Getting Christmas

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.


If we are able to pause here and “get it,” we’ll have a proper understanding of the meaning of Christmas. I’ll be the first to admit, however, that these can seem like dense and lofty words.

In short, Jesus is God. Yes, we sometimes call him the “Son of God,” recognizing he is as fully human as he is divine. But he is God, and the divine aspect of Jesus has always existed—before the birth in Bethlehem and the manger, before the virgin conception, even before the universe and time existed.

If you agree with this assertion about Jesus, you are Christian in a scriptural, orthodox sense.

If you disagree, you stand outside that traditional understanding, even if you call yourself Christian. You at a minimum disregard or modify key portions of Scripture, particularly the early chapters of John.

This aspect or essence of God is called the “Word” in most English versions of John. “Word” is a translation of the Greek word “logos,” used by philosophers of the day to describe God’s wisdom. This logos was believed to hold the universe together, like stitches giving cloth its shape.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us,” John 1:14 asserts, “and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

The power that made all things and holds all things together lived in this world as one of us, an event we call the incarnation. We call this God-man Jesus Christ, and he surprised us with much of what he said and did, like forgiving his enemies and dying among criminals on a cross.

As we move through Christmas toward Easter, we will once again watch how Jesus lived and hear what Jesus taught. We should be constantly mindful that in doing so, we are experiencing a kind of wisdom far deeper than anything that could be contrived by human minds.

If we get it, we may find Christmas and much of the rest of the Christian year to be a serious challenge to how we live.

Lord, what a remarkable truth, that you came among us to teach us, love us, call us to obedience and die for our sins. This Christmas, may we celebrate well that moment of arrival. Amen.

Love

The last of the four Advent themes is love. If we were detectives, we might say, “Now we’ve found the motive!”

The motive, that is, for everything God does. The principle is laid out for us in 1 John 4:7-11:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Why would God unilaterally decide to come among us and save us from our sins, suffering as Christ to give us hope, peace and joy? It was an act of undeserved, unreserved love. Love exists because God exists, and love is integral to God’s being, God’s nature.

The circumstances could be different. We’ve imagined gods completely lacking in love, disinterested, dismissive or even hostile toward human beings. But the One True God is driven by love.

Even when God chastises us, it is a loving act, one designed to bring us into alignment with our creator. When we walk with God, we walk toward life. When we walk away from God, we walk toward death.

God loves us so much he wants to dwell among us. God did this in flesh, as Jesus Christ, carrying out the work necessary to save us from our sins. He resides in us and among us now, as the Holy Spirit. And he will dwell among us in full.

I think I’m about ready to celebrate the incarnation—Christmas!

Lord, sometimes we simply need to stop and give thanks for who you are. We are blessed to be the creation of a loving being, one who looks out for us eternally. Thank you for the love shown to us on the cross. Amen.

The God Who Speaks

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Hebrews 1:1-2 (New Living Translation)

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.


These words and what follows in the opening of Hebrews remind us of the astonishing change God wrought in the history of the universe through Jesus Christ.

Even in their sin-soaked brokenness, people had always received at least some indirect word from God. In particular, prophets would arise who would speak on God’s behalf, usually issuing a call to repent, an exhortation to live as God would have them live.

In those prophecies, there also were promises. God said he would provide a way out of sin, an opportunity for otherwise hardened hearts to be softened, beating once again to God’s rhythms rather than the world’s.

In this season of Advent, we move toward celebrating the incarnation, the strange fact that God actually took on flesh and lived among us. Not only that, God came among us not as a king but as a vulnerable, very poor baby, fully experiencing what it means to be human.

How does the Son speak to you? Are you in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, letting his words challenge and shape you?

Advent is a good season to reconnect with the one who is always available. God continues to speak a new, life-changing truth to all of us.

Over the next few days, try something. Read the first two chapters of each of the gospels. It’s my prayer that starting these stories will renew a desire to hear what the Son has to say.

Lord, thank you for the ongoing blessing of your holy word. We particularly thank you for the penetrating, life-changing words of the Messiah. Amen.