A Christmas Devotional:The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of truth and grace. (John 1:14).

Of all the gospel narratives of the Christmas story, these words of John the Apostle are my favorite. But why did John call Christ the Word? His Gospel begins that way: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made…. (John 1-3a) It is certainly crystal clear that “Word” means Christ. No one argues with that. In the beginning was [Christ], and [Christ] was with God and [Christ] was God….[Christ] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John’s objective in writing his gospel was to prove that Christ was God. But John must have been trying to convey more or he would have used the word Christ. What might that be?

        There appear to be two reasons why John used Word instead of Christ. He was speaking to two audiences, the Jews, of course, and Greeks and Greek-speaking gentiles. He was writing in Greek, after all. The Greek language gets much more mileage out of words, and since it is the original language of the New Testament, preachers begin their seminary studies with courses in Greek.

The Jewish audience would have understood, In the beginning was the Word, as a clear reference to Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And how did he do that? He created them thru the power of his word. Let there be light and there was light. Such is the power of God’s word. Isaiah 55:11 says so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. A word spoken by God is a deed done. And Christ was the last and most important word of God the Father. We will not find God apart from Christ.

For the Greeks “Word” had even more meaning. Logos, the original Greek word for “word" took on vastly more meaning through the studies of a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus who lived in Ephesus in the 6th century BC. He was the guy who said “You can’t step into the same river twice.” You can put your foot into the water of the river and take it out but when you put it back in the water has flowed on and it is different water that soaks your foot. His point was that all of life was in a state of change. As he pondered that he wondered, if everything was always changing why wasn’t the world in perpetual chaos. He concluded that it was because the constant change was not random change but ordered change. And if it was ordered change then there had to be a “divine plan” or “divine reason” for it. (Darwin should have read Heraclitus before he went off on his preposterous tangent.) The Greeks defined reason as “the word unspoken.” Heraclitus concluded that the reason, the unspoken word, God’s Logos, controlled all of creation, including all of history, and…listen carefully…the mental order that rules the minds of men. In summary, Logos, with a capital L, was the mind of God controlling this world and all men. This became standard philosophy among the Greeks, including Plato and Socrates and the Stoics. In fact Plato told his students, “It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word, a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.” Greeks were still pondering the Logos and writing about it 700 years later when John wrote his gospel. It was common knowledge. So when John said the Word, the Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us, he was saying in response to Plato, “The Logos has come.”

As Dr. James Montgomery Boice tells it in Volume I of his commentary on John, the Apostle is saying, “Listen you Greeks, the very thing that has most occupied your philosophical thought and about which you have been writing for centuries, the Logos of God, this word, this controlling power of the universe and of man’s mind, has come to earth as a man and we have seen him.” Now wouldn’t that be a blockbuster revelation to the Greeks? It was a stroke of divine literary genius the way the Holy Spirit inspired John to write it.

God became man. Marvin Olasky says to think about man becoming a cockroach and you have the slightest inkling what it must have been like for God to become man. The Logos, the Word, the controlling power of the universe became a man, full of grace and truth, and to what end? John 1:12 tells us: …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Dear Christian friends, all the gifts given in the world this season cannot equate to that gift of a baby born in barn in Bethlehem. What manner of love is this that we should be called children of God? What manner of love is this that God humiliated himself and became a man born in the lowest estate for us? What manner of love is this that would suffer a hideous death that we might live with him forever? It is the infinite love of Almighty God, the Logos who controls our life and breath and being…born this day in the city of David…and he is Christ the Lord.

Excerpt from Grace in the Growing Season

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