Have you ever seen the mighty Gateway Arch of St. Louis? Created of steel and aluminum, it rises to a majestic 630 feet in the sky. Looking translucent and ethereal in the Midwest sunshine of America, it is known as the Gateway to the West–through which one can enter a vast region of prairies and magnificent mountains.
God’s Gateway, however, in the unfolding cadences of John’s Prologue, is in another league altogether. That Gateway being none other than a Person, whose title is “The Word,” and through whom any man or woman can enter into the status of a child of God. Life–eternal life–lies on the other side of this open gateway that the first Christmas inaugurated. We sing about it in the famous carol:
He hath ope’d the heavenly door
And we are blessed for evermore!
The dimensions of this Gateway to life are stupendous.
The Height of Christmas
There is a difference between the “beginnings” recorded in the Book of Genesis and in the Gospel of John. For while Genesis moves us on from the statement about creation and down into the story of God’s involvement with the human race, John moves backward from the beginning and takes the reader upward into heaven and the far reaches of eternity before time ever began.
John, in his use of the term “The Word” to describe Jesus, is saying, “Let’s see where Christmas really began. You think that it began when the river of time reached as far as the reign of Caesar Augustus? Think again–go back further upstream. You think that it all started at the time of the creation? Go back further still and learn that the pre-existent Christ was eternally present with the Father. Give Christmas its proper dimension of limitless height!”
Look at Genesis: “And God said, ‘Let there be light….’ Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation. …’ Then God said, ‘Let us make man. …’” (Genesis 1:3, 11, 26, NIV).
God only has to speak–and it happens! That is powerful speaking.
John’s Prologue tells us that it was actually by a Person that God spoke–by that part of the Godhead who has always been there, the second Person of the Trinity. Creation burst into being by this personified Word. John is careful to get Christ’s scope right before he says a thing about Him. Here is God’s eternal Word in Person! The writer of Hebrews says, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2, NIV). The “Word of God” is a Person. “His name is the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13, NIV). So we must begin higher up when we look at Christmas and its Gateway.
The Breadth of Christmas
John writes of Christ’s coming in universal terms. “Through him all things were made. … that through him all men might believe. … The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:3, 7, 9, NIV, emphasis added). The Word became flesh; this immediately created a divinely provided bridge between heaven and the whole of humanity. There is not one person on earth who can say, “Christ doesn’t apply to me; I stand outside all of that.”
The embrace of Christ is not limited to a single region of the world. The adherents of some belief systems can immediately be recognized by their dress code, hairstyles, tastes, fasts and pilgrimage sites. Not so with those who pass through the gateway opened by Jesus. We come from everywhere.
The Depth of Christmas
John’s Prologue does not neglect the darker, somber side of the Christmas Story–the depth to which our human fall has dragged us: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10-11, KJV).
The irony of it. No sooner was the Baby of Bethlehem born than a frenzied attempt was made to kill Him–involving the wiping out of every baby boy in the area. There were, and are today, plenty who have tried to bar the door to Christ, people who will indeed try everything except life under Christ’s leadership.
In words that reflect the futility of living without Christ, Lord Byron, one of the greatest English romantic poets, described his own experience as follows: “Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump of fame; drank early, deeply drank; drank draughts which common millions might have drunk. Then died of thirst because there was no more to drink.”
So there is irony, hurt, pain and rejection from the first Christmas onward. This ought not to surprise us.
The Length of Christmas
Back to the positive! “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV).
The offer is permanent and for all time. There is no end to the light that shines from Christ into the lives of those who receive Him. Such will never be overtaken by the darkness. His blessings are forever.
Take a look again at John’s description of Christmas, and see if you don’t agree with Augustine’s comment of 16 centuries ago: “This Child of the manger fills the world.” The gateway to life that He provides by His coming will accommodate all who are meek enough to accept Him.