Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Word Became Flesh

It's commonly noted that the Gospel of John doesn't have a Christmas narrative, but it does give us the most profound single expression of what Christmas means: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

One of my favorite things about the Bible is seeing the way the promises of God grow. Although the promise to Abraham is already absurdly grand, it grows. God's promise to David is just ridiculous, but it grows. So the prophets give the people hope of a Messiah who will restore the glory of Israel, and it grows.

Finally, Gabriel appears to Mary and speaks the Word to her -- "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

There's a strong sense throughout the Bible that God's Word has a power all its own. Isaiah 55:10-11 is a beautiful sample, "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Yet even with such great witness, I think we tend to underappreciate this aspect of God's Word.

The Annunciation is the perfect picture of the Word of God's promise meeting the human heart. As Gabriel speaks to Mary and the Holy Spirit comes upon her and she responds -- in this very moment -- the Word becomes flesh. The very promise of God, which had formed and sustained a nation, which had grown and expanded and ever renewed itself, now did the most remarkable thing in the history of humankind. That very promise, the Word, became flesh.

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