“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.
Many people love them. The food, friends and family, gifts, music, ambiance, etc. all make it a beautiful and deeply appreciated time of year. Others hate the holidays. There are various reasons for this, such as losing a loved one around that time, broken family, lost friends, loneliness, hectic schedules, even music, ambiance, etc.
But regardless of the baggage a man-made holiday can carry with it, good or bad, there is something profoundly significant behind holidays that everyone should pay heed to, especially of Christmas. True, we don’t know when Christ was actually born, and true, December 25th was chosen centuries after Jesus to compete with pagan celebrations on the same date, but one important fact remains on what it has become – Christmas is basically a celebration of the incarnation of God.
God’s very essence became human. Born into the world as a humble little baby and grew up from boy to man. Why? To be served as the King of the universe that He is? No, not this time. That comes later. He said Himself He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45).
And gave His life He did. Dying on a Roman cross on a Jewish holiday He died to pay off the sins of alienated, rebellious, and broken humanity. Incredible. How can God die? He could because of His humanity, but more, He was raised from the dead three days later because of His divinity. Jesus is therefore the personification of resurrection and eternal life with God after death. As He said, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life…. I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live even if He dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 6.47, 11.25-26) . Jesus calls on all people to believe in the crucified and risen Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, entrusting their eternal destiny to Him.
It doesn’t matter if you hate holidays or love holidays. They won’t last into eternity. Jesus’ question to you is the same – do you believe this?