This month my church is undertaking a whole month of Christmas outreach. The title for the series is ‘Christmas Means…’. The sermons for the four Sundays in December will be Christmas Means Life, Light, Love, and Christ. All four sermons are from John’s Gospel. During November we encouraged our members to ask their non-Christian friends and family “what does Christmas mean to you?” Regardless of the evangelistic opportunities this might have provided, it was interesting to discover how non-Christians approach the season. If possible, our people could then extend an invitation to church.
Below are the notes I used for my first sermon in the series: ‘Christmas Means Life’ Jn 1:1–5, 5:24–26). I don’t present it as The Best Christmas Sermon Eva™️. I do hope you find it useful—not just for your sermons, but in small groups, school scripture, Sunday school, and family devotions.
In a follow-up article, I will provide some commentary on these notes, explaining the theological, apologetic, evangelistic, and pastoral goals I was trying to achieve in each section.
Christmas is a time to enjoy life. We enjoy time with our families. And with our friends. We can enjoy time off work when we go on holiday. And even before the holiday, we can enjoy time with our workmates, because our boss takes us out for lunch, and maybe we do the Kris Kringle thing of sharing gifts and all.
But that’s also why Christmas can be so miserable when we can’t do some of these things. There might be tension in our extended family. We may not be looking forward to Christmas Day because of a cousin who never talks to an auntie because of something that happened ten years ago. Or there may be an uncle who always gets drunk and does stupid things that embarrass everyone. Or maybe you are the boss, and you have to spend your money to take your staff out for Christmas lunch! Or maybe we won’t get a holiday. Some of us have to work through the Christmas season.
So folks, at the beginning of this Christmas season, I ask you: are you enjoying life? Or are you just existing? Maybe just barely surviving? In fact, put yourself on a continuum. So on this side [gesture], you’re totally living the life, heaven on earth, couldn’t be better. Or you’re doing okay [gesture]… to just getting by… to completely miserable, a living death. If you’re way down the bottom, talk to someone now! We want to help you! If you’re way up the top, well done! Keep it up! But I suspect most of us are somewhere in the middle. Right? We’re doing okay. But we want to live better.
And so the question we’re going to explore today is, how does Jesus help us live better? Not just in this world, but for eternity?
The first thing our Bible passages do is give us confidence that Jesus actually knows the best ways to live. Because he made us. That’s what it says in John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
How do you feel about the idea that someone else made you? [Pause] I don’t blame you if it feels kind of weird, because when we make things, we don’t usually care about them. We make all kinds of machines—cars, computers—but we don’t love them. We just use them. And when they wear out or break down, we throw them out and buy a new one.
That’s not what the Bible means when it says Jesus made us. It’s more like coming from a family. Our parents made us. Literally. We share their DNA. And through them, we share the bloodline of our extended family, our people group, our ancestors, our ethnicity.
I’m confident that most of us (all of us?) know our parents and have happy memories of how they loved us and cared for us. And I hope we have happy memories of our extended family caring for us, of getting presents from our grandparents, and of playing with our uncles and aunties and cousins.
This is more like what the Bible means when it says Jesus made us. God’s not literally flesh and blood like us. But Jesus himself told us to pray to God as “our Father in heaven.” That’s the first line of the Lord’s Prayer. And as our heavenly Father, God made this whole world to be our home. Did you notice that John 1:3 doesn’t just say God created humans. It says “through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” God built our world, our universe, as a home for us. Just like our parents spend lots of time and energy renting or buying or even building a house for us, and furnishing it and stocking it with food and paying the bills for water and gas and electricity. Everything we need to live and grow and be safe and healthy.
Because our parents love us, they teach us how to live well, even when—especially when—it’s no fun. When our child sees their friend on the other side of the street, do we let them just run across the street to their friend? No, we tell them to hold our hand and wait until the light goes green, because we want to protect them from getting hit by a bus! Why do we tell our children to eat their vegetables? Because we want them to grow up strong and healthy. Children who only eat sweets and fatty foods end up malnourished. And because we know our home, we tell our children what’s safe and what’s dangerous. You can play in the garden anytime. But don’t go into the garden shed. That’s where Dad keeps the lawn mower and the hedge clippers and all the other sharp, dangerous equipment.
This is what the Bible means when it says Jesus made us. As God, he created us and everything around us. Because it’s his world he knows how to live well better than we do. Because he cares about us, he tells us how to live well. He tells us what’s safe and what’s dangerous. He tells us what’s healthy and what’s not. Our problem is we ignore him, eat junk, go into dangerous places, and then wonder why we hurt ourselves and other people. More of that in a moment.
Science Is Good but Love Is the Deepest Logic of the Universe
First I want to quickly deal with one common objection against the idea that God made us and that we need him to tell us how to live well. Nowadays, we think that science can tell us everything about how to live well because science can drill down into the very building blocks of the universe.
Science does indeed help us live well. Over the last couple of hundred years, all kinds of medical and technological breakthroughs have helped us live better. We produce more food and healthier food. We got better medicines, better vaccines. We’ve eradicated certain diseases, like smallpox.
The Bible loves science. In fact, the Bible creates the intellectual conditions for science. The very first lines of John’s gospel say “in the beginning was the Word.” The Greek word for ‘word’ is ‘logos.’ As soon as I say that, you recognise the similarity with the word ‘logic.’ Jesus is the logic behind the whole universe. Precisely because one God made the whole universe, we should expect there to be an order, a pattern, to how he made it. Science discovers that pattern. But it doesn’t tell us much about the creator of that pattern, any more than a car engine tells us anything about the person who designed it.
