Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, January 21, 2022
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The Word Became Flesh

John 1:1-14 and 18

 Each of the four Gospels presents a unique portrait of Jesus.  They’re not different portraits of Jesus.  It’s not as if we have four different pictures of Jesus and we have to wonder which one is real.  But they are unique.  Each author emphasizes certain aspects of his identity, his mission, his character.  To do this, they tell certain parts of the story and leave out other parts of the story.  None of them could tell everything there is to be said about Jesus, so they each paint a unique portrait.

 Normally at Christmas time, we hear from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke because they are the two Gospel writers who tell us about Jesus’ birth.  We heard from Luke tonight.  Luke was a student of history.  So he puts Jesus’ birth into historical perspective.  He tells us when and where and how Jesus was born.  He lets us know that it was a real, historical event, not some flight of fancy.  Jesus was a real person born in a real place and a real time.  

 On the other hand, John has no interest in that.  It’s not that he doesn’t know when and where Jesus was born; it’s just not important to the portrait he is painting.  John is focused on the “cosmic significance” of Jesus’ birth:  Why was Jesus born?  Who is Jesus?  What does his birth mean?  

 John starts his Gospel with the words, “In the beginning.”  Obviously, he is reminding us of Genesis and the story of Creation.  “In the beginning was the Word.”  The Greek word for Word is LOGOS.  What did it mean?  What did it mean to the Hebrew people?  What did it mean to non-Hebrews?  

 To the Hebrew mind, the “Word” was used to describe the Creator.  Psalm 33:6 says, “The Lord spoke and the heavens were created.  He breathed the word, and the stars were born.”  The Word was also God’s message to his people.  Word was used for God’s Law, his commandments to his people.  And finally, Word was used as a personification, an embodiment, of God’s wisdom.  So the Hebrew mind would identify the Word with God’s creation, God’s word, God’s law, and God’s wisdom.  But they would not say that the Word is God.  That’s where John takes this idea beyond the understanding of his people.

 On the other hand, to the Greek, LOGOS meant “a principle of reason that held the universe together” and governed all of creation.  So to the Greek LOGOS was more the sense of sustaining creation.  

 John tells us that the LOGOS was in the beginning.  He is the Creator.  He is the life-giver and light-bringer.  He is God.  And then John says something that both the Hebrew mind and the Greek mind would find so difficult to comprehend:  The Word became flesh; he became a human being.  

And he “lived on earth among us.”  Actually, that’s not really the best translation.  Literally, it says, “He tabernacle among us.”  Tabernacle is just another word for tent.  The Word pitched a tent among us.  Scripture reminds us over and over again that for children of God, this world is not our home.  This is the place of our exile, our temporary residence.  We are foreigners and nomads on the earth.  Likewise, Jesus didn’t make this world his home permanently, but he did “pitch his tent with us” for a time when he became flesh.  

What does it mean to say the Word became flesh?  Well, it means that he entered into everything it means to be flesh.  This is the wonder of the incarnation, of God become flesh.  Immortal, invisible, all-powerful God became flesh.  He became flesh that can die, flesh that can be seen, flesh that is weak.  To be flesh is to know what it means to be cold, tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely, sad, and afraid.  To be flesh is to know loss, hurt, disappointment, pain, and a thousand more experiences.  

But God becoming flesh also means that we can know God in a way we never could before.  John says, “No one has ever seen God.  But the one and only Son, who is God, who is near to the Father’s heart, has told us about him.”  The phrase “near to the Father’s heart,” is literally, “in the Father’s side,” a Hebrew way of talking about the deepest intimacy.  Jesus lets us know God in a way we never could before.  I can tell you about a person I know from sun up to sun down, but unless you meet them in person, you never really know them, right?  In the same way, in Jesus, we meet God in person.  

I think it’s hard for us to conceive of how people knew God before the Incarnation.  How you know what God is like if you can’t see him and observe his behavior?  We don’t have to wonder about those things.  We can pick up the Gospels and see what God did.  We see God’s character because Jesus reveals it to us.  

What does the Incarnation reveal to us?  

First, the Incarnation assures us beyond any doubt that God loves us immensely.  God wants relationship with us so much that he was willing to enter into all the struggles of this earthly life.  He was even willing to die for us.  Nothing could assure us

of God’s love more than Jesus dying on the cross for our sins to restore us to a right relationship with God.  

Second, the Incarnation assures us that we are not alone in our struggles.  Whatever we are going through, Jesus experienced the same kinds of struggles, hurts, and temptations.  He is with us in the midst of our struggles.  

And finally, Jesus holds out before us a wonderful offer.  He came to bring us good news.  The good news is that to all who believe and receive him, he gives the right to become children of God.  We can be reborn.  We can have a new start.

We have all experienced physical birth.  It gave us physical life and connected us to a family.  But in Christ, we can experience spiritual birth.  It gives us spiritual life and connects us to the family of God.  And there is light and life in Christ.  

But this offer is only for those who receive him.  It is good news that demands a decision.  Many to whom Christ came in the flesh did not receive him.  Many still do not.  Jesus said in John 3, “The light from heaven has come into the world, but some people hate the light.”  

The coming of Christ in the flesh is good news, but only for those who respond to it.  The most wonderful event in the history of the world is meaningless if we do not respond to Christ.  Christmas is only the most wonderful time of the year if we know the one who came to us in the flesh.  

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