Read John 1:1-14
John’s gospel account does not contain the narrative of Jesus’s birth like Matthew and Luke have done. Instead, the incarnation story is contained in what biblical scholars refer to as John’s prologue. In the prologue we hear of the Son, or Word, existing from the beginning. John tells us that the Son and God are one. The other significant aspects of the passage are the concepts of light and flesh.
John refers to Jesus as light shining unhindered into the darkness. This reminds us that the incarnation was an abrupt intrusion into the world. There is power in this light shining into the world. The light spreads to others as well. One of the reasons the Church chose to celebrate the incarnation on December 25 is because this is the darkest time for those living in the northern hemisphere where the Church was centered. The idea of light shining into their darkness was a meaningful illustration as presented by John’s gospel.
In this passage, John also speaks of the Word, or Son, becoming flesh. That is what we know as the incarnation, a deity taking on human flesh. No other faith tradition records an occurrence of this. There is a distinct separation of a god and humanity in all other religious systems. The concept that God became human and lived among humanity as Jesus is beyond understanding outside of Christianity.
John may not include the narrative of Matthew or Luke which included Jesus’s parents, shepherds, a stable, angels and a chorus of praise but John tells of the incarnation. God has become human and lived with humanity. God is as a bright, unquenchable light piercing into the darkness of the world and the lives of humans. This is what we celebrate on December 25.
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.Hebrews 2:10-18 (NIV)
Over twenty years ago, Joan Osborne released a song entitled, “One of Us.” The lyrics as a whole can be a bit disturbing but Osborne asks some challenging questions which require responses from believers, especially me. The line of lyrics which always caused me to yell at the radio when I heard it is, “What if God was one of us?” I shouted each time, “God has become one of us!” My belief in the incarnation of God demanded me to respond to Osborne’s question in the song.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews stated the same answer. In the portion of the letter which we read for today, the writer explains that God has taken on our human flesh and blood. This reality allows many benefits, two of which are listed here. The first is that now we have kinship with God through Jesus. Our experience and Jesus’s experiences are now identical. Human suffering and temptation are no longer foreign to our God. Second, the human aspect of Jesus allows him to be high priest and make atonement for our sins. The power of death held by the devil no longer is over us.
We have an answer for at least one of Joan Osborne’s questions in her song… God is one of us! The incarnation is real. Our God has fully related to us. The Lord knows our human experience completely. The division between divine and human has been eliminated. We are the beneficiaries of this unique union.