From Marvin Gaye's 1971 song "What's going on?"; to the 80's "what's up?"; to the Hispanic que pasa, what's happening is a great conversation starter. In our text, God is doing much more that starting a conversation.
What's happening is the focus of John 1: 1-18. Forms of ginomai occur 9 times. The word is not used at all in the first two verses. There John establishes what is' using forms of the to be' verb. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." From verse 3 on the Holy Spirit dives into what's happening. He doesn't use the terminology of creation: create, do, make. He uses ginomai which describes what comes to pass, became, appeared, is happening.
No translation captures the flavor of this. Let me try. By the Word all things happened, and without Him happened not a thing which forever happened. There happened a man sent from God. His name was John. The world happened by Jesus even though the world knew Him not. As many as received Jesus, He gave power to become sons of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John said the One coming after me happened before me. Grace and truth happened by Jesus.
This isn't a readable English translation, but you can see the point the Holy Spirit wants to emphasize. Nothing happens without God the Son: No creation, no salvation, no proclamation, no adoption as sons, no God with us, no grace and truth for us. What's happening? Apart from God the Son taking on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary not a thing.
In Revelation chapter 5 John is shown in pictures what he states here that only Jesus can make history happen. John is taken into the throne room of God, and sees the Father on the throne holding a scroll with seven seals. The scroll is all reality, all history, all you. This is your story. This is your life. If this doesn't get unrolled nothing happens.
A mighty angel thunders the question on everyone's mind: Who is worthy to open this scroll? Who is powerful enough to break the seals? No one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth is worthy or able. At this news John "weeps greatly"; great shuddering sobs shake his shoulders. John is brought to tears in holy heaven because if this scroll remains sealed nothing happens. There is no life, no love, no hope, no heaven.
A Lion comes on the scene. He's described as "a Lamb standing as having been slain." Now you just think Steven Hawkins, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Asimov have some out of this world ideas, some mind-bending things to say. Scripture tops them all. In Revelation 5, we're shown the Lamb standing as having been slain. In chapter 13, we're told this Lamb was slain before the world was even created.
This is the real Lamb of God that carried away the sins of the world which the Passover Lamb symbolized. When the Lamb is shown laying down it points to His humiliating suffering and death for sinners such as us. Since Communion is a proclamation of the death of Christ the Lamb is laying down on top of some Communion vessels used to hold the Body of Christ. When you leave church, you see the Lamb on the back window standing and a banner with a cross through His body. This historic symbol conveys what John saw "a Lamb standing as having been slain."
But right now we're at Christmas not Easter. Right now He's 9 months into His humiliation, into His being a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief, into bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows. Right now we're at the 3rd window from the lectern. There the Lamb is again laying down, and He's on a book. The artist who designed these windows says this is the Book with the Seven Seals. And he's right. The only way for all of history to happen, your history to happen was for the Lamb of God to suffer, bleed, cry, and die. Though it happened at a point of time, in a place it time, it had to have happened before anything was even created because as verse 3 says all things through Him happened, and without Him happened not a thing which forever happened.
I know your thoughts might be swimming now. I know you may just want to sing "Joy to the Word" and get on with the presents and the party. And this is certainly the milk of the season, but if you want the meat, if you want something to sink not just your teeth into but your very soul, you'll want to ponder this Lamb and the seven-sealed scroll that no one in all of heaven, earth, or the underworld can open. Don't you see that this reality is the stuff of myths? This is the reality behind Hercules and His 12 labors.
Hercules was half man and half god. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. The One eternal God took on flesh and blood in the Person of the Son, so grace and truth could happen in your time, your space. He was the only Man worthy to make it happen. All other men were fallen, besotted with sin and sinfulness, only able to make happen more sins, more falls, more tragedy, more death. The One born of Mary was born under the Law like all other men, but able to keep the law unlike no man. And He was the Man powerful enough to make grace and truth happen in a fallen world because He wasn't only True Man. He was True God too. The Greek god Atlas was condemned to hold up the sky on his shoulders. The true God willingly shoulders the sins of humanity on His human shoulders to carry them to the cross and pay for them there in His body. And the True God with a human voice speaks His powerful word upholding all things so that life can happen.
You casually say, "What's happening?" But when you ask, what's going to happen now? Or, what's going to happen to me? you are at a major turning point in life. You're probably at a cliff brought there by Death, Disease, the Devil, or Sin. If you don't think Sin can lead you here, then you didn't hear about that congressman who killed himself rather than face what would happen next.
How are What's going to happen to me? Or What's going to happen now? answered in movies, TV, and make believe? Always with, "Everything will be fine." Or, "It will all work out." Do you want a truthful answer to those two questions? Do you want to know how God's answers them?
He answers them with truth because Jesus was sent into the world to make truth happen. And because He was sent into a fallen world, the first truth He confronts us with is the truth of your sins, the truth of your death, and the truth of your devils. And when that truth hits home I find that I am undone; it's over; it's not happening. It's like my Atlas shrugged and the sky is really falling.
But the truth of my sin is not the only truth that happened. And you have to see an advance here. The Law was given by Moses. Moses can't make anything happen. Jesus made happen grace and truth. When He took on flesh, He Himself was full of God's grace and truth, so He was able to make them happen for His fellow man. And the first thing holy grace and truth do to unholy people is expose that they are full of sin and death. But that's not all they make happen.
Here's the truth about what's going to happen now, about what's going to happen to you, and I don't care how many your sins, how serious your sin, how terrible your disease, or how heavy your sorrows. Grace is going to happen to you. The Lamb of God is worthy, powerful enough, and willing to make that happen. Peter describes it this way: "You were redeemed not with perishable things like silver or goldbut with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb unblemished and spotless."
God is a Spirit and as such has no blood. He takes on not only flesh but blood in time in the Person of His Son. Because it is the blood of God and not just man, it's precious enough to redeem you from the Devil who had a claim on you because of your many sins. Because it's God's blood, it is thick enough to cover that sin. Because it's God's blood, it determines what happens next not your disease, not your sorrow, not governments, not others, not even you.
Look at what happens to everyone we know who came in contact with the newborn Savior of the world. Does anyone go away worried about what is going to happen to me or what is going to happen next? The shepherds are described as "glorying and praising God." Old Simon "praised and thanked God." And aged Anna "returned thanks to God." Seriously? What on earth could these old people and shepherds be looking forward to happening in their lives?
Everything that's what. Go home and read Revelation 5. All heaven breaks out in prayer, thanks, song, and glory when the Lamb is shown to be worthy and able to open the sealed scroll, to make it happen, to make all things happen. Because the eternal Lamb of God steps into time, He is able to make earthly time happen and to make eternity happen for earthlings. Because a Man born in time has been taken into the eternal Godhead, He has made all men worthy to share in eternal things.
O I'm sorry. Did you think all that could happen to you was confined to what you could image, what you were worthy or capable of? Did you think God took on flesh and blood to redeem you for only what could happen in a few short years on a fallen planet that's no more than dot in the universe? Did you think all that happened to the unblemished, spotless Lamb of God was only to make happen for you a few great Christmases on earth?
George Strait has a song about boy for whom going fishing, getting his first car, and getting married, could be the best thing that ever happened. God writes a better song than George Strait sings. David hears it in 2 Sam. 7 and is blown away. David wants to make happen a temple for God in time. God tells him He will make things happen for him and all sons of David not just in time but eternally and not even the sky is the limit.
What's happening? In Jesus, more than we think, deserve, or appreciate. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Christmas Day (20171225); John 1: 1-18