Sunday, January 3, 2021
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont
John 1:(1-9), 10-18
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.
Bill called his parents to wish them a happy New Year, and his dad answered the phone. Bill asked him, well, Dad, what’s your New Year’s resolution? Answer: To make your mother as happy as I can all year. When mom got on the phone, Bill said, what’s your resolution, Mom? Answer: to make sure that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution.
Welcome on this first Sunday of a New Year. Our topic for today is communication, an important topic in the family, in the workplace, even in the church, anytime in the year.
Have you ever sent a message and wondered if it got through? Maybe you emailed a colleague and didn’t hear back from them. Maybe talking to your kids is like talking to a brick wall. Real communication doesn’t happen when a message is sent; real communication happens when a message is sent and then that message is received in a timely and accurate manner. And I would add that really effective communication occurs when someone sends a message, someone else receives that message in a timely and accurate manner, and then acts on it. When a message results in action, that’s effective communication.
When you really care about getting your message across, you have to get creative about it. Imagine how disappointing it is to send out an important message that never gets through. Let me give you a fascinating real-life example of that happening.
Last Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2019, hundreds of thousands of text messages were sent out all over the U.S. and then disappeared. Notice that many of these lost messages were Valentines. They were never received. Until nine months later, when those original text messages somehow began popping up in recipients’ phones. Imagine the confusion of the recipients. Some of the messages were from people who had since passed away, or from lovers who had ended relationships.
This massive example of miscommunication was finally traced to Syniverse, a company that provides networking services for many major cell phone carriers in the U.S. A single server at Syniverse went offline on Valentine’s Day, trapping hundreds of thousands of unsent text messages in its system. The server issue wasn’t fixed until early November 2019. And suddenly, all those unsent messages flooded into people’s cell phones, creating all kinds of confusion and possibly some awkward conversations.
Can you imagine sending out an “I love you, Babe!” Or, “So glad I married you!” Or, “Can’t wait to celebrate Valentine’s Day with you!” kind of message, and not hearing back from the person you love? How many arguments and hurt feelings were caused by those missed messages that, perhaps, were delivered at a time that might have proved awkward?
I thought about those late messages when I read our Bible passage for today. Because these first few verses in John are meant to be a message of love, even if they start out somewhat confusing for us. John 1:1 reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Note that in writing “the Word,” John is talking about is Jesus Himself. Jesus Himself, in His coming, and working, and teaching, and dying and rising, was the final and decisive message of God.”
Did you get that? Jesus Himself is the “final and decisive message of God.” God sent us a message. But, as we noted, real communication only happens when someone receives the message in a timely and accurate manner. And really effective communication only happens when the recipient receives and acts on the message. So, what about you? Do you want to head into this New Year with a message from God? Then these verses from John have some exciting things to tell us.
Here’s the first thing John tells us: When we look at Jesus, we see God’s plan for our lives. From the beginning of time, God planned for us to be His children. We see it in verse 12 here: “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God . . .” Everyone who receives Jesus as Lord gets adopted into God’s family, and into His love.
A chef in Knoxville, Tennessee, says his family and friends worried about him when he decided to adopt two sons. As he says, nobody can truly understand why I did what I have done, but I did it on faith.
Here was a single man with a successful catering company, taking on a big responsibility when he adopted the two brothers from the county foster care system. And that responsibility grew even bigger when he discovered that his two new sons had four more siblings separated into various other foster homes in East Tennessee. His budget and his schedule were already pretty tight, but his heart was full of love and compassion for these children. They were meant to be a family, and if he was willing to make the sacrifice, they could be reunited. So, he petitioned the court to adopt all six children in the family. As he says, in the end I knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing and I knew that they were supposed to be together. I just knew that they would heal in my home.
Notice his heart-felt words: I just knew that they would heal in my home. From the beginning of creation, that was God’s plan for us. To adopt us into His family, where we could find healing in His home.
