*Christmas Day Sunday sermon text
JOHN 1.9–14 NIV
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive 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 husbandʼs will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Have you ever been mistaken for somebody else? You’re in public somewhere and someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, how are you?!” And then they turn white as a ghost and tell you they’re sorry, they thought you were someone else. It’s a case of mistaken identity.
Throughout my time as a youth pastor, I would take kids on retreats with other youth groups. The groups would mingle a bit and you’d get to know some new people. So many times people would tell me I looked like their band director or their football coach. When I started here at Smyrna I had people tell me I looked like a short, beardless Justin Arnold. That’s fine with me because Justin Arnold is good guy and I’ll claim Marla and Greg all day, as long as they’ll claim me.
But we all have experience thinking we know somebody and then come to find out they weren’t who we thought they were. Sometimes its good and then sometimes its not so good. I think this happens with Jesus a lot. There’s a lot of folks that run around criticizing Jesus and His word, creating an impression of Him that is more life-draining than life-giving. And then there’s others, still, who give off a seemingly pie-in-the-sky version of Jesus that couldn’t be more far off.
This Christmas, I’m wondering how many people actually know Jesus. How many people know Him beyond the popular opinion, the cultural constructs, the social caricatures? How many people are more familiar with the manger scene and the star, than they are the child who is God-in-the-flesh, come to save us from our sin? Because if the world listened to faithful pastors and Bible study teachers, if they derived their understanding of Jesus based off the word of God, there would be a lot less confusion.
I don’t want for people to see the real Jesus and have no clue who He is. It would be better if they were at least able to meet Him along the streets of their heart and life and have the courage to say, “Do I know you?” At least then they would have a familiarity that can lead to faith. As the Church, the faithful followers of Christ, it is our responsibility to portray Jesus properly so that the world doesn’t have to guess who Jesus is or worse construct their own false Jesus based off sketchy hearsay.
But to do that, we the people of God, must know the real Jesus Christ. We must pray, worship, serve, know our Bibles, and live out a Jesus–shaped life everyday. For, the more we know Christ, the more we can live like Him. And the more we live like Him, the more the world will see Him just as He intended—alive in His people. Christ desires to be seen, but to be seen in deep, transforming ways. Not in showy or gaudy portrayals.
Our Scripture for today tells us that, “the world did not recognize him” (v10). Jesus’ entrance into the world didn’t come as expected. He didn’t cater to the preferences of the world. He didn’t bend to the opinions or expectations placed on Him. He was a prophet but was known as the son of a carpenter; He was a priest but was often worshipping with others; He was a king but introduced Himself as a child.
The humble entrance of the King of kings into the world was meant to stow Jesus away below the deck of society. He would blend in, become one of us, and then work from the inside out. The expectations that many have of Jesus need to be put away or gotten rid of. There is no room for a Jesus that contradicts the Scriptures and the Church.
This Christmas Day, the challenge for you is to leave this place understanding that you have a relationship to tend to. There is Someone that you need to get reacquainted with and that someone is the real Jesus; the Jesus of the Scriptures; the Jesus that is the head of the Church, the Lord of creation. But to do that, you will have to engage a new and different life. You’ll have to pray, to weigh your priorities and examine the direction of your life. You’ll need to look at the goals of your family, your job, your place in the community, and then make decisions as to whether or not you are glorifying God in these things.
Today is the ultimate day to introduce Jesus into every area of your life. But do not be afraid that in doing this, God will take these things away. What if the Lord desires to use them to bless you more, to bless others more, to give you an even greater sense of mission and purpose? You will not know until you reach out in faith, addressing Jesus Christ in the streets of your life, saying, “Do I know you?” It’s time to talk with God. Let’s do that today. Amen.