Why we need the Gospel of John at Christmastime

Friday, December 16th, 2011

We are all aware of how any distinctively Christian celebration of Christmas can so easily be lost in “frosty the snowman,” “Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” “Santa Claus finding out who’s naughty and nice,” “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” and the list goes on and on.  What is hard to find is any mention of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.  This is why I love John’s Christmas story.  Many people think that the Christmas account is only found in Matthew and Luke with all the traditional band of characters including shepherds, sheep, angels, Joseph, Mary, an innkeeper, King Herod and, later, the magi from the East, etc…  John’s gospel approaches the story differently.  We find in John no mention of angels or shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.  We do not find in John any reference to innkeepers, starry nights, a travel weary young family, or night time visions.  In John there are no magi looking at the stars, or census’ being taken of the Roman world.  In John we only have the center character in the entire story: “The Word became flesh dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Thank you, John.  Christmas is about God stepping into human history, clothing himself in our frail humanity to rescue us from sin and death.  Let’s remember that this holy season: God became a man – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; this is the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.


  • JAy. says:

    Thank you for the reminder, Dr. Tennent. I agree that we need John’s Gospel. It is both the clarity and the beautiful language with which John expresses the incarnation that always helps me remember who Jesus was, and therefore who I am.

    “In the beginning” reflected backwards and pulled forwards. What a wonderful and critical inclusion into the Christmas story.

  • Matt says:

    My favorite Christmas preaching text… John gives us a fleeting glimpse “under the hood” of the Incarnation. John’s subtle tie-in to Exodus 33:6 makes it that much sweeter.

  • Please explain the Ex. 33.6 allusion. The Ex 40:16f I know….

  • Matt says:

    Sadly, the “explanation” was that it was a typing error. It is actually 34:6, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…'”

    I’d been introduced to this in Richard Bauckham’s splendid “God Crucified”, which he later folded into “Jesus and the God of Israel”. Bauckham describes parallels between John 1:14-18 and Ex. 33-34 thusly: “But in the Word made flesh, God’s glory was seen in human form, and grace and truth (according to John 1:17) happened or came about (egeneto). Thus, God’s gracious love, central to the identity of the God of Israel, now takes the radically new form of a human life in which the divine self-giving happens” (Bauckham 2008, 55). Beautiful.

    • Lloyd says:

      What makes the Gospel account by John stand out from the Synoptic Gospels is the fact that it was written by someone who had a deep and undying affection for Jesus and had a rare glimpse as the beloved Apostle of His preeminent position as God in human form. No wonder he wrote “In the beginning was the Word” which should remind us of the ageless words used to open the best book in existence (“In the beginning” – Genesis 1:1). John closed his account by telling us that “there are many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”. Little wonder Jesus chose to give us a vivid description of the end times in Revelations through John on the Island of Patmos. Jesus Christ, the visible image of the invisible God revealed by John will always remain the reason for the season and indeed all times!

  • Fr Joseph says:

    Dr. Timothy’s reflection on John 1:14 is clearly the message of Christmas. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is my recreation into God’s Holy family.
    Merry Christmas !

  • Tina Gang says:

    Several years ago I constructed “The Christmas Story” from all the different passages in the gospels and told it to my family at Christmas, I ended the story with John’s account in chapter one…it’s a very powerful way to end the story of Christ’s birth.
    “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
    9 The true light that gives light to every man came into the world.
    12 To all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become the children of God—
    14 We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    16 From the fullness of his grace, we have all received one blessing after another”

  • Joe Cox says:

    May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a bold and brave new year.