Why would an eternal God create beings made in His image, breathe His own life into them, and then leave them to die? The answer is, God didn’t. God made us for eternal life. Before the creation of the world, God also worked to create us for abundant life. Here’s the first thing John tells us: When we look at Jesus, we see God’s plan for us. He planned to bring us into His home.
Here’s the second thing John tells us: When we look at Jesus, we see God’s love for us. John 1:14 reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Not just, “I have come to visit you,” but “I have come to live with you.” Instead of waiting for you to come to Me, I’m coming to meet you right where you are.
I think most of us start off the New Year searching for something. Maybe we’re searching for closure from this past year. Maybe we’re searching for understanding or forgiveness. Some of us are searching for a second chance to get things right. Maybe some of you sitting here this morning don’t even know if you believe in God, or if God believes in you. You want to believe that God is real, but you don’t think you are good enough for Him to notice you. In your mind, all these smiley, sincere, Bible-quoting people around you, God came for them. But you’ve got a lot of work to do on yourself before you can even think of asking for His attention.
I'm here to tell you, you’ve got it all wrong. This Bible passage makes it clear. God came to live in your neighborhood. God came looking for you.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. The eternal Creator God put on our human flesh, with its squishy, itchy, weak and annoying imperfections and walked in our shoes. He experienced hunger and thirst and frustration and weakness and loneliness and overwhelming pain and loss. And He did it all so He could show us that we don’t have to go searching for an unknowable God. God came looking for us. When we look at Jesus, we see God’s plan for us, and we see God’s love for us.
And finally, when we look at Jesus, we see God’s gift to us. In Jesus, God poured out grace on us. He flooded this world with grace. What is grace? The word means “loving-kindness” or “merciful kindness.” Verse 14 says that Jesus came to us “full of grace and truth.” Jesus came to show us the heart and character and mind of God. And all those qualities were compressed into these two words: grace and truth.
In December of 1772, a pastor was preparing his sermon for the first Sunday of the New Year. His text was First Chronicles 17:16-17. In this passage, Nathan the prophet tells King David that God has promised that David’s descendants would always serve as the kings of Israel.
Remember David’s past. He was a humble shepherd boy when he was first chosen by God. In spite of his many sins, such as adultery and murder, God was committed to working through him. Talk about grace! I can’t even imagine the awe and humility David felt when he heard God’s promise. And in these verses, he responded, who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?
That pastor reading the story of David was a man named John Newton. He could relate to King David. Newton had been a violent slave trader. After he gave his life to Jesus, it still took him many years to awaken to the evils of the trade. Once he fully confronted his sins, however, he left the slave trade and wrote an influential pamphlet exposing the suffering aboard the slave ships. This pamphlet was distributed to every member of the British Parliament and helped influence the eventual outlawing of slavery in Great Britain. John Newton could never forget the burden of sin that was lifted from his shoulders by his Savior, Jesus Christ. So, imagine how King David’s words sounded to John Newton that day: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?”
And with this repentance and gratitude fresh in his mind, Newton began writing the words to a hymn he would teach his congregation on that New Year’s Sunday:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found/Was blind but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear/And grace, my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear/The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares/I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far/And grace will lead me home.
Most of us want to start off a new year with clarity. If there is one area of your life where I hope you have total and complete clarity, it’s in your view of God. This is the one issue that will affect every other area of life, so it’s essential that you understand who God is and what God’s plans are for you. God has a plan for you, a plan to adopt you into His family and have a loving relationship with you. This is the Good News. The eternal Creator God wants a relationship with you. God loves you that much. And God has gifts of loving-kindness and mercy and truth for all those who believe in and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Can you hear me now? God sent you a message. I hope you’ve received it. But the real test of effective communication is whether you act on it. Now that you’ve received God’s message, will you choose to submit your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Better yet, why not act on that message, because really effective communication only happens when the recipient receives and acts on the message. So, what about you? Do you want to head into this New Year with a message from God?