Wednesday, December 01, 2004

"The Word Became Flesh"

John 1

1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 The same was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

It’s the mystery of the Christian Church that many stumble over. God became a man; that’s the mystery, the great wonder of our faith. Some stumble over the science of it – how could that possibly be? How could a virgin conceive a child? Some stumble out of vanity – “I won’t bow to a God who would reveal Himself in such a humble manner.”

I recall our class discussions in seminary about the incarnation. Much of it centered on the concept of the “logos.” For the scholar it’s a very rich term. Now I’ll try not to bore you too much with, but I want to compare the language and understanding of the theologians with the language and understanding of a child.

If you were to ask a theologian to describe the “logos” his or her description might sound something like this:

“denotes the expression of thought – not the mere name of an object – as embodying a conception or idea.”

How might a theologian describe the baby Jesus in relation to that term?

“A title of the Son of God; this identification id substantiated by statements of doctrine in John 1:1:18, declaring His distinct and superfinite Personality…..”

Now it’s not that the theology is inaccurate. The theologian is correct. But there is something about the description that makes me feel as though God Himself were some sort of silly putty for scholars to throw out to the rest of us, piece by piece.

It’s a problem the expert has. Lawyers have developed legal language that all too often seems out of touch to the rest of us. So have doctors, and politicians, philosophers, and biologists. In order to describe the reality we live in they all develop abstract language to “accurately portray” that reality. The end result is usually something so abstract that few can understand it or relate to it.

But, a child, oh a child is so different. For example if one were to ask a biologist to describe a tree outside a window in a sitting room, he or she might talk about photosynthesis or some other biological process. A child, on the other hand, would more than likely take you to the window and point, saying, “That’s a tree right there.”

For the past few weeks if been getting reacquainted with the wonder, the mystery of the Christian faith I embraced so long ago now. There have been times I thought I fully understood it. How foolish of me! There were times when it puzzled me to the point of exasperation. There have been days of doubt. But this year I’m reveling in the mystery of it all. God became a man! In doing so He made the abstract concrete. It was as though He were taking us to the window of that stable and declaring, “This child is everything I can possibly ever say about Myself. Behold Him and wonder! Behold Him and receive the gift I have given you!”

Sometimes the learned and wise do “get it,” though. I read the following excerpt from James Carroll in Christianity Today about an hour or so today:

HIC INCARNATUS Est.”…Hic. Here the Word became flesh…..Here. The infinite accepted limits. Why? So that a limited creature – me for one – might accept limits too…..God’s love for me, manifest in this man, is a gift, not a reward. Grace, not a salary…..It was not my commitment to God that mattered, but God’s to me. And that commitment cannot be broken.”

James Carroll – An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us

Jesus, God’s fullest expression of His love, came to us. He walked with us. He talked with us. He ate with us. He cried with us. He challenged us. He died for us!

His expression to us wasn’t clinical or abstract. It was active, alive, and, yes, mysterious. God said everything that ever needed to be said about Himself in this one man. In doing so His intent was that we should embrace that mystery, revel in it, and walk in it.

So, dear reader, come to that stable this season. Lay down your doubts. Lay down the intellectual wandering. Embrace the mystery!

1 comment:

Dot Bar said...

I just LOVE those verses and was just reading them these last few days. I never thought I'd be one of those people saying this, but I am really finding it hard to go to church. I miss Jesus but can hardly bear to be in church. It's so embarrassing because I can hardly keep from crying from beginning to end. It's exhausting! Oh brother, I'm just a mess. But its' gotta get better, right?!