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According to the “Official Record,” it was nighttime when God created the world. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “for the earth was formless and empty, and DARKNESS was over the surface of the deep.” And while the Spirit of God hovered over the deep darkness, God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” The first night of the world was that night IN THE BEGINNING. And the first act of God was to send light into the darkness.
Again, according to the “Official Record,” it will be nighttime went this world comes to a close. In His parable about His second coming, Jesus says, “At MIDNIGHT there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ (Mat.25:6)
After that final night, NIGHTTIME will be a thing of the past. John writes what he sees in his Revelation, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.” (Rev. 22:5). In end, the light that shall overcome the darkness once and for all.
Somewhere in between that first and last night of this world stands the holy day of Christmas, where God calls His light to shine in the darkness. “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” (Jn.1:9).
If you find it a bit strange that on this Christmas morning we are not talking about shepherds and angels and Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby lying in a manger, but of such things as Creation and Judgment and Light into Darkness, its because of John. As we’ve said before, John sees things differently than the others do. It does seem as though the experience of John’s Revelation had a pretty dramatic effect on him. It must have affected his vision. We see the birth of a baby. John sees the Beginning and the End and the great conflict between the Light and the Darkness.
John begins his record of the life of Jesus Christ “In the beginning.” “In the beginning,” is right where Moses began his account of the creation of the world. “In the beginning was God,” writes Moses. “In the beginning was the Word,” writes John. John sees the birth of Jesus as the birth of the NEW CREATION.
Moses writes, “And God said, ‘let there be… and it was so.” John writes that those words were not just talk, talk, talk. Those words were THE WORD. THE WORD that is inseparable from the speaker and yet distinct from the speaker. “THE WORD WAS WITH GOD AND THE WORD WAS GOD.”
“He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Don’t worry that you can’t get your head all the way around all of this right now. Someday you will.
The important thing that you do need to get your head around NOW, is that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
God made man out of the dust of the earth and breathed His Spirit into the man and the man became a living being – flesh and spirit, body and soul. God is Spirit – uncreated, eternal, always was, always is, always will be. But when human history reached a certain point, when the time that God had set for Him to enter into time arrived, God breathed flesh upon Himself in the womb of the virgin Mary.
This is heaven coming to earth. Not just for a visit or to cause a little havoc among us mortals for the fun of it as the Greeks thought their gods were fond of doing. This is the Word of God who is fully Spirit, in timeless eternity becoming flesh, in time and space, and DWELLING AMONG US, AS ONE OF US – FOR US MEN AND FOR OUR SALVATION.
St. Luke says the same thing actually. Luke reports that when the angels visited the shepherds on that Christmas night, the angels said, “Glory to GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH peace, good will toward men.” Heaven is coming to earth. God comes in peace and with good will toward men. He comes to unite the two together into one.
The very fact that there is a separation between heaven and earth, God and man, is a problem. It is NOT GOOD. We think that it’s perfectly natural that heaven should be “UP THERE,” “WHERE GOD LIVES,” while we humans live “DOWN HERE” where God simply visits as relatives and family come to visit for the holidays or in times of trouble. But the separation between these two is as unnatural as those statues where the head is missing and there’s just a torso. There’s just something not right about those things.
In the beginning, it wasn’t like it is now. In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth and He was as at home in the Garden of Eden as Adam and Eve were comfortable and relaxed in the presence of angels and archangels.
And the real point here is that, it was not just a spiritual or emotional or metaphorical ‘oneness’ of Immanuel, God with us, but a PHYSICAL presence and togetherness. It was life together in the flesh that the Song of Solomon tries to describe. The Lord God says to His beloved humans, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful.” And His beloved humans reply, “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.”
But sin separated the two, not His but hers. What God had joined together humans rent asunder. And it was a terrible break up, a nasty separation. Adam’s sin turned that little word “AND” that stands between ‘heaven AND earth,” into a gigantic chasm, a dividing wall that separates the one from the other as far as the east is from the west. And no matter how much we learned to accepted it, adjusted to it, gotten used to it, it is not natural, it is not normal, and it is not good.
So, what was God to do? Give up on His good intention and holy desire for His creation? Was He to destroy the whole thing and start over again? But that would mean that there was a power in the world that was greater than His power; a force that was able to overcome the intentions and desires of God. That would mean that God was not as almighty as we thought.
No, He would neither give up on His intentions nor destroy the earth. He will accomplish His purpose and plan. He will reunite restore the broken relationship and weld heaven and earth together again into one. It will be a “new heaven and a new earth, IN WHICH RIGHTEOUSNESS DWELLS,’ physically, intimately. Where THE RIGHTEOUS GOD DWELLS WITH MAN, AND RIGHTEOUS MAN DWELLS WITH GOD in one, perfect unity together, God dwelling with man and man dwelling with God. “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful.” “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.”
This is what Christmas is all about. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God is up to something big here; something as big as the creation of the world in the beginning. God is uniting heaven and earth together again in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. The perfect union of heaven and earth, of God and man, is happening before our very eyes, in the person of Jesus Christ, the GOD / MAN.
He is dwelling among us, as one of us; as one of us who in a very big way have embraced the darkness and the separation. We have adjusted, gotten on with our life apart from God. It’s not so bad really. Especially once all of the memories of what it used to be like are gone. How can you miss what you never knew? The boundary lines between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ are clearly marked. As long as God stays ‘spiritual’ and ‘up there,’ we get along just fine. Frankly, we need our space. Like a teenager who shuts the bedroom door, we expect God to knock before entering and to “leave us alone” when we tell Him to. Later on, John will write, “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light…” (Jn.3:19).
Let’s be sure to get this right. When John talks about “all who received him,” and “those who did not receive him,” he’s not talking about two different people – us and them, the good guys and the bad guys, the righteous and the unrighteous. He’s talking about you and me. Even those who “believe in His name, to whom He has given the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” even in us, the battle between the light and the dark rages on.
And that is the Flesh that the Word became when the Word became Flesh – your flesh and mine. He came right into the intersection of that battle between the light and the darkness that goes on inside each of us. That’s what John means when he says, “He dwelt among us.” He is true man and sinful man. True man by virtue of His nature, sinful man by virtue of our nature. As true man He is One with the Father. “I and the Father are One.” As sinful man, He is as far from the Father as the east is from the west. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When He died on the cross, He tore down the dividing wall of hostility between man and God, and God was reconciled to man, and the union of heaven and earth is accomplished.
Christmas is all about the determination of God to have it HIS WAY. God will not give up. He will find what was lost. He will recover what was stolen from Him. He will restore what has been broken. He will make all things new.
Genesis 1 and 2 is the record of how God created the world and He saw all that He had made and it was “VERY GOOD.” Genesis 3 is the record of the great separation between heaven and earth that hits like a tsunami without warning. The devil thought that this would be the final chapter of the ‘official record.’ Christmas is the sequel that ends in the vindication and victory of God.
John is announcing to all who have ears to hear that God never had any intention of backing down from His commitment to the world and to mankind. Christmas is the good news that the restoration of Genesis 1 is about to begin. When the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” God was declaring that the chasm was about to be sealed up. On Good Friday, the Word made flesh will declare, “it is finished.” On Easter Sunday, God and sinners are reconciled. And the people who in darkness sat may say, “we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
“Hail, the heaven born prince of peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.”