It was Christmas Eve and not unlike any other Christmas Eve. But as I think about it, it was Christmas Eve at 310 West Center Street. And it was late, but not too late. The artificial Christmas tree was visible through the front door. My Dad was sitting in his recliner. My Mom sat comfortably on the couch. And there I was with my sisters sitting on the floor. We were each pretty eager, for the first time all year, to go to bed. Then all suddenly got quiet. My Dad was about to read. He was about to read the good news of a great joy. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Up until this year this has simply been a memory, a Christmas memory. But this year it is different. This year it has become the best Christmas memory. It is because this year I have been watching, really watching. I have been watching my Dad lose his eyesight. And this Christmas as he loses his eyesight I keep thinking about that man in that recliner reading the good news of a great joy. And as he loses his eyesight there is only one thing that really matters.
It is Christmas
It is Christmas Eve and not unlike any other Christmas Eve. And we are about to read. We are about to read just one sentence. “And 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” (John 1:14). This too is good news of a great joy.
I have never noticed that this one sentence has three parts to it; three exciting parts. Each part is introduced by the word and – and the Word became flesh; and he dwelt among us; and we have seen his glory.
And is a conjunction and it is used to connect words in a sentence or sentences to other sentences. Or, as we see here, it is connecting the parts. Look at the third part of this sentence. “And we have seen his glory.” This part is about sight and is connected to the second part, “and dwelt among us.” The second part of this sentence is about nearness and is connected to the first part, “and the Word became flesh.”
This connecting word is connecting three parts, three exciting parts, to emphasize something. These three parts come together to emphasize the one thing that really matters. What is the one thing that really matters? It is Christmas. And why does that matter? It is about what Christmas means for me.
And the Word Became Flesh
Notice the first part of John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh.” If the third part is connected to the second part with the word and; if the second part is connected to the first part with the word and; if the first part begins with the word and; what is the first part being connected to?
We might think that since and connects words in sentences or sentences to other sentences, that perhaps this first part of John 1:14 is being connected to John 1:13. It could be possible and seems to make sense. Just listen to John 1:13. But to listen to John 1:13, we need to begin with John 1:12, because John 1:12-13 are actually one sentence. “But to all who did receive him.” Pause there and mark that word receive. We will come back to it at the end. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Then John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh.”
It is just interesting that John 1:12-13 talks about us becoming what we once were not. Prior to receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing in him, you and I were not children of God. But upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing in him, you I and became children of God. This word became is the same word used in John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh.” It simply means to become something it was not before.
In verse fourteen, John is simply telling us that there is a point in time that the Word became something it was not before. And what is that something? Flesh. There is a point in time that the Word became or put on flesh. This is commonly called the incarnation.
And John wants us to know that it is the Word that put on flesh. Why is that significant? Look further in verse fourteen. In the remainder of this sentence, John begins using the word Son. This is the first time that John uses the word Son and he will use it some sixty times in the rest of his Gospel. But who is the Son?
This is connected to the third part of verse fourteen. But we have to jump to it here quickly. “And we have seen his glory.” Whose glory? Remember each part is connected to the part previously. This is glory of one who dwelt among us and the one who dwelt among us is the Word. So, whose glory is this? It is the glory of the Word. But after the third part, and talking about his glory, John says that it is the glory of the Son. So, which is it? The glory of the Word or the glory of the Son? It is both. It is the glory of the Word and the glory of the Son because the Son is the Word.
This is really exciting and a really long point to make in a much bigger point. But it is significant. The Word became flesh which also means the Son became flesh. The Son became what he was not before; flesh. The Son did not become the Son. This is a point John is trying to make when he reveals that the Son is the Word. It is because of John 1:1-3.
In the beginning was the Word. What beginning? We could say any beginning; the beginning of today; the beginning of the week; the beginning of the month; the beginning of the year; the beginning of you. We could say any beginning, but will not because this is not what John is saying. He is deliberately bringing to mind the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In that beginning was the Son. He was there. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.” So, the Son was in the beginning and the Son was with God. When? In the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was God.” And the Son was God.
