“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:14,18).
This is the unique miracle of the Incarnation, i.e. the embodiment of God on earth. The Word is the creative command of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Word created the world – “And God said” and it was so. The Word is the self-revelation of God, the reason of God, the knowledge of God, the meaning of life. Without the Word there would be no language to explain anything. The Word gives definition to thought. You cannot think without language. The Word is prior to understanding. The Word is the means of communication and essential to relationships. The Word is the eternal divine source of life.
This Eternal Word, in a personal, historical form, through the operation of the Holy Spirit was conceived in Mary. The Word was carried in her for nine months until he was born as a human baby in Bethlehem, that first Nativity. He was suckled by her as any human infant would be. He was carried away to Egypt by his parents to escape the massacre of the innocents by Herod. He learned to crawl and then to walk as a toddler. He went through all the training of every child dependent on his parents for safety and nourishment. As a boy of twelve he went up to the Temple at Jerusalem from Nazareth where he questioned the teachers who were amazed at his understanding and his answers. He was obedient to his parents through his teenage years and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.
He became a carpenter in Joseph’s shop, and as the oldest brother took over the business when Joseph died. At thirty he was baptized by his cousin John who protested that it was he who needed to be baptized by Jesus and not the other way around. When he came up out of the water heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
He was tested in the wilderness by the Devil who tempted him to use his power to impress people and gain earthly acclamation as a celebrity and world leader. Instead he preached the coming of the kingdom of heaven which people needed to welcome and enter into as little children – trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit to give them new life – to be born again. He called twelve to follow him and become leaders in the proclamation of the Gospel. He healed every disease and sickness among the people. He fed those who came to hear him speak. He raised the dead. He demonstrated power over the forces of nature – stilling the storm. He confronted the hypocrisy and legalism of the religious leaders of his day which led to his arrest, trial and condemnation to death on the Cross. The eternal Word of God allowed himself to suffer a gruesome death for our sins. He experienced bodily pain. He knows our suffering. There is no human suffering he has not endured.
The Word who was flesh and blood, was buried, and on the third day rose again. He revealed his body to the disciples, showing them the marks of the Cross in his hands and in his side. He ate with them to show them that he was not a ghost. Then he took his human flesh into heaven, showing us that our final destination is with the Father, as embodied souls.
He became human to save us. What he assumed in the flesh he also saves. He saves us bodily and raises us bodily in the resurrection. We are part of his body, if we are united in him by faith.
Laurence Housman brings out the wonder of the Incarnation:
Light looked down and beheld Darkness.
‘Thither will I go,’ said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld War.
‘Thither will I go,’ said Peace.
Love looked down, and beheld Hatred.
‘Thither will I go,’ said Love.
So came Light and shone.
So came Peace and gave rest.
So came Love and brought life.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Christianity is no spiritualism. It is thoroughly physical. It is not ethereal or abstract but concrete and personal. God came in the flesh, he entered into our world, so that we might enter into his eternal presence. He summons us to receive him, to believe in his name, to become children of God, born of God. He was born for us. We must be born again of the Spirit for him.