Advent Reading Day 18 – Cosmic Shockwaves
“12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:12- 14
I love the picture that John paints for us in his Gospel of what it means that Jesus came. I believe that the mystery that he writes helps to keep the Christmas story from just becoming another story that we read year after year. It is easy for the story about Jesus’ birth to become rote to us. For those of us who grew up in traditional churches we got used to seeing it acted out by children as they marched down the aisle in terry cloth bathrobes and along the way it somehow lost its punch. For me it became known as the Story of Baby Jesus that got read and acted out every Christmas Eve at the service right before heading home to read “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Somehow, there seemed to be more magic and mystery given to a fat guy in a red suit who could do the impossible with his reindeer than to The Mystery of The Incarnation – God becoming flesh.
I believe if we read John’s Gospel alongside Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ birth we end up with the mystery of all that the incarnation means infused back into the re-telling. John’s first chapter provides an explosion of color onto the scene with mind-blowing and eye-popping considerations that demonstrate that Jesus’ coming was not just about the tiny little baby born in Bethlehem, but rather was a cosmic shockwave that meant that life no longer could be the same. The whole course of history had changed…with special significance for those who put their trust in Jesus.
Consider with me some of what John writes. Let’s let our minds be blown a bit here and allow God to restore the mystery of Christmas in our hearts and minds.
1. Through Jesus’ coming we were given the right to become children of God…born of God. John brings forward a principle that is impossible to adequately wrap our brains around. Through Jesus’ coming we have the right to be born of God. John makes it clear that it has nothing to do with human descent or anscestral line or ethnicity, but rather it all has to do with how God acts in response to our trusting in Jesus. Being God’s people was no longer reserved for those born of Abraham, but now God had opened up the door wide. This was news for the Jewish listeners who saw themselves as born into the Family. God was changing ancestral histories of all who trust in Him…thus welcoming us into His Family. Isn’t it crazy to think about how we are born of God through our trust in Him. He not only reached into history through Jesus, but He is in the business of reaching into the hearts and minds of all who will come to trust Him and He transforms us. We are no longer born of man alone, but we are now re-born of God. John takes us from the mystery of God becoming flesh in Jesus to God reaching into all who believe and bringing them re-birth. It was His Plan…and it is worth savoring this Christmas season.
2. The Word became flesh. Greek ears would have heard this differently than what we hear these words today. We got used to somehow reading over the mystery contained in this phrase, but to them in that day it would have caused a moment of intense tension with the potential of leading to a paradigm shift. To the Greeks the concept of “The Word” was the principle that governed the universe. John is proclaiming that the infinite became packaged in the finite. That which held the whole universe together now was in front of them in human form. It is easy to lose sight of Jesus’ hugeness in the midst of viewing Him in the manger. We need both. We need the humility and the smallness and the frailty of the infant lying in the manger while also recognizing that this is The Word becoming flesh – the One who rules the universe confining Himself to human limitation. The hugeness and the smallness being held in tension – both necessary for us to grasp what Jesus’ coming means. It leads us to worship of The little Baby King who would grow up to be a revolutionary proclaiming and demonstrating The Kingdom instead of a kingdom and who then took up His place as Ruler of All.
The Magi seemed to grasp this as they came to the baby with their uber-extravagant gifts after having journeyed for thousands of miles and then putting themselves at risk in leaving without giving information to Herod. They were not coming to find a baby….they were coming to find The Baby who was The Word made flesh so that they could worship Him. May we find worship rise up within us this Christmas season as we consider The Word became flesh.
3. And made His dwelling among us. The Message says that He moved into the neighborhood. Again, there was something deeper here for the Jewish listeners. It is imagined that upon hearing this they would have remembered about The Tabernacle in the Old Testament. The Tabernacle was the tent where God’s Presence dwelled. So, Jesus in effect pitched His tent among us. He was God’s glory and Presence with us. John continues by talking about glory. When the tent was pitched in the Old Testament, God would show up in His glory by His Presence. He made Himself known – not in some kind of theoretical way, but multi-sensory technicolor sorts of ways in which His Presence was felt and in which He moved powerfully. The people KNEW that He was with Him and they could act in His authority while also expecting that God would move. This idea of God making His glory and Presence and loving kindness known in Jesus is significant. It means that Jesus had the power and ability to change things then and also to change things now. By HIs Presence things can change. By Him pitching His tent among us we can anticipate that He will move and we can KNOW that He is with us in intimacy and power. It is no longer a Tent of Glory, but now The One whom we can know intimately who makes His Presence known to us continually.
May Jesus expand our hearts and minds today with the truth of all that His coming means even still today – The Word, who pitched His tent among us and who gives us rebirth as children of God who can know Him intimately and in power. All of a sudden The Story is once again infused with mystery and ready for us to savor, contemplate and transfix us. May we come to know His Presence in a deeper way today.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for coming. Thank you for making your Presence and your glory known among us. I pray that you would help us to come to know you deeper today and help me to experience Your Presence with me. Break out of the box that I have placed you in. I also repent of how I have at times imagined the fairy tales of Christmas to contain more mystery and magic than Your Story…The True Story. This Christmas I pray that you would show up in my life and the life of those I celebrate with in ways that demonstrate Your power and glory while also drawing us into intimacy with You. Amen.