This a beautiful picture of the tri-unity of God. He is three persons, yet one God. And in the beginning and before there was a beginning there was this perfect relationship of God the Son and God the Father. And just to be clear John writes John 1:3. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”
I love this verse. Still speaking about the Word, the Son, everything that is in the category of made, the Son made it. This is saying two things about the Son. First, anything that is called made or created, he made it. Second, the Son cannot then be called made or created.
This sets up the wonder of John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh!” In talking about the Son, he exists! He has always existed. He is with God the Father. He has always been with God the Father. He is not made. He is not created. He is eternal. He is God. He is God the Son and there is this point in human history that he put on flesh. It is Christmas. But why did he do it?
And Dwelt Among Us
Why did he do it? The full answer to that question is, read the rest of the Gospel of John. Read verses like John 6:51. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Why did he become flesh? It is the second exciting part of John 1:14. “…and dwelt among us.” I love the word dwelt. It literally means tabernacled. The word tabernacle brings to mind the Old Testament. It was a tent, a big, beautiful tent. It was a place of worship. It was a tent the Israelites would carry with them throughout the wilderness. It was a tent that housed the presence of God. And at Christmas, John writes that when the Word became flesh he tabernacled among us. I like John 1:14 read this way: “And the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood.”
Why did he do it? Philippians 2:7-8 describes this tabernacle or tent this way: “but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.”
Why did he do it? This tabernacle, this tent, this moving into our neighborhood is all meant to emphasize proximity, nearness. The Word became flesh and drew near me. Will you meditate on that for a moment? This is Christmas.
Now ask, why did he do it?
And We Have Seen His Glory
This is the third part. He drew near so that we might see glory. Whose glory? It is the glory of the Son who is God. So, this is the glory of God. And if you want to see the glory of God, you cannot miss Jesus. Glory, what is that? I have heard it described as the radiant beauty of God or all his goodness. We have called glory the infinite worth and infinite beauty and infinite wonder of God. He put on flesh and drew near so that we might see his infinite worth and beauty and wonder. And John writes, “we have seen his glory.” How?
John is an eyewitness. He wrote that he saw with his eyes and heard with his ears and looked upon and touched with his hands God in the flesh. So, he saw his glory. He was an eyewitness. But there were some eyewitnesses like Judas and the Pharisees and the crowds who only wanted more food, who saw him, but did not see glory. Why? Remember John 1:12. “For those who did receive him…” This same word, receive, is used again here in John 1:16.
Keep in mind first, what John says about his glory in verse fourteen. His glory is “full of grace and truth.”
Now verse sixteen. “And from his fullness we have all received [cf. 1:12], grace upon grace.” In the Greek text, this verse does not begin with and, but with for or because. It is explaining how a person can see his glory, how a person who has received him and believed in him and received the right to become a child of God can see his glory. It is explaining how a person who having not seen him in his flesh can still see his glory.
It is for those who are losing their eyesight or just plain losing sight of what really matters. It is my prayer for my Dad as he goes blind. Oh, that he will still see the one thing that matters. And it is my prayer for me and us. The one thing that matters is to continue to see his glory. It is the one thing that matters. It is what Christmas means for me and you and all of us.
How can I see his glory? Notice that John says in verse sixteen that we have received grace upon or in place of another grace. In John 1:17, he tells us what these two graces are, what the grace is that replaced another grace and what grace was replaced. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Jesus said that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46). Moses was a witness to the coming Christ. The law, Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, are a witness, the written words of God. But Jesus is the Word. And with him we see reality (truth) and in that reality, is the heart of God (grace).
How then do we see his glory? 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that the “god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In the gospel, the narrated words and works of Jesus Christ, we see glory! And in John 17:20, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”
What is their word? Their word includes things like the Gospel of John and Romans and Titus and Ephesians and Philemon. It is through these words that we can see his glory. He put on flesh and drew near that we might see his infinite wonder. There is found reality, it is more real than anything that is called real. And this is Christmas for us, that we might draw near to these words and behold him.