The gospel according to John gives the Church a much different picture of the birth of Christ. There are no shepherds, no angels and no intimate scene of the holy family huddled in a stable. For John, Christ coming into the world is all about God’s coming to earth and establishing a relationship with his people and saving them from sin. The same God who established time and space, created all there is and continually provided for his people Israel is the same God who would overcome the darkness of our fallen world forever. In order to convey this message to the early Church, John starts not with the birth of the Christ child, but in the beginning. This same Jesus Christ who came into the world so long ago is the same God incarnate who created the heavens and earth and all that is in it. But why take upon himself human flesh and become so closely intertwined with humanity?
For the people of first century Israel, there was great value in God’s earthly presence. To be able to see, hear, touch, and taste God’s goodness and mercy through the person of Jesus is a tremendous blessing. As the children of God awaited the Messiah, they did so from a distance. They heard words of God’s Law, salvation and deliverance from the mouths of prophets. But having encountered God in Christ Jesus, those who believed him to be Messiah and Lord could hear his authoritative teaching. They could see the mighty acts he accomplished in the lives of people. Those who were touched by the hands of Christ were healed from their disease. And the hungry that were fed in the wilderness ate their fill and were satisfied. Certainly there was great value for those who encountered Christ in his humanity. But what about now? What value is there for the Church today in God’s Word made flesh?
Writing for the ages, the authors of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life have provided a timeless witness to God’s coming to earth and dwelling with his people. Even as Jesus gave his life and was raised on the third day, he promised to be with us always even unto the end of the age (Mat. 28:20). The incarnation of Christ changed the dynamics of a people separated from God by sin. Through the witness of those who walked with Jesus, we know the truth of how far God is willing to go in order to save his people. Blessed with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit we continue to hear the voice of Christ through the reading of Holy Scripture. We see his compassion as we are witness to the goodness shown to those in need. Through baptism and the laying on of hands we feel the power of God’s mercy and saving grace. There is great value in the incarnation of Christ, God’s Word made flesh, even for the Church today.
The reality of Jesus’ humanity and life among his people is our reality today. Remember, the night in which Jesus was handed over, he promised he would not leave his people orphaned. Through the institution of Holy Communion, Jesus gave his body and blood for the sake of the world for all time (Mat. 26:26-29). His promise to be with his people is remembered and shared each time we celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar. Though Jesus is no longer with us in human form, we can see, feel, touch and taste his goodness through the bread that is broken and the wine that is poured out. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the blessing of faith and the receiving of this holy meal, we encounter the living Christ, God’s Word made flesh.
The gift of Christmas is not simply a child born unto Mary and Joseph. Through the incarnation of Christ Jesus, the gift of Christmas is a relationship with our Lord and Savior who came to earth in order to save God’s people from sin. Through the reading of Holy Scripture, the works of the Church and the sharing of Holy Communion, we encounter this same Jesus who walked among God’s people. This is the gift we have received in God’s Word made flesh, and we are to share this most precious gift with others until that day when Christ comes again in glory.