JOHN’S CHRISTMAS VERSES

In last week’s post I introduced three Bible verses that I call non-traditional Christmas verses. Even though they do not speak directly to The Christmas Story, they clearly relate to Christmas. All three remind me of Christmas. You can read or reread that post here: https://bobmmink.com/2019/12/11/non-traditional-christmas-verses/. In this post I want to underscore two more non-traditional verses that come from John’s Gospel.

Only two of the four gospels record details of The Christmas Story – Matthew and Luke. And although both tell the story, they give us different details of what happened. In terms of the miraculous conception, Matthew tells us primarily about Joseph and Luke tells us primarily about Mary. Luke records information about the trip to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angels, and the shepherds. Matthew records information about King Herod, the Wise Men, and going to Egypt.

Mark, the shortest of the gospels, says nothing about the birth of Jesus, but begins his account with John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and the launch of his public ministry.

John’s account is the most unique of the four. He doesn’t include The Christmas Story as such, but begins similarly with the book of Genesis talking about the beginning. In the opening verse of chapter one John uses the term Word to refer to Jesus as being present with God from the beginning. In verses 2-13 he says much more about the Word.

Verse 14 is one of John’s two Christmas verses as he declares, “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.” John 1:14 says a lot about Jesus referring to his birth, who he was, and where he came from. Jesus was both fully divine and fully human, both at the same time.

John’s second Christmas verse is arguably the most famous verse in the entire Bible. Following his account of an exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3:1-15, in verse 16 John declares, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” As authors Kostenberger and Stewart note, “God loved the world not because it was so worthy and deserving of his love, but because it was so needy and desperate for it” (The First Days of Jesus, p.190). It wasn’t the Wise Men who began the tradition of giving for Christmas!

As I do every year, I am spending time this month reflecting on both Matthew and Luke’s accounts of The Christmas Story. You are probably revisiting them too. Perhaps these two simple but profound verses from John’s Gospel will add something to our focus this year on Jesus’ birth and God’s gift.

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NON-TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS VERSES

During these weeks leading up to Christmas most of us are hearing and/or reading the traditional passages of Matthew and Luke about Zechariah and Elisabeth, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels, and the wise men. Even though we know the passages, we are still glad to hear and consider them again as we celebrate the occasion.

There are also a number of verses in the New Testament that relate to Christmas that are non-traditional in our Christmas focus. In this post I want to highlight three of them and in the next two weeks underscore five more. None of them will replace what we have in Matthew and Luke or familiar Old Testament prophecies, but each of these less noted references can add to our Christmas celebration.

The first non-traditional Christmas passage is Galatians 4:4 and 5. Paul writes, “. . . when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption . . .” (NIV). That clearly summarizes the Christmas message, doesn’t it? I won’t elaborate on what Paul writes, but I encourage you to reflect on each phrase.

A second non-traditional Christmas verse that always reminds me of Christmas is also from the Apostle Paul. He writes in II Corinthians 8:9, “. . . you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” NIV). That’s a condensed, but clear statement about what Jesus did for us, isn’t it? Again, take some time to unpack Paul’s creative Christmas explanation.

The third and final verse in this post is much different from the first two; but to me it is especially appropriate for Christmas. In Acts 20:35 Luke records Paul citing a teaching from Jesus not included in any of the Gospels, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (NIV).

The reason I think Acts 20:35 is a Christmas verse is because giving and receiving is such a large part of our Christmas celebration. Note that Jesus did not say there is no blessing in receiving, but the blessing of giving is greater. We all have been greatly blessed through receiving; not just at Christmas, but throughout our lives. Hopefully we all also have been even more blessed through our giving. It’s not an either/or, but a both/and.

This year as we revisit the beautiful Christmas passages that mean so much to us let’s allow them to warm and fill our hearts as they do each year. Perhaps we also can ponder these three non-traditional verses that I believe can also mean much to us and fill and warm our hearts during this season.

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TRADEOFFS AND CHRISTMAS

A lot of us will be exchanging gifts this week, but I don’t think any of us considers his or her gift exchanges tradeoffs. To me, a tradeoff is when you give up something in order to gain something. And if it is a real tradeoff, what you give up is something of value. Christmas is about a huge tradeoff that I will return to in a moment.

I’ve been thinking about this matter of tradeoffs since I left Southern California last week to move to the Texas Panhandle. During that two day drive and the first couple of days after I arrived, I was focused on what I was giving up: familiarity, weather, friends, year round golf on many golf courses, a variety of avenues and opportunities to serve, and all that the greater Los Angeles area has to offer. After 32 years I may have drifted into taking it all for granted and I was miserable.

While my emotions, heart, and mind are not fully resolved yet, I am doing much better today. This is the third major move Jan and I have made in the last 47 years. And in the days, weeks, and months ahead I am confident what I will gain in this tradeoff will more than match what I gained in my previous two similar moves. Our daughter said something over the weekend that got my attention. She reminded me that after Christmas this year, unlike the last few, I won’t have to go through the emotional trauma of saying goodbye to my grandsons.

Now back to the huge tradeoff of Christmas. The Apostle Paul clearly lays it out in II Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” What a great image of God becoming a human in the birth of Jesus!

As we come to Christmas this week let’s consider the tradeoff Jesus made. He was rich and became poor so that you and I could become rich. Not rich in terms of money and things, but rich in terms of forgiveness and salvation. The baby Jesus grew and became the man Jesus. And the man Jesus fulfilled the purpose of His coming—that through His poverty you and I might become rich. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” Merry Christmas.

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THREE CHRISTMAS QUESTIONS

As we come to our Christmas celebration next week I want to highlight four non-traditional Christmas Bible references and ask three questions about Christmas. It isn’t that I don’t like the familiar passages from Matthew 2 and Luke 2; how could anyone not like those two wonderful accounts? But these four that are not usually read at Christmas also speak to what we are remembering. And while I don’t think “cherry picking” verses is the best way to read the Bible, these four passages are pretty clear.

The first is John 1:1 and 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was 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.”

The second verse is II Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

The third verse is Galatians 4:4: “When the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

The last of these passages is Philippians 2:5b-7: “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Before Jesus was conceived and born He was with God and was God. He was also rich, but He did not insist upon maintaining that status. He was willing to become a human, a poor servant. His conception was unique, but not His birth. He was born like you and I, of a woman, and at the time God had selected. He gave up His status and wealth and became a poor human servant for us—that we might become rich. For us to become rich means that we might be redeemed (Galatians 4:5)—forgiven and saved and become children of God (John 1:12). This Jesus whose birth we celebrate was full of grace and truth. And the Apostle Paul calls and challenges us as Jesus’ followers to be like Him.

Now the three questions (the first two were asked by the pastor in a message I heard in church this past Saturday evening).

Are you amazed? As we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus again this year are you amazed by what God did? Think about it. God became a man through the normal birth process with the purpose of providing for our salvation.

Are you humbled? As we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus again this year are you humbled by what God did for you? He became poor that we might become rich. He became human, a humble servant, that we might be restored as children of God.

Is what God did for you through Jesus making a difference in your life? I’m pretty sure we all can say “yes.” Perhaps this Christmas it can make even more of a difference.

Which of these non-traditional Christmas passages or Christmas questions most gets your attention? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share this post.

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