The Word became Flesh
The Word became Flesh
Today John takes us back to the beginning. The beginning of all things and the beginning of Christ’s incarnation. In a way that only John can we are reminded of just how wonderful and compelling the news of Jesus coming to dwell among us is. That the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Good news for us, good news to share with creation.
Scripture: John 1: 1-18
Welcome to a new year. No doubt on Friday evening you found a way to ring in the new year. Perhaps a more subdued occasion, with fewer people, than in years past. Still we mark the occasion, we step through the threshold leaving 2021 behind and looking forward with tempered hope for 2022. There are many who a happy, quick, content to leave 2021 the year that was behind us. Good riddance to it and many of the painful realities we endured due to Covid-19.
A friend recently remarked that rather than moving past it quickly, perhaps we should resist that notion in favour of examining 2021. I believe there is wisdom in that, otherwise we fail to learn from the experience of the past year. We do something similar with our reading from John’s gospel this morning. We return, in a sense, to the birth of Jesus. Though we are on the second Sunday of Christmas and the events of the manger are in our rear-view mirror, John brings us back to Christmas Eve as only John’s gospel can.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
That sentence alone is worth going back and examining again.
Elisabeth Johnson writes, “Of course, the baby in the manger is only the beginning of God’s message to us in the Word-made-flesh. But in this baby, we begin to see and understand the very heart of God. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). In the Word-made-flesh, we see a heart so full of love for us that it will go to any length to reach us. It will stop at nothing to make us God’s own. Not even the frailty of human flesh nor the darkness of suffering and death can keep God from us, nor us from God.” (Elisabeth Johnson)
John’s gospel allows us to see the birth of Jesus in a different light. Rather than in the form of the baby and the image of the holy family, we are presented with the Word made flesh. God, through Christ, comes to dwell with us. It’s important to pay attention to this. Throughout the year we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the birth of Jesus. In December, in Advent we look forward to the birth. On Christmas Eve it is all consuming and then we move on. However, throughout the year we as Christians focus a lot, and I do mean a lot, on the death of Jesus. We hear things like Jesus died for us. Through Christ’s death we are forgiven. The symbol of our faith is the cross, the very thing Jesus hung on and died. Christianity focuses on the cross and the death of Jesus. Today’s passage reads, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us…” The focus is Jesus coming and living among us. The focus is not on the death, but on the life of Jesus.
Karoline Lewis asks, “Did Jesus have to live for this…?” Asking should this question preface what we do as the church. If we only focus on the death of Jesus and how that is our salvific moment, then that lets us off the hook for our own living. Returning to Lewis she writes, “It becomes the reason to glorify death when death is painful, awful, and heart-wrenching. It becomes the reason to locate salvific speech only in suffering. And it becomes, ultimately, a truncated theology—at least for John’s [gospel], where God’s revelation and God’s love and God’s grace are experienced abundantly (John 10:10) in the incarnation and crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. John’s Gospel is a correction of our sentimentalism of the incarnation, whether that be our picture of the baby Jesus in the manger or his suffering on the cross.” (Karoline Lewis)
John’s gospel reminds us that Christ is the very Word of God. The embodiment of the law. Yes, Christ’s death is important, yes Christ’s birth is important, but the Word becoming flesh and living among us should both exhilarate and terrify us. God cares enough for us to come and walk the Good earth God created. To teach us, to lead us, to heal us, to love us and offer us grace.
Grace is mentioned four times in this passage. Otherwise, it is not a word that John uses often in his gospel, but here in the opening section the word is used four times.
- Full of grace and truth
- Out of his fullness we have all received grace
- In place of grace already given
- Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ
Who is this God that comes to dwell with us? The Word made flesh, full of grace and truth.
As we look back on what was and simultaneously look forward to what we hope might be, it is vital for us to remember that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God chose to come down and live with us. God chose to feel the pain, the agony, the defeat, the frustration of human existence. But so too did God choose to feel the joy, the laughter, the bliss, the excitement of human existence. God chose to become flesh and dwell among us.
Why would God do this? Because of the other great truth that John reminds us of in this passage. In this alternate reading to the birth of Jesus we are reminded of the one thing that I believe we need to hear now more than ever.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
It might seem bleak, but God is with us. Christ came, became flesh, dwelt among us to remind us that even in the darkest of times God prevails. Walk with God, dwell with Christ and know that the light of God’s grace will never go out. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
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