December 11, 2011

John 1:1-14 – “The Word Made Flesh”

This reflection followed a creative presentation of the Christmas story by the children of St. Andrew’s Church School. The Christmas story was told in an imaginative way – from the perspective of the inn keeper’s family and their neighbours down the street who were actively looking for God’s Messiah to come.

I went to see Handel’s Messiah on Wednesday evening last week. It was presented, as usual, by the Saskatoon Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Saskatoon Chamber Singers – the continuation of a wonderful Christmas tradition both here and around the world.

Although I’ve listened to Handel’s Messiah many times before, and even sung in performances of the choruses in my youth, I was struck once again by the amazing musical settings of some of the most powerful and meaningful words of scripture that are so dear to us as Christians.

One of the things that stood out was how many of the texts Handel chose were from the Old Testament – from the prophets. In our children’s Christmas play this morning, these would have been the prophetic texts that the father was trying to teach to his children, and that his daughter, Esther, was exploring. These were the texts that explained that God would send a Saviour, a Messiah, and that he would come as a child. And Esther and her father were waiting and watching for these texts to be fulfilled, for God’s promises to be granted.

  • Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel – God with us.

It is interesting to imagine, with the author of today’s play, that a family of Jewish people, living in Bethlehem at the turn of the first century, were studying the prophets’ words and watching for God’s promises to be fulfilled in the birth of a child who would come to be God’s very presence with us.

The historical reality, of course, is more likely that Jesus was born without anyone much noticing that he was born. No one probably figured out that he was anyone special until many years later – maybe when they heard him preaching in the synagogue or teaching in the countryside, maybe when they saw him performing miracles or heard his bold pronouncements of grace and forgiveness.

But even then, most people missed the fact that Jesus was God’s Word made flesh. They had no idea that the promises and predictions of the great prophets were being fulfilled in him.

  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, unto us a son is given…

It wasn’t until much later that Jesus’ followers and others began to truly understand who he was. It was long after his birth, after his ministry, after his rejection and his death on a cross. It was after some of Jesus’ followers started to proclaim that God had raised him from death, that he had appeared to them, and then gone up into heaven.

That’s when they were able to look back on his life, his ministry, and his death, and to see the amazing gift that he was – to see that he was God’s very presence with us, God’s Word made flesh, God’s promises fulfilled, God’s love for us lived out in the life of a human person.

My hope for each one of us this Christmas is that we would not go through this season unaware of the presence of God in our lives. Sure, we could probably look back on this time many months or years from now, and identify the ways that God was present and active in our church, in our families, and in our community.

But my hope is that today we will catch a little bit of the spirit of the Esther character in the play. Not only was she interested in God’s promises, but she was actively looking for God to be doing something in her life. Not many people would have noticed what she did.

But not only that… Esther wanted to get involved in what she saw God was doing. She decided to participate – to help in preparing God’s way into the world.

I wonder… Can we be people who are actively looking for God’s presence in our world, who are noticing what is happening right in front of our eyes where God’s presence is made flesh among us?

And can we be people who are looking for ways to be involved – to provide a cup of water, or a place to sleep, or a blanket for a cold night?

May the words of the prophets be fulfilled, and the Word of God become flesh once again this Christmas. May the Word become flesh in our lives.

  • Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
    Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,
    and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.