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"God's Fashion Statement - Do You 'Get It?'"

Dec.27/15 Jn.1:1-18 Heb.1:1-4

People buy all sorts of things for others at Christmas: tools, toys, trinkets - but one of the most popular categories of gills is clothing.

Why, look at how jam-packed the malls get at this time of year: and what are most of the stores in malls? Clothing stores.

The advertisers say, "Clothes make the man." While that's stretching it, we DO take people's dress into account when we form a first impression of them.

So folks try to clothe themselves not only neatly, but in an interesting way.

A certain brand name may be all the rage.

When I was a teen, bell-bottoms were popular.

The important thing is not so much what the current fashion IS so much as to be "with it" - that says to others you're alert, up-to-date, AND able to afford the latest innovation in threads.

Or so modern culture leads us to believe.

We all want to make a "fashion statement" - to be distinctive, recognized, appreciated, well-received.

Jesus Christ is God's "fashion statement" to humanity.

The first impression Jesus made on people throughout his life may not have been what they were expecting; especially being born in a barn!

Yet in Christ we come to se God as He really is .- the statement or impression God wants to leave with us, communicate to us.

John's Gospel is different from Matthew and Luke.

They begin with the infancy narratives, how Jesus was born: John goes back to Christ's preearthly existence, present with God from eternity.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Jesus is the Word: the Logos, God' giving-account, explaining, expression of God's essential nature.

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known." This role of Jesus in making God known is an ongoing theme in John's Gospel.

The last night Jesus had with his disciples, He defined eternal life as knowing God, and knowing Jesus whom God sent.

Praying to the Father, Jesus said He had completed the work God had given Him to do, namely: "I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world."

The very last words of his prayer show how important this making-known role was to Jesus.

He closes by saying, "1 have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I Myself may be in them." That was Jesus' primary purpose in coming to earth: just as clothing is an outward visible expression of what's important to a person, how they want to come across to others, so Jesus is God's fashion statement.

The Word Incarnate, embodied in human flesh, is the message God wanted to communicate to us about His essential being, His loving and gracious nature.

John observes, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.We have seen his g1ory, the glory of the One and Only, who carne from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The author of the letter to the Hebrews recalls that God spoke to their ancestors in various ways through the prophets, but in Christ God has spoken to them by His Son.

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being." Think about those phrases a moment.

The radiance of God's glory - a shining forth, as of a light coming from a luminous body.

"The exact representation of His being" - the Greek word transliterates as "character".

This comes from the language of tool-and-die work, of metal-stamping and the mint.

Coins were stamped with the likeness of the Emperor.

In the same way, the author is saying, we can't see God who is Spirit (the stamping form) but we see an exact representation of that stamp in Christ.

Just as our dime bears an exact correspondence to the Bluenose on the form the artist originally designed.

So God has made a statement to us, put clothes on and shown Himself to us, in Christ - communicating with us.

Dr.John Rosen, a psychiatrist in New York City, is well known for his work with catatonic schizophrenics.

Normally doctors remain separate and aloof from their patients.

Dr. Rosen moves into the ward with them. He places his bed among their beds.

He lives the life they must live.

Day to day, he shares it.

He loves them.

If they don't talk, he doesn't talk either.

It's as if he understands what is happening.

His being there, being with them communicates something that they haven't experienced in years - somebody understands.

But then he does something else: he puts his arms around them and hugs them.

He hold these unattractive, unlovable, sometimes incontinent persons, and loves them back into life.

Often, the first words they speak are simply "thank you".

This is what God did for us through Jesus at Christmas.

He moved into the ward with us.

He placed His bed among our beds.

Those who were there, those who saw him, from shepherds on up through his men and women followers, touched Him and were in turn touched by Him and restored to life.

Jesus is God's fashion statement that in turn fashions us.

Now, let's admire the threads for a moment.

