Focus: To celebrate that Jesus became Flesh! 

Function: to inspire deeper response to the incarnation.  

Let the words of our mouths, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in thy  sight, O LORD, our strength, and our redeemer. AMEN…  

Today is Christmas, and Today we will explore the meaning of Christmas.  Of all the Christmas specials ever produced about the “meaning of Christmas”, the  only one to really get it on the nose was Charles Schulz’s “A Charlie Brown  Christmas”. And to be honest, I get a little teary eyed every time I see Linus  delivering the monologue on the meaning of Christmas that begins with  “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch  over their flock by night.” 

Sad fact #1: This is not our Gospel reading this morning. Sad fact #2: To my  knowledge, there have never been any Christmas pageants or Christmas TV  specials based on the Prologue of John, which is our Gospel reading. Do let me  know if you’ve ever encountered one.  

“In the beginning was the word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was  God” [John 1:1] 

Early in my exploration of Christianity, I grossly misunderstood what “the word”  meant in this verse. I mistook it to mean the bible. After all, I’d hear things like,  “Do you believe in the Word?” “Do you understand the Word of God”.  

When I was then told later by a college classmate and friend, Jeff, to substitute  “Jesus” for “the Word” and read the verse as:  

“In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God” I was like, “Oh… that still doesn’t make sense…”  

When I talked with Jeff again, he said, “Well, Marc, you have to understand that  Jesus is fully human and also fully God.” 

“Eh? That makes even less sense!”

For all those here today that fully understand God taking human form and the dual  nature of the full humanity and full divinity of Christ; in other words fully  understanding the incarnation and the hypostatic union, this is going to be a snooze  fest and you will be bored by all that is to follow. For those like me who are not  fully enlightened, I hope we can marvel together the meaning of Christmas: The  Word became Jesus. Jesus is God. God loves humanity.  

Let us note that all the Gospel accounts introduce Jesus in a different way. In  Mark, John the Baptist announces Jesus’ coming, and they are already both fully  grown adults. In Luke, Jesus’ birth is prefaced with a prophecy about the birth of  John the Baptist, along with the classic nativity narrative: the stuff of Christmas pagents past, Christmas pagents present, and Christmas pagents Yet to Come.  Matthew launches with the genealogy of Jesus leading back to Abraham and then  tells of the visitation by the angel to Joseph.  

So to recap in timelines: in Mark, Jesus, an Adult it’s about 30 AD — In Luke , a  Baby year zero —— in Matthew, not even born yet and [we’re talking about  Abraham] so about 2000 BC —- and in John?  

Well in John, the timeline is set way back, like way, way back: “In the beginning”.  It is no accident that these precise words are used. It is to be noted that the Greek  version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses the same phrase as in Genesis 1:1: Ἐν ἀρχῃ̂“in the beginning”. When we hear “Once upon a time” we think  fairy tale. When we hear “In the beginning” we think creation story. We hear then  in the prologue a creation story in the works, yet this account also predates the creation of even heaven and earth. Even before material existence, even before the  angels, was the Word. 

“He was in the beginning with God”. [John 1:2] 

On most Sundays we recite these words from the Nicaean Creed, “God from God,  Light from Light, True God from True God, Begotten not Made, of One being with  the Father, through him all things were made.” To some who have heard and  spoken these words time and time again since childhood, it might seem as a given,  and especially for those who’ve never questioned the divinity of Jesus. Yet if we  step back and sit on these words of the Nicaean creed, they are incredibly profound  statements are they not? If this is not mind blowing, then I am a little bit envious of  your capacity to handle paradox, mystery, and faith. 

It took quite a long time to wrap my head around how it could be possible for Jesus  could be both fully human and fully God at the same time. I actually have physics  to thank for expanding my understanding of Jesus. There exists an unresolved puzzle in elementary particles and quantum phenomena, that of the particle-wave  duality.  

I have been told not to do physics from the pulpit, but I’m going to anyways because it’s Christmas; it’s my gift to you. For a very simple distinction between  what I mean by particle and a wave imagine a wall with two small dog or pet doors  spaced apart. Door one; Door two. Now imagine with me a bowling ball and a  bucket of water. The way particles work is like how you would roll a bowling ball  either through pet door one or through pet door two. Waves work like dumping a  bucket of water, and the water goes through both pet door one AND pet door two.  So bowling balls – particles: buckets of water – waves. The paradox is real matter,  real electrons, act like bowling balls that can go through BOTH doors at once.  Think of it, a bowling ball capable of going through two doors at the same time.  But only when you’re not looking. Once you start looking, to try and track how  this is possible, the bowling ball stops acting like a bucket of water and starts  acting like a bowling ball again. Why?! How?! It’s a 100-year-old mystery of  physics. I refer you to the fantastic lectures by the legendary Richard Feynman on  the subject for those of you who might fancy a deep dive into quantum paradox.

If physical reality is a paradox like this, then it makes an idea like: the Father is in  heaven and Jesus is on earth, and both are God at the same time seem slightly more  tangible (or at least to me). It also cues to me that the Way of God, the Way of  Jesus, is not always the most easily understood, nor the most easily grasped, nor  the most direct. Is it any wonder then that:  

As in verse 10, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him;  yet the world did not know him.” [John 1:10] 

The Way of Jesus is not the obvious way. Even the moment of his conception is,  well excuse the pun, “inconceivable”. Just as a raising of hands, how many of you  have heard that “with God all things are possible” [Mk 10:27]? I hoped as much.  So that also means that God had basically an infinite number of possibilities in  which to be intimately connected with creation.  

