“In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1.1, 14a.
This passage is heavy on my mind this Christmas. It presents the glory of God and the meaning of Christmas in a powerful way.
John’s Gospel doesn’t open with an actual story about Jesus’ birth, as Matthew and Luke do. We are very familiar with those narratives. But John has a prologue speaking in terms of the Word, or in Greek, logos. Logos as understood by Greeks as the controlling force and rationality behind the universe, and to Jews, the revelation, words, actions, and power of God. The prologue to John in verses 1-13 is an epic sweeping statement of the majesty of the mystery of God, beginning with the pre-existence of the Word of God, the Word’s creative power in making everything, how the Word is true life, and true Light, how John the Baptist testified to the need to believe in Him, yet how most reject Him, yet again those who believe in Him are re-born by God’s power to be God’s very children. And into these expansive and high ideas come this piercing sentence that just sort of hangs in the air and makes everything still, as if I should hold my breath at the stupendous wonder of it: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Imagine that.
The Logos, what everyone is looking and longing for, this thing that creates and controls the universe, who is Creator, the Word of God, the personfication of God, true life and light… became human. A human being like us, with a heartbeat, bones, blood, and body tissue. That holy, all-powerful Spirit God would have the humility and character to become like one of us and wander around on this rock hanging out in space in order to redeem a people who hate Him is beyond me.
He “dwelt among us.” This word in the Greek is skeno. It happens to be the same word used for “pitching a tent” or “encamping” Himself among us. The word is also used of the tabernacle, the tent of worship to Yahweh when Israel was in the wilderness with Moses. The days of Moses and the tabernacle were the “good old days” of Jewish history, when God was doing mighty miracles and deliverances for Israel, where sacrifices were offered to God and where the visible glory of God in the form of a cloud dwelt.
But John’s Gospel is saying something beyond the glory days of Moses is here. The eternal God of our ancestors has become visible again, and of all things, as a human being. And He is everything He was in Moses’ day. And more.