When you first see a new article of clothing you stop and look at the shape and the colours - is it "you"? What do we see in this garment that winds up hanging on the rack at Golgotha? John says, "We have seen His glory -- full of grace and truth."

Glory - a brightness, a shining, yet more than just light; a radiant goodness you can almost feel.

This glory has 2 chief components: grace and truth.

What is grace? Unmerited kindness.

That's why Santa is so popular - he doesn't hand out lumps of coal any more, but gives presents to everybody, we're told.

A benign smiling old elf with an endless supply of goodies.

Unfortunately some people view God the same way, and dismiss him along with Santa as a fairy tale..

Yes, God is kind and giving; as John says, "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." Especially purification for our sins.

But Santa represents "cheap grace" - giving that a recipient comes to take for granted.

We tend to appreciate more the things that cost us something.

To view God as simply a harmless Santa would be to take advantage of grace, to take Christ's sacrifice for granted and not really appreciate it.

So John mentions not only grace, but truth.

God doesn't just smile and pass out the candy canes, but also helps us see the ugly truth about our sin and selfishness.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth: who speaks to our consciences, convicting us of the ways we fall short of God's best, helping us to acknowledge the painful truth about our twisted condition and our need for the Saviour.

The Law came through Moses: the Ten Commandments still give us a divine yardstick and make us accountable to our Holy Maker.

Yet the Old Testament leaves people with an awareness of sin, still needing a Deliverer.

Jesus and the New Covenant brought grace and truth: forgiveness for our sins through the cross, and also the Spirit's power for transformation and change to become the True Person God planned for us to be.

Grace and truth enable us to take off our masks, our costumes, our denial and play-acting; because of Christ we know we can be accepted in spite of our shortcomings.

God knows who we are and still loves us.

So: Jesus is God's fashion statement; and the main threads we see in this clothing are the brilliant hues of grace and truth.

All that remains is to buy it, to make this garment your own, to "put on Christ', "be clothed with Christ" as the Bible describes it.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes this latest style.

John writes, "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. He was in the world, and though the world was made through. him, the -world did not recognize him.He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." In spite of the lengths to which God went to get the message across, to reveal his incredible kindness, the statement wasn't well received.

In short, many people didn't "get it' - just as sometimes we don't 'get" a joke, and it has to be explained to us.

Interestingly, those who were best-dressed in Jesus' day - the religious and political leaders - were the ones who objected most to his message, and ended up undressing and eliminating Him.

They didn't "get it" - the statement about God's goodness and holiness - partly because they had already gotten so much else, materially speaking.

But some people did get it.

John says, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" - the power and authority to become God's very own sons and daughters, to let God fashion us, so we can become "chips off the old block".

When we receive Jesus, when we "get" the riddle, we are born of God: not in a natural sense, but as a supernatural marvel.

Repenting, we start over again, and by the Spirit begin to receive God's characteristics into our character.

People will look at us and be reminded of God's glory: his grace and truth will be as notable as a Nike symbol, or Northern Reflections trademark.

So the task of making God known, interpreting or revealing the divine, becomes ours now.

Jesus isn't physically seen any more on earth, but we are - His body.

Alongside the Bible, it's up to us to narrate God's story and movement towards his beloved Creation: to demonstrate to people that God wants to bless them, get rid of the rags of their sins, and help them become their true self in Christ.

Jack Smith tells the following story of two boys from a poor family who showed him what the meaning of Christmas was all about...("Pattern of Love" - Guideposts Christmas Treasury p.64; Jack Smith, as told to Raymond Knowles)


Let's pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for wrapping up God for us in a parcel -your own body. You are the eternal Word, yet You took the risk of becoming a tiny baby, of being. vulnerable. You served us all the way to Calvary, displaying constantly the wonder of God's care, holiness, and power available to those who would believe. Work in our lives, we pray: fashion us to look like You. Let your love so form us that, like the two boys, our own wants become secondary to the blessings You seek to share with others through us.Amen.