Jesus is the creator God, coming to introduce himself to us. “Hello, pleased to meet you.” [Enact] The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he shows us that love is the deepest logic of the universe. As God made flesh, he shows us God the Holy Trinity. That’s what John 1:2 says: “He was with God in the beginning.” What was Jesus doing before he became human? Enjoying life with God the Father and the Spirit.
What do you think of when you think of ‘going to heaven’? You might think of floating around playing harps. That sounds really boring. I don’t wanna play a harp, I wanna make some noise—play a brass instrument, like a French horn! Heaven is not boring! It’s more like an eternal Christmas party, where the most loving family feasts and plays and give gifts to each other for ever and ever!
Science is great. But love is the deepest logic of the universe.
This is why Jesus can show us the best way to live. He doesn’t just show us the way to live, he gives us life. Because he owns it! John 1:4 says “in him was life.” As our creator God, Jesus owns life. And he loves to share his life with us—that’s why he came down from heaven to die and rise for us.
This is what it means to ‘have faith’ in Jesus. I don’t blame you if you think that ‘faith’ means believing something stupid and irrational. But that’s not what it means at all. It’s more like the way you’re comfortable with your parents. How do you know your parents love you? Did you interview them before giving them the job of parenting you? You know them personally. You’ve experienced their love and care. So you trust them, you’re comfortable with them. You’re confident that they’ll be there for you.
That’s what it means to trust Jesus. It means to be know Jesus well enough to be confident that he is who he claims to be: our creator God. The God who made us and made this world as our home and who therefore can show us the best way to live.
We want you to know Jesus well enough to trust him. That’s why we’re running the Next Steps to Knowing Jesus course next month.
It’s good that Jesus knows how to live. Because we don’t.
When I was young (which was, like, last millennium) everyone thought that in the twenty-first century technology would make life easy. Robots were supposed to do all the work; any work which we did was supposed to be more like a hobby. And we were supposed to have world peace and have colonised the Moon and Mars.
But we don’t have world peace, we have more and more wars popping up all over the place! And with prices going up, we have to work harder and harder for less and less. Apparently, in some households both spouses work because the whole of one spouse’s salary goes to pay the rent or the mortgage! That’s before putting food on the table or even paying electricity or anything. It’s as if, as a human race, we don’t know how to live properly. It’s as if we don’t even want to live properly. [Pause]
We like to think of ourselves as good children who deserve presents from Santa Claus. But we’re more like Kevin McCallister. Okay, let’s see who the Christmas movie aficionados are here. Anyone know who Kevin McCallister is? Maybe if I said… Macaulay Culkin? Home Alone, that’s right! What does little kid Kevin do when his parents aren’t there? Is he all responsible and diligent? Does he cook healthy food for himself and clean up? No, he does everything he’s not supposed to do! He eats junk food and watches scary movies. And then he finds himself all alone when thieves try to break in.
We’re like Kevin. We don’t want to live well! We want to break the rules. Actually we’re worse than him. Because in the movie, it’s not his fault. His parents leave him behind. But we kick God out of our lives. We throw him out of his own home. And then we wonder why we feel sick and scared, why dangerous forces seem to have invaded the world.
That’s why we need Jesus to not just give us life, but give his life for us. That’s what our second reading, John 5:24–26, is about.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
When I talk about knowing God enough to trust him, I don’t blame you if you feel like you can’t trust God, because you think he doesn’t know anything about real life down here on earth. All he does is lecture us about everything we have to do to climb up to him. He doesn’t know what it’s really like.
That’s what religion is, isn’t it? A bunch of rules about being a good little religious person. How to get rid of your bad karma and build up good karma. Or the Five Pillars of Islam—confess Mohammed, give to the poor, say your daily prayers, go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and fast during Ramadan. Even traditional Catholicism is like that. Pray the Rosary, confess to the priest. That might have been your previous experience of church. You might have been told you have to be a good Christian. Don’t sleep around, don’t drink, don’t swear, study hard at school, come to church, stay awake during the sermon. It’s all about what we have to do to work our way up to God.
Why doesn’t God come down here and find out what life is really like?
Folks, you realise that’s what Christmas is all about? Jesus is God come down as an ordinary man. He wasn’t born in a palace, he was born in a shed. You think you’ve got problems paying the rent or the mortgage? He was homeless!
Jesus is God coming down to share in all the ordinary woes of life, all the ordinary ways that death sucks life from our lives. In fact, he shared in the ultimate way death sucks life from our life. Because he died, taking upon himself our death—the consequences of our rebellion against God, the consequences of kicking God out of our lives.
But he didn’t stay dead. He came back from the dead and he went back up to heaven, back to the ultimate Christmas party. And the amazing thing is he offers us a place at his eternal Christmas table. For free. All we have to do is put our trust in him.
Are you enjoying life this Christmas? Where are you on that continuum? Are you living? Just existing? Barely surviving?
If we put our trust in Jesus then we have life to the max. We have eternal life with the risen Jesus. Do you want a piece of that life? Do you want to party forever with Jesus?
If you’re not sure about it, come find out about the Next Steps to Knowing Jesus. Use the QR code or the link on the screen. But if you are ready to put your trust in Jesus, then pray this prayer with me. Don’t say anything out loud, just repeat it silently in your head.
Dear Jesus, thank you for making me. Thank you for making this good world that I live in. Thank you for giving me my family, friends, and everything else that makes life worth living. I admit that I don’t naturally want to live your way. I have rebelled against you. In ways that are rude and wrong and destructive. Thank you for dying to take my death. And for rising with eternal life. Please give me a place at your eternal table. Amen.