John 1:1-18
The Word Became Flesh

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. Were we to ask "What is Christmas day?," students from Sunday School would give the answer, "It is the birthday of Jesus!" Even though in this country Christians hardly make up one percent of the population, almost everybody knows that Christmas has to do with the birth of Christ. People who used to go to a church affiliated kindergarten or some Christian school might recall the many different pageant scenes staged from of old when it turns this time of the year. [Scenes] like when Christ was born in the stable at Bethlehem, when the shepherds came to visit, when the wise men, led by the star, had visited ...

2. But yet, at the opening passage we read today in The Gospel Of John we find no scene of what you could call "the birth of Jesus." We find in the text no scenes of the inn or shepherds. In that sense, some may feel it a bit drab as a reading for Christmas worship. But, what happened at Christmas is certainly given here in the text. It is expressed briefly, in a statement, in the following way: "The word became flesh, and dwelt among us," (verse fourteen). In this brief statement is declared the meaning of his birth and furthermore the meaning of Christ's life [on earth] which would begin after this.

3. As we feel out the Christmas story, I think a joyous celebration this hour is one way to spend Christmas, but our deeply pondering what the meaning of what happened at Christmas in relation to our own selves is even more important than that. So, this year I would like for us to take note of three things being declared in this brief statement.

'The Word' Became Flesh

4. The first thing is what we celebrate in what happened when "'The word' became flesh." For one, we are not celebrating "the birth" of some great human being. When we think about Christ, it is not enough that we start from the stable in Bethlehem. It goes before that. We need to trace back all the way to "the beginning." This person called "the word" in this text is One who is from "the beginning." In verse one the scripture says, "In the beginning was the word. The word was with God. The word was God," (verse one). He is God who was with God from the beginning. Thus, with regard to Him, he is called in verse eighteen, "God the only son who is in the bosom of the father." The expression "who is in the bosom of the father" shows forth an intimate bond. God the Son who had been in a relationship of love with God the Father -- He [is the one who] became a man and came [down]. The scripture teaches that Jesus Christ is "God the Son" incarnate.

5. However, even so, it is not written as "The Son of God became flesh" at this point, [so] why does it use the expression "The word became flesh?" I think a lot of things could be said in regard to this, but today I just want to touch on one. It is that in the Hebrew language the vocabulary word for "word" means both "deed" and "event." In a certain sense that could be [described] as an extremely down-to-earth "this worldly" way of seeing things. Put it like this, it's because we know from experience that the words gone forth from our mouths into the world around us end up "doing something" either for good or bad. Once it comes out of our mouths, it's already too late, the words will set off a series of things, we've experienced this unfortunately. Therefore, "a word" is both at the same time "a deed, an action" and "an event." In this definition, it is saying, God the Son is "the word." That is, when Jesus Christ was born in this passing world and given life on this earth, it means that while he is God's message spoken to the world, he is also God's actions, an event that comes from God.

6. We ought to give this particular emphasis because it concerns our salvation. If the salvation necessary for human beings were just mental release and rest for the heart, such a salvation could be obtained through human words. Or, even if the salvation necessary for human beings were release from pressures and release from the many different ailments, that could be realized through human hands. On a similar vein, if not experiencing pain as much as it could be possible and dying calmly were salvation, as today's terminal care aims for, that also could be realized through human hands.

7. But, the Bible does not see the salvation necessary for human beings to be in that area. We have a more fundamental problem than that. If the branches were drying up and the leaves were falling, it would be because the root was rotten. The core root is the problem. Like this then, [the Bible] sees the root problem for human beings lies in the very fact that humankind is in rebellion against God. The break from God --- losing fellowship with God, losing the love of God, losing the light of God, losing the life of God is in deed the real problem.

8. And humankind is totally powerless against this problem. And the reason is because humans can do nothing whatsoever for these lives of theirs which have been [lived] in rebellion against God or for the reality of their sins which are in plain view of God's sight. Just as Adam and Eve, who had eaten the fruit from the forbidden tree, had avoided God's face and had hidden themselves, every human being avoids God's face and can't help but live [that way].

