Eternity is not infinite time; it is before time was and will exist when time is no more. Whatever eternity is, Jesus was there before anything here began.
In eternity, Jesus was and is “The Word.” He is the “utterance of God.” He was with God and He always was God! He never was created nor ever became God. He always was and is.
HE BEGAN THE BEGINNING (JOHN 1:3)
Whenever the beginning began, He began it! He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He is the parenthesis around all that is. Before Abraham was, Jesus was. Before David reigned, Jesus reigned. Before the prophets spoke; Jesus spoke. Before Mohammad wrote, Jesus wrote. Before Confucius said anything, Jesus spoke all things into existence. Before Buddha was adored, Jesus was worshipped by angels.
Paul says it this way, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell…” (Colossians 1:16-17, 19). In Colossians 2:9, Paul writes: “For in Him dwells all of the Godhead bodily.”
Genesis 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The chapter develops with the phrase, “God said let there be…” or, literally, “God worded.” The word went out and it all happened piece by piece. He was the Word that performed all that happened. Nothing happened unless He said it!
IN HIM WAS LIFE (JOHN 1:4)
Life came from the eternal Word. He created life because He is life and life creates. He came to give us life (see John 10:10). He was and is the living Word of God. Whenever He speaks, that Word quickens. His words are alive with power (see Psalm 29).
When the disciples were asked by Jesus if they would leave, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (see John 6:68). Others said that they never heard anyone speak like Jesus. On another occasion the disciples wondered, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey Him.”
Perhaps one of the strongest evidences of the eternal nature of Jesus’ words is that when people believe them, they still receive life. The words of Life continue to bring life-eternal life. They have never lost their power, even on the printed page.
Others have brought law, some love, and some wisdom, but Jesus has brought more; He gave life itself_eternal life. He said, “He that lives and believes in Me will never die” (see John 11:26). When Jesus spoke, things came alive; they moved and responded because His voice was in their DNA. Their very nature knew the Creator.
IN HIM WAS LIGHT (JOHN 1:4-5)
That life brought light to mankind. The world was in darkness_ignorance and immorality. Jesus came to show things as they really are. His presence illuminated reality. If Jesus is present, truth comes out. When He came, there was no place for darkness to hide.
Darkness can hide the facts. But when Jesus comes to a place, darkness runs away and reality is naked before God. Darkness cannot hold back the Son. His light penetrates and permeates darkness_what once was covered is revealed.
He brought light to Israel; it hurt the eyes of some – they tried to put it out. But all that they did was reveal that His light was more powerful than their darkness. He arose with a new dawn that has moved across the earth. And the light will come to the ends of the earth – the uttermost parts (see Isaiah 2 and Matthew 4:16).
In Genesis 1:3-4, the Word said, “Let there be light, and there was light; and God saw that light was good.” Natural light was a foreshadowing of the spiritual light that would cover the earth. In 2 Peter 1:19,the apostle says, “and so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Jesus is called the “Morning Star” who will rise in hearts. He is the sign of the day that is coming to the world. As He brought light to the world, He will bring light to the human heart.Isaiah 60 says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”Verse 3 says that Gentiles and kings will come to that light. That was a prophetic word that came and comes to pass.
THE LIGHT OVERCOMES
The light that was seen by shepherds as it shone over the fields near Bethlehem illuminated a unique event: God eternal became a baby. God Creator became a baby. God the truth became a baby – vulnerable to human hands. The Light spread; as He grew, it grew. Some Jews saw and received it; some tried to put it out. But it grew. Rome, the most powerful government in the world, tried to put it out, but it filled Rome. Pagan Europe couldn’t stop it. Pagan Americas couldn’t stop it. Communist Russia and communist China could not stop it. The Light – the truth conquers.
A few months ago, my wife and I went to South Korea, home of the largest church in the world. In South Korea, any building where a church meets is allowed to put a cross on top. We saw small white crosses on apartment buildings, commercial buildings, as well as church buildings. And at night, some of those crosses are lighted in red neon lights. From our hotel high above the city, we could see the lit red crosses all over the city. The light was there, shining in the night.
This is a blessed season. But I want to focus on the Eternal Word, the Creator, and the Light of the world Who made it so. All of God – all of eternal life – was channeled into a Holy Seed who blossomed as a human being, who showed us the Father, the Truth, the Way.
All that He ever was, before the beginning, He continues to be. He is with God; He is God; He is life and light to all mankind. He makes us more than conquerors. He makes us light and givers of life and light. He sends us to the ends of the earth with Good News. “Truth and love are on the way.”
We cannot truly celebrate this season without realizing who He was before He came to Earth, anymore than we can celebrate a package but not open the gift. To celebrate His life we must have and share life; to celebrate His light we must be light. To celebrate His conquest, we must be more than conquerors.
Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world”(see Matthew 5:14). Again He said to them, “As the Father sent me, so send I you” (see John 20:21). He was the original Christmas light, but He came to make us lights that light the darkness.
THE WONDERS OF HIS LOVE
I love to look at the heavens on a dark night and see the work of our Lord. I am encouraged in my faith, that He can create in us the beauty and glory that reveals His redemptive work. As He fills the heavens with unexplainable wonder, He can fill the earth with the wonder of His goodness and mercy. What His Word did in the beginning it can still do today.
I encourage you to receive the eternal, creative Word afresh this season. Avoid the tendency to simply flow with the traditional Christmas liturgy or tradition. Stand back and look at the Eternal One who became flesh. As you think of the Bethlehem Star, remember, He made all of the stars. God bless you this season. And thank you for your continued prayers and support.
P.S. While we have continued to sow the Gospel into 70 nations worldwide, and have worked hard to be innovative and effective in our methods of proclamation, we are also facing many very significant immediate needs here at CSM, including financially. Would you prayerfully consider a special year-end, tax-deductible gift to support us in the great global cause of declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ in this generation?
Scripture Reference: Matthew, Luke, John, Colossians, Psalms, Isaiah, Genesis, 2 Peter