The awesome gift of Christmas is God in the flesh. But after Jesus grew up, died for our sins and rose from the dead, He ascended to the right hand of God the Father and is hidden from our sight. The world doesn't let us forget. "You can't see Jesus. You didn't see Him rise from the dead. None of it's true. It's all made-up foolishness." But we have a very real and solid connection to Jesus so that we know He is real and though we cannot see Him, that He is with us: the Word of God. The Gospel, the Good News which was proclaimed by eyewitnesses. That's why we celebrate St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist today. (This is not John the Baptist, this is John, James' brother, the fisherman who was one of the Twelve.) In fact, the church, in sticking St. John's festival day just a couple of days after Christmas, is giving us this reminder of what it is that connects us to Christmas and Christ's gifts to us today. Eyewitnesses! In this particular case, John the Apostle and Evangelist. He's an Apostle because He was one of the original Twelve that Jesus Himself called to witness His life and death and resurrection and to go and preach it to all nations. He is called an Evangelist because He is one of the four Gospel writers. John Himself reminds us that He is an eyewitness in His epistle. He saw the eternal life manifested, in the flesh. He saw Jesus! And He declares Him to us. This is important. Without St. John and the rest of the Apostles and Evangelists, Christmas would just be a nice story that pops up once a year and causes us to bake cookies and buy presents for people. But because of John, the facts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are really witnessed. They are real and John tells us so. Why should we believe Him?
Let me ask you something. How many of you believe in your parents? Well, of course you do. You know them. Some of you are sitting with them right now. How about your grandparents? Were they real? Sure. You probably know or knew them. Great grandparents? Maybe you didn't know them personally but you may have heard stories from your grandparents or parents. How about great-great-grandparents? Great-great-great-grandparents? Obviously they were real or you wouldn't be here! But of course others knew them. Maybe they wrote letters or there are pictures. Now let's go back a little farther. Do you believe in Abraham Lincoln? George Washington? King Henry VIII? Julius Caesar? King Tut? Sure. Because we have writings and other evidence that they were real. That they existed. So when it comes to Jesus, same thing. Eyewitnesses. This is the testimony of John. He was there when Jesus turned water into wine. He was there when Jesus did lots of other signs. John was there at the cross when Jesus breathed His last. And John was one of the first few disciples who got a look at the empty tomb and who saw Jesus the evening He rose from the dead. John is a guy you could ask: Did Jesus really die and come back to life? Sure did. John saw it. Now if it were just John, we might be skeptical, but there were lots of disciples who saw Jesus and heard Him and saw Him alive after Easter. And this is the eywitness testimony they delivered, which is good news for you: Jesus Christ actually lived and died and rose again. He is the eternal life that is manifested among us because His death and resurrection defeat your sin and death.
So we've got Jesus for real, doing His saving stuff. And we've got John, the eyewitness. But he saw it, not us. That's where what he wrote comes in. As an Evangelist, this eyewitness wrote down what he saw and heard. So now it's preserved for the generations that come after Him. It's there for the church ever since John to hear and believe. He says that in the Gospel and in his epistles and he tells what he saw in Revelation, too. And when Jesus says "What is it to you that he remains until I come," He's hinting that John will be the Apostle who is around until the New Testament is written. You see, when people were writing Gospels and Epistles, you could always check in with John and say, "Did that really happen? Did Jesus say that? Did He do that?" And John could tell you yes or no. Then, when all the New Testament was written, John could die. So while John may not be around, his witness and testimony still are...in the Bible! This is why the Bible is a reliable book, even though lots of people laugh at it and think it's made up. The fact is, there are more copies of the Bible than any other ancient book. Thousands of copies. And they all say the same thing: Jesus died and rose. This is what we mean when we confess the "one, holy, Christian, and apostolic" church. It means that your pastor preaches what John the Apostle did: that Jesus died for you and rose again. It's this same Jesus who baptizes you and feeds you with His body and blood and forgives you all your sins. So Christmas is real. Jesus was really born. He lived, died, and rose again. For you. And that is given to you by the testimony of John which is written down in the Holy Scriptures and preached to you today in Christ's church. So you can be certain, because of St. John, of all that Jesus did and accomplished as your Savior. John the Apostle and Evangelist is part of the connection between Christmas and you now. So Happy festival of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist and Merry Christmas! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: John