9. For that reason then, unless God makes the restoration for us, it would be totally impossible to restore [our] relationship with God. Unless God would extend his hand along with his message of his love, no one would ever be saved and delivered unto a relationship with God. That's why God has spoken. God has acted. "The word became flesh." This very "word" of God which became flesh is none other than Jesus Christ.

The Word Became Flesh

10. Then second, I would like for us to remember that what we celebrate is the event in which the word "became flesh." What is being expressed in the phrase "became flesh" is that he "completely took on the same humanity as us."

11. When being a human being is expressed as "flesh," a joyous positive sound is not in it. When we put our eyes on this world, when we place our eyes on the various aspects of society that humankind weaves, and when we plant our gaze upon our own condition, it is difficult to speak of being a human as a joyous and positive thing. We are made aware over and over again that being human is a sad thing. We are confronted with the ugly side of being human. The real world of human beings that we see is called "the flesh."

12. It is as if one is struggling out of the bottom of a deep hole. At the bottom of the dark hole, muddy waters have piled up. We've fallen into it and are sinking in the mud. We know we should creep up out of the hole. We also see that we should not even be in the mud and mire. We put our hands to it, we set our feet to it, but we slide and fall back down into the mud. We cannot ever climb completely up and outside of the hole. That's the flesh, the real world we're in.

13. But, the Bible says, the word "became flesh." You might say he himself has come down into the deep hole with us. He did not shout to us to "Come up" out of the hole from the outside of it, no, he himself jumped down into the hole with us. And he got all muddy with us, [while] we had been muddy at the bottom of the hole. What is being made clear in the fact that the word "became flesh" like this is none other than the love of God. We weren't looking for God; God was looking for us, flesh that we are. We did not love God; God loved us.

14. But, God the Son did not just come in order share "being human" with us. He did not become flesh in order to just share in sadness and suffering from his being human. If that were so, he would have only had to live on this earth as a man. But, the gospel account [of John] is silent in regard to most of the sections on the life of Jesus Christ. Instead, it apportions the largest section to tell about the last week [of his life]. Christ died by being hung on the cross. The reason the word became flesh was to die on the cross. That's right, the baby Jesus born in the manger was born in order to die by being hung on the cross.

15. In this way then, God the Son did not only share in "being a human being" with us. He himself became flesh, and bore on his person all of the sins of our flesh for us. Jesus Christ died for our sins. Thus, he opened us a way that we as flesh would live with God. Because fellowship with God had been torn apart by human sin, [God] will take sin away and restore relationships [with Him]. That's the reason the word "became flesh."

[The Word] Dwelt Among Us

16. Then third, we need to remember that what we are celebrating is that the word which became flesh is an historical event in that he "dwelt among us."

17. "Dwelt" is a word that means "live in a pitched tent." "The word" hasn't muscled its way in waving around its authority. "The word" pitched a tent and dwelt [among the people] no more than if it were an alien. It was truly a humble dwelling. Therefore, if the people can accept "the word" dwelling like that, they can also reject it. Just like it says in the scriptures, it is written, "The word came to his own people, but the people did not accept [him]," (verse eleven).

18. I mentioned how "words" are [as] "deeds, actions" and also "events." Though an event or a deed has come from the complete love of God, God would not try to twist a person's arms over it. God hopes that "the word" would be accepted with faith; because a relationship with God is not created by the force of sheer power. A relationship is [freer than] that.

19. When we accept "the word," we begin to live in a relationship with God. Have you noticed that the tone of the writing after this has changed, when the Bible is read aloud? After this the word "we, us" appears in the text. John begins to speak from here on as "we." While we celebrate Christmas, the most important thing is not the connection between the world in general and "the word." It is the connection between "us" -- you, and me, and Christ "the Word."

 
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