“God in skin”
A child woke up one night after a frightening nightmare. She was convinced that there were all kinds of monsters and goblins lurking under her bed and in the corners of her room. She ran to her parents' bedroom and after her mother had calmed her down, she took the child back to her own room and said, "You don't need to be afraid, you aren't alone here. God is right here with you in your room." The little girl said, "I know that God is here, but I need someone in my room that has some skin on!"
“I just need someone in my room who has some skin on.” Doesn’t that speak the heart of humanity?
We believe in the existence of God.// We know the reality of God.// We are certain about God’s love and protection.
But being creatures who can’t imagine life without skin, it is mighty good to know that God loves us enough to “put on skin and move into the neighborhood” as the Message Bible says.
As much as I love the nativity story: Mary, and Joseph, and the innkeeper, and the baby on that “cold winter’s night that was so deep,” I want to set aside the very familiar nativity story from Luke, and examine the Christmas story in John this morning.
As we open to the first words of the book of John let’s approach it like a reporter: when, who, where, and how?
Let’s begin with “WHEN.” Does the story of the incarnation, the story of the first Christmas, start with the first Christmas? NO. When does it start? “In the beginning.” Just as we begin to settle into the New Testament and the idea of Jesus, John whips our heads around to look back at “the beginning.” These are the very same words with which the Bible starts. John uses them to remind us of something very important. The Christmas story didn’t start with the first Christmas. It started in creation.
• Some people have this idea that there was the God of the Old Testament, then there was Jesus, then, when Jesus died and rose, came the spirit.
• Others have this idea that Jesus was a backup plan. I can understand how one might get that idea. It seems as though everything else had failed and God was still too far from the end zone for a field goal, so he is forced to punt and Jesus is born.
But, in fact, John sets us straight right here. With these first three words of the Gospel, John is clear that the story starts at the very beginning of time, and Jesus was God’s plan from the very beginning of the story.
So the story of Christmas starts WHEN? In the beginning.
The next three words, “WAS THE WORD,” are just as important. This is the WHO? Here Jesus is not described as the son, or the Christ, or the messiah, or the savior. Here Jesus is described as the WORD. In Hebrew thought, the WORD was not just a collection of letters or sounds. The WORD was a unit of energy. It is a unit of force. Once a WORD leaves the mouth it has life and an independent existence that actually did things.
What’s more, the word, “WORD” here in Greek is “Logos.” As in Hebrew thought, logos is more than a word. Logos is that which brings order and understanding out of chaos. That which bridges the intention of God and the mind of man.
To both his Jewish and his Greek readers, then, John is beginning to introduce Jesus as the one that will come with a unique and powerful revelation of the nature and character of God.
The story is about WHO? The WORD …Jesus.
And so we come to WHERE? And John answers “WITH GOD.” The word was “WITH GOD.” But the Greek doesn’t just mean near God. It means that Jesus has the closest possible relationship with God. It means that Jesus is the perfect reflection of God.
Think of it this way. If we want to know what someone really thinks and feels, but we can’t approach the person ourselves, do we ask someone who doesn’t know the person? No. Do we ask someone who has just read a book about the person. NO. Do we ask the guy who lives down the street? NO. If we want to know what makes someone tick we ask the person who knows them the best.
John is saying that Jesus is that close to God. If we want to know what God really thinks and feels about us, Jesus is the best source. If we want to know what God is really like, Jesus is the best place to look. If we want to know God intimately and completely, we have access to the one who knows God perfectly because he is with God: Jesus the Word.
WHERE? Jesus is WITH GOD: intimately.
Finally, we ask HOW? HOW? How is it that Jesus was from the beginning. How is it that Jesus is the unique and powerful revelation of the true nature and character of God. How is it that Jesus is with God?
Because THE WORD WAS GOD. Jesus was God. Jesus is God. Jesus is God. There is no distinction between the mind of Christ and the mind of God. There is no distinction between the heart of Christ and the heart of God. There is no talking about God without talking about Jesus, and no talking about Jesus without talking about God. THE WORD WAS GOD. Jesus was God. Jesus is God. Jesus and God are one. Always have been., Always will be. Jesus is God.
If Jesus is not God then Christmas is just a fairy tale.
If Jesus is not with God intimately and perfectly then Christmas is just sugarplums and silver bells.
If Jesus is not the perfect revelation of the very nature of the infinite and unfathomable God, then Christmas is just a holiday for the overindulgent and the greedy.
If Jesus is not God and God is not Jesus then we are just creatures, no more significant than the amoeba or the muskrat.
If Jesus is not God, and God is not Jesus, then our lives are a mere flash in the pan.
If Jesus is not God and God is not Jesus then this is just bread and this is only pure unfermented juice of the vine.
But it is not.
We are not
Because he is.
How do I know? Because “In the beginning was the word. The word was with God and the word was God. . . and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. In us…and in the bread which is his body,,, and in the pouring of the juice which is his blood.” And that us just the beginning of the story.