Lectionary Guide: Christmas

December 24/25 | Christmas eve worship | Year B

John 1:1-14

Isaiah 52:7-10 | Psalm 98 | Hebrews 1:1-4, 5-12

Summary of the Text

Scott Bullock

God expressed Himself

J.B. Phillips paraphrases the first line of John 1:1, “At the beginning God expressed himself”. God’s word is more than mere speech. His word is action. When God speaks in Genesis 1, stuff happens, creation disintegrates chaos, something arises from nothing, things go from “good” to “very good”. John’s Prologue describes the “Word” as present at the beginning of creation, fundamentally instrumental in the formation of the material world in all its form and beauty, and indispensable to the inception of the glorious show of human life without whom life would not exist.

This same Word is light overcoming darkness. This same Word is life itself. In John’s mind, Logos, the Greek word from which Word is translated is not some abstract philosophical thought expressing the universal divine reason. It is the incarnation of God himself in the birth of Jesus, the Advent of God in human form.

The Director Sits Next to Us

The preacher may wish to focus on the wonder of this embodiment. Imagine yourself in the nosebleed section of an off-Broadway performance of Hamilton with an empty seat to your right. During the beginning of Act II a man shuffles into the left of you and passes in front of your view and plops down in the seat on your right. You are initially annoyed. After a moment he asks you, “What do you think of the show?” Increasingly perturbed, you turn to look and politely ask for him to be quiet. After the curtain call, the man jets out the opposite way before you can say anything.

When you finally make your way outside of the theater and into the lobby you see a crowd surrounding someone. You hear the name “Lin-Manuel Miranda” being vocalized, you jump up to see over the teem of bodies and realize the man being swarmed, the creator of the musical, is the very man who sat at your side throughout Act II. This is a taste of the incarnation, the playwright becomes part of the play, even part of the audience. Will we behold the Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of God, in all his glory or in our own pre-occupation miss his presence among us? 

Sermon resources

Key Quote

Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused by false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

Augustine of Hippo, Sermons 191.1

Key Illustration

The Self-Miniaturization Of God

Origen, in the third century, had a great analogy. He told of a village with a huge statue—so immense you couldn’t see exactly what it was supposed to represent. Finally, someone miniaturized the statue so one could see the person it honored. Origen said, “That is what God did in his Son.” Paul tells us Christ is the self-miniaturization of God, the visible icon or image of the invisible God (Colossians 1). In Christ we have God in a comprehensible way. In Christ we have God’s own personal and definitive visit to the planet.

Dale Bruner, “Is Jesus Inclusive or Exclusive?” Theology, News, and Notes of Fuller Seminary (October 1999), 4.

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean for God’s Word to mean action, as the guide describes?
  • How does the beginning of Genesis 1 connect to John 1:1 and the word (logos
  • What did you think of Director analogy? What would it be like if God, the creator of the heavens and the earth suddenly took a seat next to you and asked, “what do you think of the show?”
  • Have you ever spent time to reflect and pray about the love at the heart of the incarnation? Have you ever taken time to ponder how much God loves us to take the form of a human being and live among us?

Liturgical resources

Call to Worship

Adapted From Psalm 98 

Leader: O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
People: His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
Leader: The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
People: He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
Leader: All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
All: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

Scott Bullock

Prayer of Confession

Adapted from John 1:10-11; Isaiah 52:7-10

Father in Heaven, we confess that we never knew you had come down. We confess that we were in the dark as to your light among us. Though the world was created through your Word, we could not grasp the reality that he had entered into our neighborhood and taken up residence. We could not receive him whom we did not see. In all his humility, in his appearance in unexpected places, we were blind. We have only ourselves to blame for not opening our eyes of faith and ears of understanding. May You forgive us and once again on this Nativity of Christ’s birth proclaim the good news of your comfort and redemption to us, so that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. Amen.

Scott Bullock

Assurance of Pardon

Adapted from 1 John 1:4-7

And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

benediction

1 Timothy 6:15b-16

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Adoration of the Magiby the Shepherds by Matthias Stom<br />
The Adoration of the Shepherds, painted by Matthias Stom (1600-1650), second quarter 17th century, oil on canvas.
The baby Jesus illuminates the faces of the worshipping shepherds as Mary looks on.
Palazzo Madama, Turin.

More Quotes: christmas eve

More Illustrations: Christmas Eve

Scott Bullock

Scott Bullock is a Board Member and Contributor with The Pastors Workshop. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served churches in Illinois, New Jersey, and California. He holds an MA in New Testament Studies from Wheaton College, an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a ThM in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. Scott is married with three teen-aged children.