Children and Christmas celebration seem to go together. In John 1:10–13 the Apostle makes the point that the Word coming into the world gives to those who believe in him the right to be children of God.
Understand the world’s rejection of Jesus. The world rejected its Creator! In v.5 John hinted at the conflict between light and darkness. Now the world’s rejection of Christ becomes explicit. “World” occurs three times in v.10, first in its clause each time, and with a progression from a neutral reference to the creation to identifying the body of sinful rebellion against God. Although he was in the world, the world which he had made, it did not know him. The world refused to recognize him for who he is. It refused to render him the honor and worship he deserves. Matthew details the murderous intent of Herod. The people, by and large, simply ignored the greatest event to that point in the history of the world! Men still ignore it. Yes, I am disturbed by efforts to root out of public life any mention of Christ at Christmas time. But the self-centered complacency of our culture is an even more serious rejection of the eternal Word.
Jesus came to his own—and they refused to receive him. Isaiah spoke of his coming–of his coming as a child–but not just any child. He descibes the birth of a Son who is Emmanuel. He is a Son, but his name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He came to “that which was his own,” to the people whom he had created, and with whom he had entered into a covenant relationship. Note the references to God’s covenant in the chapter: the giving of the law, v.17; the revelation of God, v.18; the coming of the messenger, v.23; John’s baptizing, the call to covenantal purity, v.28; the coming of the Spirit on the Messiah, v.32, cf. Isaiah 11:2; and the echo of Jacob’s vision, v. 51. “His own” here could be translated “home.” Home is where one would expect to be received and welcomed. Tragically, Jesus came to those who prided themselves on being the children of Abraham–and thus God’s children, John 8:33,39, to those who were in a covenant relationship with God, but were living as children of the devil, John 8:42-47. The real tragedy of Christmas would be for those who are called by the name of Christ to ignore him, to live as though he weren’t really there. Those who know who Jesus is and live without fellowship with his people, who try to live outside the bounds of his will as revealed in the Scriptures, are in the same position as those who rejected him when he first came to earth. And they do so with less excuse, for their knowledge of him is far greater.
Live as a child of God. Believe on his name. God dealt with the problem of rebellious children by sending his Son. He sent him “when the time had fully come.” This was not some accidental juncture, it was not even just when his historical preparations had been fully made (although that is true). It was when God’s time was full, Galatians 4:4. God entered this sin-cursed world and brought about a radical change. In the coming of Jesus Christ (not just his birth, but also his life, suffering, death and resurrection) God has brought about the end of the old age and the beginning of the new. As widespread as the rejection of the Messiah was and is, John doesn’t want to tell you it is universal. There were, and are, those who receive him. God calls you to trust in, to depend on his Son. The only way to covenant fellowship with God is by faith in Jesus Christ. The “Name” in which you believe is more than a randomly selected label. It reveals the character, the nature, the real person involved. “The name” reminds you that Jesus entered this world to deal with the enslaving power of sin. You have been set free and you can and must serve him. “The name” reflects the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that you need to reflect him in the daily decisions of life as well as the major ones. “The name” means comfort and assurance as you recognize that in him God is truly with you. Believing on the name involves a reorientation of your life. Instead of being directed by self, it will begin to follow Christ.
Receive the right to be God’s child. Translations of v.12 vary between “power” and “right” or “authority.” John’s word includes both concepts. By nature we are children of wrath. We lack both the right and the ability to be God’s children. But God, in the fullness of time, sent his Son, so that we might receive the full rights of sons, Galatians 4:4. Perhaps the children here today don’t have too much trouble with the idea of being children of God. But why should a grown man or woman want to be a child? John is not talking of being childish, but rather of the rights, honor, and blessing that result from having God as your Father. You have been adopted into the family of God. “It is the Spirit of adoption who produces the highest confidence that is given to men to exercise in relation to God. The people of God thereby recognize not only Christ as their Redeemer and Saviour, high priest and advocate at God’s right hand, not only the Holy Spirit as their sanctifier and advocate, not only the Father as the one who has called them into the fellowship of his Son but also as the one who has instated them in his family, and they enter into the holiest in the assurance that he, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, will own them and bless them as his own children. No approach to God partakes of comparable intimacy, confidence, and love with that of the simple, yet unspeakably eloquent, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Collecte Writings of John Murray, Vol. 2, pages 229–230) The alternative to sonship is not independence, but slavery, Galatians 4:7. John makes it clear that he is not talking of ordinary childbirth, v.13. Your status as a child of God rests, not on the ordinary principles of birth and descent, but on the will of God. He, not we, receives the credit for the relationship. The good news about Christmas is for children. But that means that it is for all of God’s people. You have become part of his family because the Word came into the world. Grasp the awe that seized John, the wonderful privilege of being God’s children: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1. You come to God as your Father. You rest in his care. You depend upon him for life itself. And, as you look at all that he has done, you life to his glory and honor.
The excitement and awe of children is an important part of Christmas. May God give you the grace to share in that awe and joy, regardless of your age, as you realize your privilege of being a child of God.