Midweek Advent 2, December 7th 2011
Jesus the Word Made Flesh
If Mark's Gospel beginning is abrupt, then John's Gospel beginning is mysterious, ponderous, and profound. Neither Mark nor John offers us anything about Jesus' early life. But what John does is he goes back much further. Into eternity. He echoes the opening words of Genesis, “in the beginning” but brings to them even greater meaning. He shows how Jesus Christ is the eternal, living, word of God made flesh. This is a great and wonderful truth to ponder.
How can a word be alive? To us, words are just things – vessels of meaning thrown around and given little thought. According to one study, the average person speaks about 16,000 words per day. I'm not sure if pastors were included in that or not. But how often do we think about words. They are vessels of meaning. They are agents of our thoughts and intentions. They communicate. They inform. They sometimes even do things.
Ah, but the word of God is in its own class. Here is a perfect and powerful word. A word of creation – first of all. It's from John's Gospel that we learn of Jesus as the agent of all creation: “through him all things were made”. God spoke his word, and that living word was God, and was Christ. But it gets even more profound.
How a word can be alive is mind-bending enough. How can a word become flesh? Something invisible becomes visible. Something infinite becomes finite. This is God we're talking about, and he can do what he wants. So his will is this – to send his living word, his own son, to take on human flesh and “tabernacle' or pitch his tent among us.
One of the Christmas hymn-writers wrestled with this mystery, in the second verse of “What Child Is This”. You know the familiar words:
Why lies He in such mean estate
- Where ox and ass are feeding?
- Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
- The silent Word is pleading.
- The silent word – the word made flesh – the babe of Bethlehem. Yes, Jesus Christ our Lord is all of these and much more. But that same hymn verse gets to the even more profound truth behind this word becoming flesh:
- Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
- The Cross be borne for me, for you;
- Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
- The babe, the son of Mary!
- The word became flesh to redeem all flesh. The word became flesh to sacrifice himself for us. The word became flesh to bring a word of comfort, hope and peace – a word of forgiveness – to lost sinners like you and me.
- For our flesh is corrupt and dead. You don't have to be 80 or 90 to start with the aches and pains, the bumps and bruises of a flesh that is corrupted by sin. Disease and death don't just take the elderly among us. Even infants are subject to death's dread shadow – because all are conceived and born in sin. We are born into a sort of living death – separated from God, one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, if you will. Life is short. Sin brings death. None of us can escape it.
- And our words are false and failing. We don't say what we mean and mean what we say, so often are our words filled with half-truths and wholesale lies. We use our words for selfish purposes, to cut and hurt and destroy. We gossip under the guise of concern. We boast to inflate our own sense of self. We speak without thinking. We waste our words. And we don't say what we should, or pray as we should. There's a reason the epistle of James compares the tongue to a wild beast and a fire, that it's full of deadly poison.
- But the Word made Flesh redeems our corrupt flesh with its wicked words. He proclaims a word of forgiveness, because he declared “it is finished”. He speaks his word even today, through his pastors, absolving sins in his stead and by his command. And his word of promise is our future hope – individually and together, for life forever with God.
- A resurrection of the body. Our hope is not simply to die and go to heaven. The resurrection of his flesh shows the future of ours. Death has no hold over him, nor will it on us. When Christ comes in his second advent, and all flesh rises for judgment, and we are made to be like him in our resurrected bodies. Then these temples once profaned by sin will be finally swept clean forever, made holy forever, and will live with him forever in perfect bliss.
- The word became flesh. Not just for a time, but forever. Jesus is still, to this day, true God and true man. He united himself with us for eternity.
- He is also the true light, the light that enlightens all men. The light the darkness has not and will not overcome.
- Such a simple word, light, an everyday thing. But yet so mysterious. Scientists are still struggling to figure out the mysteries of created light, but no one can fathom the fullness of the light of light. We simply bask in his glory, the glory of the one and only son of the Father. By his light alone can we see grace and truth.
- Light. There's a Christmas theme, anyway. So let that bring us back. As we hang lights on houses and doors and trees, and prepare to celebrate the birth of the true light, may his word continue to enlighten our lives. He overcomes the darkness of sin and death, now and forever. For he became flesh and dwelt among us, and he offered that flesh on the cross for us. And in him there is and will be life for us, for his word of promise endures. After all, he is the living word. In Jesus' name, amen.