To Those Who Believe in His Name (John 1:10-12)
Rev. David French
To those who believe in His name. Not to those who believe in Him, but to those who believe in His name. What exactly do you think that means? It certainly seems like something worth knowing when you consider the promise that's attached to that phrase, namely, “He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”
It's on this day, of course, that we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it certainly seems fitting that we take just a few minutes this morning to look again at some of names He has been given for one simple reason -- those names tell us a great deal about who this child is, not only by looking at what He means to us, but in His names, we see what we mean to Him.
We know Him best by the name Jesus, which means “the Lord saves.” We read in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Who are His people? Luke records Jesus replying with these words in chapter 8:21, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.” In other words, those who live believing they are forgiven through Him are His people. We’re also very familiar with the name Christ which means “the Anointed.” We read in Acts 10:38a, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” and again, we read in John 3:34, “For the one whom God has [(anointed) sent] speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.”
There are many other names that this child whose birth we celebrate today is known by. He is called Redeemer because He has redeemed all people by paying for our sins. He is called Prince of Peace because in Him is the peace that comes when we are brought back into a loving relationship with the one who has created us. He is called Wonderful Counselor because He guides us on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake, a path that leads through the cross to our eternal home. He is called many other names as well, all of which point to the work this child would do to bring us back to the Father.
Perhaps the name that’s most reassuring of all is Immanuel which is “God with us.” It is as we consider again the birth of this child that we also remember that while we were and are powerless to get to heaven to find out what God is really like, He, in His mercy, came to us on this day in the flesh to reveal to His heart to mankind. That’s what we celebrate today, God's gift of Himself to each of us, but this is not where it ends, this day we celebrate was only the beginning.
As Christians we rejoice not only in Christ’s past coming, but also with His presence among us today. God is with us every day. For Christians He’s seen most clearly in His Word and sacraments. Others, however, have a very hard time seeing Him at all. They hear His Word and only hear the words of men. They look at communion and see only bread and wine. They see only water in baptism. They look in the cradle and see a baby, nothing more.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, we’re really no different than any of them o anyone else who has passed through this world before us. We are sinful people loved by God as all people have been. We are people who turn away from God’s love as all people have done. We are people who often reject His Word as many continue to do. The difference is, by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit thorough Word and sacrament, we believe.
What comfort we have because of verse 12, “... to those who believe in His name He gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband’s will but born of God.” How can we find anything but hope and comfort in these words of the apostle John. We, who when left on our own can only deny God and His mercy, have been adopted as His own children, not because of our will, but because of His. We have heard from God Himself that all our sins have been put upon His Son, the very one whose manger we peek into this morning. He willingly takes our burdens and fears, our hurts and frustrations, our hopelessness and doubts, our cares and concerns. He takes them all to the Cross, and carrying our guilt, He faced God’s wrath with nothing but trust.
We find, in the outstretched arms of Christ, a Savior who knows our deepest fears, and He understands the weakness that leads to our doubts about Him. The fears we try to hide with a mask of strength, He uncovers and brings into His warm and shinning light. He sees our wounded and hurting lives, and He heals them with His death and by His words of love and forgiveness. There is much this child has and will do for you if only you believe.
Fear not, little lambs, for the Savior comes for you. He takes your stained life and washes you clean in the water and the Word. He renews your strength with His own body and blood. He gives, expecting nothing in return. He cradles you in His arms like a mother cradles her child.
We have seen the glory of God because we have been brought into the light of His love and found favor through the forgiveness of our sins. As we see the truth about ourselves, we also see the truth about Him and how gracious and merciful He is. We have all fallen short of God's glory, and yet He makes us His own. Do not hide your heart from this child -- for in Him alone we have forgiveness and life.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.