The Word Became Flesh: A Reflection at Christmas

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 ~ John 1:14

The Gospel of John is my favorite gospel—I was literally saved by reading it. I know this feeling isn’t exclusive to me. Many of you probably feel the same way!  Martin Luther had similar thoughts about the Gospel of John saying, “This is the unique, tender, genuine and chief gospel…Should a tyrant succeed in destroying the Holy Scriptures, and only a single copy of Romans and the Gospel of John escaped him, Christianity would be saved.”

Image by Anthony Garand
       Image by Anthony Garand

When John penned these words, he wanted us to understand this amazing truth: Jesus Christ is God made flesh. As the Nicene Creed puts it, Jesus is “very God of very God” and “was made man.” Whereas the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) focus on the Christmas story from a historical perspective, John provides us with a full Christological treatise.

John starts his gospel similar to Genesis: “In the beginning was the Word.” Jesus is the eternal Son of God and has always existed. He was begotten, not made. His existence did not begin in a manger on a cold night in Bethlehem. Rather, He’s always existed.

At the first Christmas, The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature – Westminster Confession 8.2

The Confession goes on to explain that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance.  So, in this way, Jesus had two whole, perfect, and distinct natures: the Godhead and the manhood. They are forever inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.  This makes Jesus very God and very man, yet one Christ.  

This joining of Jesus’ deity and humanity in one person is referred to as the Incarnation. Jesus possesses two distinct natures: one human and one divine. These natures are without mixture or confusion. Yet, they are inseparably united into one person—Christ.

In Jesus, “The whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). In a way we cannot fathom, Jesus Christ assumed a human nature but yet remained fully God. He didn’t empty himself of His deity, becausein him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Life and existence in our universe would be extinct without the Son of God remaining God.   

As John Calvin beautifully expressed, “Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!”  

Image by Nathan Anderson
Image by Nathan Anderson

When John said all things were made through the “Word,” He was echoing what was taught in the Old Testament, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6).    

At the very first Christmas, the Word became flesh and took on a human nature. But the Word (Jesus) is also a distinct person from the Father. It’s not that the Father took on a human nature, it was the Son of God. That’s why John also says the “Word was with God.” There’s a distinction of persons.

Jesus didn’t become God at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.  He was God from the beginning. Luther said the doctrine of the deity of Christ “serves to maintain and support all other doctrines of our Christian faith. Therefore the devil assails it very early in the history of the Christendom and he continues to do so in our day” (Luther’s Works V-22).  

Why did Jesus come to earth?

The short answer is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  

The Greeks loved the concept of the Logos just as much as Star Wars fans love the concept of  “the Force.” The Logos was considered to be the intelligence and reason of God which held all things together. Plato even prophesied that “someday there will come forth from God a word, a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries.” Could you imagine the looks on their faces when the early Greek Christians learned of Jesus’ true identity?  

Knowing Jesus’ true identity is crucial for us to understand.  He even said, “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).  Confessing that Jesus Christ is both God and man in one Christ is essential for being a Christian.

Apart from the Son of God coming and taking on a human nature, we could not have been saved.  Since God is just, he couldn’t just wipe the “sin” slate clean, so to speak.  Our Savior had a mission He had to accomplish as the second Adam.

How would His mission be accomplished?

This is how Jesus would accomplish His mission:As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).  When Jesus was lifted up (crucified) on the cross, this was the transaction that occurred: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus Christ lived the perfect life in our place and fulfilled the original covenant of works that Adam had failed. He then died a gruesome death on the cross to appease all the wrath that God had against our sin.  On the cross, all of our sins were imputed (credited) to Christ and all of His righteousness was imputed to believers.  This has often been called the “great exchange.”

From our perspective, how do we appropriate the benefits of Christ’s death to ourselves?  It doesn’t just happen to all humanity indiscriminately.  John gives us the answer:

to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Paul explains it as “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

When we place our faith (trust) in Christ, and rest in Christ alone for salvation, God declares us “not guilty.”  Because believers are covered with the righteousness of Christ, we have nothing to fear on Judgment Day.  In Christ, our ultimate judgment day has already occurred.

Gratitude for His Gift

As a Christian, consider how amazing God’s love is for you.  He was willing to send His son, the author of your existence, to die for you!  Jesus died a merciless death but yet extends limitless mercy to his people. He died the death we deserved eternally. He bore God’s wrath in our place. He took on all of Hell and gave us all of heaven.

Image by Timothy Eberly
Image by Timothy Eberly

As we reflect on the Incarnation during the Christmas season, ponder these amazing tidings of comfort and joy.  Love Him, worship Him, and live a life of gratitude for the gift you’ve been given.  Just as your home’s Christmas lights shine into the night’s darkness, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; 
Hail, the incarnate Deity: 
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, 
Jesus, our Emmanuel! 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
Glory to the new-born King!