“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Day
Wednesday, December 25, 2019

“The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us” (John 1:1-18)

In the Holy Gospel for today, the apostle John tells us the unfathomable mystery and the joyous wonder of the baby born on Christmas Day. John writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

No greater words were ever written. John 1:14 is one of the most profound verses in the whole Bible, in one of the most profound passages, the prologue of John’s gospel. We could spend hours exploring the depths of this majestic prologue, there’s so much here. But even for a few minutes now, let’s ponder and treasure this great mystery known as the incarnation.

To start with, who is it that John is talking about here when he says, “The Word became flesh”? John introduced this term “the Word” back in verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word.” John’s language here recalls the opening verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is the creation account. God created all things by his word: “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And it was so.” “And God said. . .” The word was God’s creative power.

Now John says, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Greek word for “Word” that John uses here is “Logos.” This term “Logos” has to do with “intelligent thought,” “reasoned speech,” and “wisdom.” The Jews saw Wisdom as the creative power and thought of God. Wisdom was almost personified as the architect and artist in the work of creation. In a similar way, Greek philosophers saw the Logos as a sort of “universal reason” that governed the cosmos and gave the world shape and form. But when John here speaks of the Logos, the Word, he means something–or someone–vastly more than an impersonal force or some abstract power.

“And the Word was with God.” The Word, the Logos, is a distinct person, in the presence of God and in inseparable communion with God. “And the Word was God.” The Word, the Logos, is fully divine. We identify this Word, the Logos, as the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God.

What does John say about this eternal, divine Logos, when we come now to verse 14? “The Word became flesh.” We call this the “incarnation.” “Incarnation” means “in the flesh,” the coming in the flesh of the eternal Son of God. God’s Son, who was with the Father from before the beginning of the world, at a particular point in time became a human being and lived among us. He took on human flesh and bone. He became like us in every respect, with the exception of sinning. That little baby in the manger, then, is . . . the very Son of God. In a feedbox, laid on straw, lies the King of the universe.

Some years back, a Texas gem dealer, Roy Whetstine, was pawing through a box of cheaply priced rocks at a mineral show in Arizona. He came across a stone the size of a potato. “You want $15 for this?” Roy asked the person selling it. “Tell you what,” replied the merchant, “I’ll let you have it for $10. It’s not as pretty as the others.” Well, wouldn’t you know it, that potato-like stone turned out to be the world’s largest star sapphire, valued at $2.28 million.

Likewise, this child of Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, is none other than the gem of the ages, the eternal Word, the very Son of God. Through him and by him, God created the world. Through him and by him, God redeemed the world. One so immeasurably great, found in such lowly circumstances. God’s “diamond in the rough,” lying in a manger.

“The Word became flesh.” Incredible! How can this be? How can God become man? This is a question that will forever challenge our finite minds. We can only draw crude analogies to try to wrap our heads around this profound mystery.

The story is told of a tortoise that lived in a well. Another tortoise, a native of the ocean, one day happened to come along and tumble into this well. The first tortoise asked his new comrade where he came from. “From the sea,” the traveler said. Hearing of the ocean for the first time, the tortoise who lived in the well swam around in a little circle and asked, “Is the water of the ocean as large as this?” “Oh, larger,” replied the sea tortoise. The first tortoise then swam round two-thirds of the well and asked if the sea was as big as that. “Much larger than that,” said the sea tortoise. “Well, then,” asked the first tortoise, “is the sea as large as . . . this whole well?” “Larger still,” said the sea tortoise. “If that is so,” said the other, “how big then is the sea?” The sea tortoise answered, “You have never seen any other water than that of your well. Your capability of understanding is small. As to the ocean, even if you were to spend many years in it, you would never be able to explore the half of it, nor to reach the limit. Thus it is utterly impossible to compare it with this well of yours.” The tortoise who lived in the well then replied, “Hah! You are simply praising your native place in empty words! It’s impossible that there can be a body of water larger than this well!”

This little story teaches us a lesson about putting too much confidence in our own limited, creaturely knowledge and our sin-darkened, damaged reason. To contemplate the magnitude and power of the ocean is hard enough. But to fathom the depths of eternity and to comprehend how God could become man–this is far beyond our ability to figure out. No, we can’t explain how God became man. But we do believe in this God-man, our Savior Jesus Christ. By the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, we have been given the gift of faith in the Word made flesh.

What could be more important than that we believe in, trust in, this one who is the Word made flesh? Our Lutheran Confessions state: “Christ is, and remains to all eternity, God and man in one indivisible person. Next to the Holy Trinity, this is the highest mystery . . . and the sole foundation of our comfort, life, and salvation.” Yes, our salvation depends on this person, the God-Man Savior. Our salvation is secure and complete in Christ, the Word of God incarnate.

Why is the incarnation so important, so wonderful, so comforting? John tells us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The word that’s translated here as “dwelt” literally means “tented” or “tabernacled.” The Word became flesh, John says, and “pitched his tabernacle” among us. In the Old Testament, God “tabernacled,” dwelt, among his people as they journeyed in the wilderness. The tabernacle was where the God of the heavens could be found here on earth. It was where God located himself, where he caused the glory of his presence to dwell. At the tabernacle God provided for sacrifices to be made to cover the sins of the people. The tabernacle was the place where God “camped out” in the midst of his people, to lead, guide, forgive, and deliver them. If you were an Israelite and, say, you were troubled and couldn’t sleep at night, all you had to do was to step outside your tent and look at the tabernacle in the midst of the camp. There you would see the pillar of fire, indicating God’s presence with his people. And you could say, with a sense of confidence and relief, “Ah, the Lord is still among us! All is well.” Then in the day, if you wondered which way Israel should go, or if you were worried about your safety, you could look to the pillar of cloud. And you would know that you were being guided and guarded: “It’s alright. The Lord is leading and protecting us.”

What the tabernacle provided for ancient Israel pointed ahead to what now has happened in an even greater way in the incarnation of Christ. God’s glorious, saving presence is in the midst of his people–incarnate, in the person of Christ. At Christmas, Christ comes to “pitch his tent” in our own backyard! He tabernacles among us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Here is Immanuel, God with us, God incarnate, with us and for us.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in order to do for us what we cannot do. He came to save us, to make the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins. Christ came in the flesh so that he could die on the cross. It took the death of the incarnate Son of God to cover the sins of the whole world. That’s what Jesus has done for you! He came for you! He died for you! He saves you, rescues you, and keeps you safe for all eternity. And he is here now in our midst, present where he has promised to be present. Christ is here today in the Gospel and the Sacraments, to forgive you and to strengthen you for your life in the world. The Word became flesh, and still today he makes his dwelling among us, full of grace and truth.

Dear friends, on this Christmas Day we ponder the mystery, and we rejoice in the wonder, of the incarnation of Christ. It is the most profound reality that has ever taken place in the world. And it is how you are saved for eternity. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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