Sometimes, before a book really gets started, or before the action starts in a play or a movie, the author needs to say some important things. Things that we as readers (or watchers) need to see and absorb, in order to truly understand the rest of the book – or play, or movie. This is often called the prologue, and it can hold some pretty important stuff!
Our Scripture reading today comes from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, verses 14-18. This reading is from John’s prologue to his long narrative about our Lord Jesus and His life and ministry. Before the action gets going, John writes some really important stuff about the Eternal Second Person of the Trinity in this beginning, including verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Before the action begins in our lives, in our next chapter, we can sit down and think. Is there any kind of important stuff you would like to mention? Any special instructions or information for your potential readers? Let’s think about these opening verses from the Gospel of John. What do they say to us? How do they function? [These words of the prologue] provide perspective a default position, a direction. They set the tone, set out themes so we know what to expect – a lens through which to view what comes next.
These words remind me that you and I can take the opportunity to write prologues for our own stories, for the next chapter of our own lives.
We recognize this prologue of John’s from every Christmas, for years. Every year, we sing O, Come, All Ye Faithful, and every year we sing these tremendous words Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. Those words are lifted right from this very chapter, right here! But, what does it mean, for the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, God from before the foundation of the universe, to become flesh, a fragile human Baby born in Bethlehem?
This is the central, foundational promise of this Gospel – God became human, capable of being experienced and known by other humans. A simple yet profound message and promise.
Face it. We as weak, limited human beings have limited capacity to understand things. Things like God and God’s revelation. God understands our limitations, our fragility, and our hesitations. God the Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, Creator of the universe, emptied Himself of all that was God and came down from heaven. Jesus became a tiny, helpless human Baby born in Bethlehem, and then grew and experienced humanity from the inside out, to better be able to communicate to us limited humans down on earth.
How awesome, how unbelievable, how indescribably kind was that? Let’s go back to John’s Prologue. The last verse we read today says a whole lot: the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made [the Father] known.
verse 18 seeks to describe what the Word made flesh came here to do. John uses the Greek verb exago, combining the prefix ex, which means out with the verb ago which means to bring or to lead. In other words, the principal purpose of the Word made flesh is to bring God out, to lead God out, so that an experience of God is possible. It makes no sense for the Word to become flesh if God is not able to be experienced, and on every level of what it means to be human.
So, here we are, as limited, fragile human beings, faced with a loving, caring God-made-flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us. How have you experienced Emmanuel, God-with-you, in your life? Has Jesus been especially real to you at any point? Have you been going through difficulties and problems in your life, or in the lives of your families, and our Lord Jesus came alongside you and was very present in your life and experience? That is the very thing He came down from heaven to do and to be. To come alongside of us as we muddle our way through our messy lives.I wonder if perhaps we all need a prologue, a prologue for our lives, even our believing, our discipleship, our relationship with God. What themes will orient your life this year? Maybe we could call this a reorientation of New Year’s resolutions.
This might be an especially helpful exercise at the beginning of a new year — what resolutions you want to make but also what God resolutions you need to make. In other words, resolutions not just for the sake of your life, but for the sake of God in your life, and for the sake of helping your congregation orient their lives to God’s Christmas, God’s present, and God’s future. What a marvelous idea! Make new year’s resolutions centered around God – God in the flesh, God’s present, and God’s future.
God is not someone far away, or someone who doesn’t care about us or our families, or our problems. God in very present with us. We as fragile, fallible humans CAN experience our Lord Jesus Christ, who did the ultimate. God the Father gave us all the most marvelous Christmas gift: the gift of God’s own Eternal Son, born as a Baby in Bethlehem.
I love how Eugene Peterson translated verse 14: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. Moved down the street, maybe even right next door. What a gift for all of us to experience. The Eternal God, right here, right now – Jesus moved into our neighborhood, and, God willing, into our very hearts and lives.