If we believe what we say we believe in the Creeds, then we claim that out of all  the infinite possibilities, God chose to take human form. The Word.. had an infinite  number of possibilities in which to come into being within creation, and CHOSE  humanity. God must love people to choose human flesh, because the human  condition is MESSSSSSY. It is perhaps why the Word chose incarnation, to rescue  us from our human condition, from ourselves. One common translation of the  name Jesus is “God is salvation”. Another translation of the name Jesus based on a  possible equivalent Hebrew, Ya-shua, which is “Yahweh Rescues!” “God  Rescues!” 

And so, to come to the rescue, God chose to be born as an infant and become fully  human. And not born to a family of a powerful dynastic kingdom with influence  and armies and land and wealth. Nope. Born to an unwed, poor, young, Jewish girl,  in a Roman occupied land. But why this way? Infinite number of possibilities, yet,  born to Mary. I believe it has to do with accessibility. If the Word took the form of  a royal crown prince, then it becomes so easy for the “Way of Jesus” to be the  religion of the powerful. But God is not interested in only the powerful; God has a  special heart for the weak and the lowly. If humanity is to be saved through the  incarnation, then the incarnation cannot be so removed from those who are  ordinary, and must be especially close to those in the margins. 

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” [John 1:14] 

Caroline Lewis in her commentary on John asserts that a more accurate translation  of “lived” (in the Greek, skay-no-Oh), is to set up a tent or tabernacle. The author  does not use zao, to live, or oikeo, to dwell in a house. This verb “to tabernacle” is  

found elsewhere in the New Testament in only a couple passages in Revelation.  Nearly every time tabernacle appears in the NT there is a heavenly connection.  

The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. This also appears to be  pointing back to the 40 years in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt. Some  have surmised that the earliest audiences to hear the Johannine Gospel were those  that had lost their community, and their place. It is those Jews who came to accept  Jesus as Messiah and were expelled from worship at the Temple (while it existed)  and in the Synagogues throughout the Roman world. For the Word to tabernacle in  the flesh means Jesus made for a new way of worship and for a new relationship of  restoration with God.  

One of the most incredible things about the incarnation is that it closes the gap  between our imperfect nature and that of God. Raymond Brown, a Jesuit scholar, noted in his commentary that the incarnation means a rejection of viewing the  material realm as an aberration, as the Ancient Greeks would have wanted to do. Platonic thought would want separation from the material world for some higher  spiritual world. But the incarnation affirms that in Jesus becoming human links  God to human history for as long as humanity exists; and therefore, the incarnation  inextricably connects humanity to eternity. Dr Lewis also notes that in the  Johannine Gospel account, from verse 14 of the prologue onward, the usage of “the  Word” does not reappear. The Word is now flesh as Jesus for the remainder of the  Gospel and for all eternity yet to come. God so loves us that God is now bound to  humanity forever.  

Again, the meaning of Christmas is: The Word became Jesus. Jesus is God. God  loves humanity. 

Now, if you have been paying attention so far, you might have noticed that I have  skipped over the verses referring to John the Baptist.  

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to  testify to the light.” [John 1:6-7] 

I find it rather funny that John the Baptist gets wedged in the middle of the  prologue. Almost as if verses 6-8 were a footnote saying, oh by the way, there was  this guy John, and he talked about the light but wasn’t the light. I’m going to ask  you do to something similar and wedge someone important to you into this story.  

I want to you think of someone who was critical in your first steps of the Christian  walk. Think of someone who was critical in your first steps of the Christian walk.  Ok, remember that person’s first name in your head or write it down.  

Basically, let’s play a quick game of Mad Libs. If you don’t know what I’m talking  about, it’s a word game of fill in the blanks.  

We’re now going to paraphrase verses 6&7.  

“There was a person sent from God, whose name was ___ IMPORTANT PERSON ___” 

“who came as a witness to testify to the light, so that ____ YOUR NAME ___  might believe through them.” 

“once again” [REPEAT]  

How was that? Pretty cool, eh? Your important person was a “John the Baptist” so  to speak. They might not have dunked you in the water, but they “testified to the  light” by preparing the way for you, so that you might believe! 

We’re going to do another round of fill in the blank. This time your name is the  first blank. 

“There was a person sent from God, whose name was _____YOUR NAME___” “who came as a witness to testify to the light, so that  

___A PERSON WITH WHOM YOU HOPE TO SHARE YOUR FAITH___ might believe through them.” 

“Once again” [REPEAT] 

I think for each of us there was someone sent from God to be a witness. And  probably more than one. I also think that for each of us there is someone God  wishes for us to share the Gospel. The particulars of how and when and where are  all on God’s time.  

If no one came to mind in this second fill-in-the-blank. I would encourage you to  reflect and pray over this. We connect to the story of God by also being sent into  the world to share that same story of God. We are each sent by God as a kind of “John the Baptist”. Though, preferably not with a rope belt and a diet of locusts  and honey, but hey “with God all things are possible” [Mk 10:27] 

To whom is Christ sending you or to whom does Christ hope to send you? 

This is the bonus “meaning of Christmas” for this morning: And by that, I mean  literal meaning of the word “Christmas”. Christmas by definition is a contraction  of “Christ’s Mass”. Mass of course meaning a worship service. But the root of the  word Mass is the Latin “Missa”, and depending upon the translation means to be  sent, or sending, or dismissal. So, the meaning of Christmas can also literally be  parsed as “Christ’s Sending”. We are all meant to be sent out into the world God so  Loves, to testify of the True Light who was born at Bethlehem two thousand years  ago. “And so Humanity proclaims the Gospel.” 

Thereby Christmas is also Christ sending us out into the world to share the Gospel.  So, 

Let us marvel together the miracle at Bethlehem. Let us marvel at the meaning of  Christmas:  

The Word became Jesus. Jesus is God. God loves humanity.   And so, Humanity proclaims the Gospel.


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