As Christmas approaches the feelings of joy and happiness begin to grow. There are stresses … what is that perfect gift, how can we get the shopping done, staying motivated at work as the year wraps up, etc. However, overall for most of us, worry seems to fade a little.
Instead of being too busy many people find time to head back to Church on Sundays. It’s easier and fun to go to Church during the Christmas season. Everyone knows the songs and you know all the readings. But while everyone knows the readings about the star and the baby Jesus laid in a manger there is one Bible verse we often don’t realize is as much about Christmas than any other.
“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 were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. … 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.” Jn 1:1-3 and 14
The incarnation changes everything. It is a difficult concept to comprehend. What does it mean that God became man?
We see in John 1, that the Word, the second person of the Trinity, become flesh. But the Father is not a just a bigger version of us. He is that being that contains within himself the cause of his own existence, therefore he always was. In other words, you cannot rewind time to some point to before He was. To the Father, time is external. He stands outside it. Like you, thinking about your favorite movie that you have seen dozens of times. The beginning, middle and end all exist within your mind at the same moment. Thus, is time for God.
And the Father is pure spirit, pure existence, so He does not have a body, so strictly speaking, he doesn’t say any “words”. (Although He could certainly make Himself heard if he chose to). The theologian, Frank Sheed, suggested we could rewrite (for purposes of understanding) the first sentences of the Gospel of John as, “In the beginning was the Thought, and the Thought was with God, and the Thought was God. … And the Thought 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.” In other words, God did not speak the Son into existence as he did when He said “Let there be light” and created the universe. The Son simply is because the Father thinks. The father knows himself perfectly and therefore that perfect knowledge has the same nature and all the same qualities as the Father. Thus, John 1 can says that all things are made through the Word because all things are made through the mind or thoughts of God.
The Father is the cause of all existence and through the Son all things come into existence. All things – everything – space, time, matter, knowledge, truth, love, life, you, me, etc – everything comes into existence through the Son.
Now consider again the meaning of, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.
At Christmas we are so used to saying that “God became man” we lose the striking import of that statement. It rolls off our tongues like saying, “Bob became a policeman” or “George became a doctor.” But what it really means is that Everything became One Thing. It means that Eternity became temporal. It means that the Unlimited became limited. It means that All Knowing became learning. It means that All Powerful became vulnerable. It means that Existence Itself became corporeal.
No metaphor can do it justice, the incarnation changes everything. At that moment, everything was contained within one human person. And God did that, in part, as the mechanism to fix creation, to repair what was broken. As a result of the three great acts of God – the incarnation, the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection – we can expect a dramatic change to reality. What will this change be?
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Rom 8:16-17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Co 5:17
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4
So we are now new creations, heirs and partakers of the divine nature. We no longer exist alone as islands unto ourselves. As God cannot be divided into parts so we are now knitted together a brothers and sisters in one body. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Rom 12:4-5. Can any part of this body exist without another? Of course not, as Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”” 1 Co 12:21.
How then is the one body kept alive?
Like all bodies, it needs food. Where does this food come from? For that answer we go back to where we started from, the Gospel of John
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jn 6:53-58
The incarnation changes everything because the incarnation makes the Eucharist a reality. As God became man to effect a change to creation so God makes bread into the food to feed the body of this new creation. So, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the incarnate God. We remember that Jesus, who would one day call himself the Bread of Life, who would hold bread in his holy hands and say, “This is my body”, was born in the city of Bethlehem, a name that means ‘House of Bread’ and laid in a manger where the creatures come to eat.
So this Christmas, when you see the manger scenes and the infant represented there. When you sing “Silent Night” and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. This year, remember that because of the incarnation reality has been fundamentally changed. Creation itself, you, me, the world, the stars, everything is being knit back together from a fallen state all so that we will be in relationship to the Son in a similar manner as He is in relation to the Father.