I had a lot of time to think yesterday.
I did not go home for Christmas. As all of my friends here in Wake Forest were packing up and heading out to see loved ones, friends, and family for the holidays, I stayed behind, waving as they drove away. On Christmas Eve I took my roommate to the airport, he was the last to leave. Then, I was alone.
Now, before you misconstrue the intent of this post, it is not a pity party. I am not trying to get you to feel sorry for me, as my staying put was a choice. It was a decision of my own design, and within a matter of hours, my parents will be arriving here in Wake Forest so we can celebrate the holidays together. I will have a special time; it is just coming a day later.
However, this is really the first time I think I have spent Christmas day completely alone. One might think that experience happened in the jungles of Africa, but it did not. Ironically enough, the two Christmases I spent there were more lively than the my traditional family Christmas in the States.
I woke up yesterday and made plans to attend a service at one of the few churches in the area that was meeting. I knew no one there. I sat alone, a whole row of seats to myself, as I watched a church family worship together. It was somewhat surreal.
My afternoon and evening consisted of me warming up leftovers and sitting around an empty apartment. Yet, I do not think I would change a thing.
Here is why:
Interspersed amongst the time I spent applying for jobs and watching Facebook fill up with pictures of other people’s Christmases, I had a lot of time to think. I had a lot of time to pray. I had much-needed time to abide in Christ.
Have you ever noticed that Luke’s telling of Christ’s birth gets all the face time during Christmas? We always quote the Luke narrative in Christmas pageants and television specials. Why is that? Perhaps it is the fact that Matthew’s version gets a little gory. Hundreds of babies are slaughtered in an attempt to kill the Christ in his narrative. Then there is John’s telling of it. John leaves out most of the details. There is no discussion of mangers, a census, or even Bethlehem. There are no wise men or shepherds, just this discussion of the Word.
Yet, what John had to say about this Word brought me to my knees in worship last night. Luke may tell the story of Christmas, but John delivers the message of Christmas. It is a message that some of us have heard so many times we overlook the audacity of it all.
Christmas was no event. It was no mere story in history. It was the story of history. All things before that night were setting the stage for what was to take place. It was the beginning of a 33 year chapter that serves as the crown jewel of the great story that is creation. All major events before were mere shadows of what was to come. It was the climax of history.
Why? Because the Word became flesh.
You see, John tells us that in the beginning was this Word. He tells us that this Word was with God and was God. He existed before anything. He has always been, and he always will be. He is the eternal. He is with God and he is God.
John tells us he is the creator. For through him all things were made. As a matter of fact, nothing was made without him.
What is more, in him was life. He is the answer to the question, “Where did all this come from?” His mere voice carries with it the gift of life. He spoke and nothing became something, and that something began to breathe.
Take a minute and try to wrap your mind around this Word.
Finished? No? Me neither…
What kind of being is this? What is this thing that John calls the Word. Yes, we know he is referring to Jesus, but just who was Jesus? Scripture tells us he was nothing less than God. He shares all of the divine attributes we know God to possess. He is infinite in power and holiness. He is eternal and omnipotent. His wisdom knows no bounds. He is not simply truthful, he is truth. He is the Alpha and the Omega, it is in him that it all began and it is by him that it all will end.
He is beyond understanding, too marvelous for words to describe. He is further than you can see, higher than you can reach, and bigger than you can grasp. He sees all, he knows all, and he is over all. You cannot escape him. He is in the place you came from and will be at the place you are going.
He is the Word, and John tells us he became flesh.
What manner of audacity is the incarnation! That this Word John describes would come from his realm of glory to break into time and space, to become part of the natural and the physical, and to exist in the realm of the fallen. It is craziness to think of the being described by John confining himself in flesh. To wrap himself in a physical body, as the Greek would indicate. Yet that is exactly what happened.
John continues by saying he was living in the world that he himself had made, yet the world did not know who he was. John says he came to his own, and his very own did not receive him. But that is where it gets good, because John does not stop. He says all who did receive him, all who believed on his name, to them he gave the right to become the children of God! The law was given through Moses, and grace and truth came through Jesus.
Christmas is more than a celebration of mangers, shepherds and wise men. It is the remembrance of the central event of history, that the Son of God became a mere man, so that mere men could become sons of God.