The Word Became Flesh (1st Sunday after Christmas)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 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.
“The Word Became Flesh”
1st Sunday After Christmas - December 31, 2017
Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda - St. Matthew’s, Savannah
In John 1, we find perhaps the clearest explanation in the Bible of what was happening “behind the scenes” in Jesus’ birth on Christmas. Luke and Matthew tell us about the on-the-ground events of what happened with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but John looks at the deeper truths about God that are revealed through that baby boy in the manger.
We start all the way at the beginning. Not the beginning of Jesus’ life, but the beginning of time. The Word of God is the eternal “Son of God”, from before time, from before all Creation. Christians believe that God was always Trinity; people just didn’t always know it. The Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, was in the beginning with God. God created the universe through the Word. Everything that came from the Word was life and light.
The remarkable truth of Christianity is that God did remain far away from us. God came as close as possible to the creation. The Word, the only begotten Son of God, became flesh. The Word became a human being, a baby boy named Jesus, born in Nazareth to the unwed Virgin Mary.
According to Church Tradition, Jesus was one person who was fully God and fully human. The Nicene Creed says he is eternally “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”, and “by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate [en-fleshed] from the Virgin Mary and was made man” (BCP, 358).
Later, Christians clarified that Jesus was 100% God and 100% human, and that miraculously, that didn’t add up to 200%. He wasn’t two people, but the God-Nature and the human-nature existed together within him. Neither eliminated the other, but they coexisted peacefully. (See the “Definition” from the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 AD; BCP, p. 864.)
The Word of God became flesh and lived among us. God didn’t just send another messenger. God didn’t send another book of law or prophecies. God came down and met us face to face. God changed the the rules of the game.
This is important because what God did by becoming human was elevate humanity. God honored the Creation by becoming present among us. God created all people in the Image of God, but through sin, we covered up and defaced that image. Only Christ, the Word of God, is the Perfect Image of the Father, so when the Word was made flesh, God restored that Image for all human beings.
We often talk about God becoming human as sort of moral example. Jesus was the perfect, sinless human being, so he shows us how we ought to live. If only we can just work harder at being perfect like him. There is a kernel of truth here. Jesus does show us God’s will for the human race: Verse 18 says, “It is God the only Son [Jesus], who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
But if we think that Jesus simply shows us more “oughts” and “ought nots”, then we’re missing the bigger point. Jesus is not just a new Law. He doesn’t simply replace “eye for an eye” with “love your neighbor.” Having new rules doesn’t actually empower us to follow them. We failed under the Old Testament Law just as badly as we have failed under the New Testament. But Jesus does more than just give us new “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Jesus fulfills the Law. He completes it. He transforms our whole relationship to God.
Jesus later says to the disciples, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). And Paul further explains, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5).
We aren’t God’s slaves. We aren’t like dogs who work hard to obey all the rules so that the Master can say, “Good boy!” or “Good girl!” Through the Son Jesus, God adopts us as children. God elevates human beings to the status of princes and princesses in the Reign of God. When we are joined to Christ in baptism, we become co-heirs with him. We receive the inheritance promised to the Son. And the inheritance is “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; There is no law against such things” (Gal 5:22-23).
So, Jesus doesn’t just come to show us how to be human in some shallow way. God did not become flesh simply to give us a to-do list of good deeds we should accomplish. We’re not just soldiers in “God’s Army” with new marching orders from Jesus.
Instead, God became flesh in order to wrap all of humankind in God’s good nature. Jesus does for human beings what we can’t do for ourselves. He makes us beloved children of God, adopted into God’s family through the only Son, Jesus Christ. God loves us and gives us more than we can ever ask or imagine. God is just good to us, even when we don’t deserve it. Period. End of discussion. Amen.