He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God…
And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
“we are one and free” the new phrase for our national anthem.
John’s Gospel doesn’t give us stories of the birth of Jesus as our Christmas story. John takes us back to the beginning of Creation. The birth of Jesus is much bigger than a Jewish couple under Roman occupation giving birth to their first child. John wants the world to hear that the very being of God became human and dwelt among us. God moved into our neighbourhood. To try to capture this larger picture John uses the word Logos, the Greek word for word, but it carried deep connotations from Greek Philosophy.
In his book a History of Christianity Diarmaid MacCulloch tells us the word logos means
“not so much a single particle of speech, but the whole act of speech or the thought behind the speech, and from there its meaning spills outwards into conversation, narrative, musings, meaning, reason, report, rumour, even pretence.”
By embracing this rich meaning from Greek philosophy John wants people to know that all the deep thinking and wondering about God across all cultures has become human and dwells in our midst. John wants us to hear that God doesn’t just dwell in the midst of a Jewish family in Palestine, not even merely in the midst of Jews throughout the world. The word became human flesh, like all of us. This is Good News for the whole of humanity.
Not only is God dwelling in our midst but for all who receive him and believe in this word made flesh we have been given the power to become children of God. I believe we already were the children of God. But just as we seem to struggle to recognise the presence of God, we fail to see that we are God’s children. The power that we are given when we receive Jesus and believe on his name, is the power to look in the mirror and see ourselves as beloved children of God. More than that it is the power to see others and to know that they too are children of God.
The traditions that we keep like baptising and confirming people as children of God and meeting together as children of God are all important to help to cement into our being the power to see ourselves as children of God. But we must be careful. Did you notice verses 19 and 20 of psalm 147?
He made his word known to Jacob:
his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation:
nor have they knowledge of his laws. Praise the Lord.
It is always tempting for people of faith to believe that God loves us more than any other group of people. We may even be tempted to believe that God hates another group of people. I believe that is just us projecting onto God our fears and insecurities, our inability to love others who are different to us. As we say in the Nicene Creed, he “was incarnate” and became truly human. The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
So, the core message for us all to take home and ponder this week is that God entered into our world, a world with viruses, suffering, loneliness and confusion and God brings hope an joy. God comes to dwell with the young people struggling with anxiety, wondering if humanity has learnt from Covid enough to deal with the Environmental crisis. God comes to dwell in the midst of nursing homes where disability and dementia are normal. God comes to the hospital car parks across the world where ambulances are cuing up so their patients can be admitted. God comes to the couple when their marriage is falling apart. Even in all these places of chaos and suffering God dwells bringing the potential for joy and hope.
Now as I said, I also want to reflect on the new phrase for our national anthem. We are one and free. We used to say, we are young and free. I guess that referred to the nation being young perhaps dating back to federation in 1901 or white settlement in 1788. Either way it excluded the indigenous population. The beauty of the Christian conviction that God became truly human is that God became Aboriginal as well as European or Asian or African. And as such we all have the power if we welcome Jesus to become children of God. As we welcome Jesus we see God’s love for the whole of humanity. We see that all are children of God. In this spirit we can sing with joy and enthusiasm, “we are one and free”.
Hopefully this will help us to live out the Good News of God who became fully human dwelling in our midst. This year, 2021, when you walk the dog in your street, greet your neighbour and remind yourself, that God became fully human. God embraces the whole of humanity, as such we are all children of God. Look at your neighbour in the street and try to see them with the love Jesus has for them.
When you go to the local shopping centre stand still for a moment. Listen to the different languages spoken as people walk past. See how many different shades of colour in people’s skin you can distinguish: blue black, chocolate brown, pinkie white, dusty brown, yellowy brown. Remind yourself again, that God became fully human in Jesus Christ. Celebrate that all of these people are children of God and your brothers and sisters. You may need to pray; Lord help me to see with your eyes. Greet them with a smile. Notice the things they are doing that you might expect your brother or sister to do, like carrying their two-year-old on the shoulders. Or notice the brightly coloured traditional outfit and celebrate the richness they bring. Sing to yourself, we are one and free.
Now the next step is to think globally. If the word became flesh that means that the word became flesh for people all around the world. This is Good News for people down the bottom of South America, through central America and right up to through the US to Canada. God’s love reaches from Ireland through the UK across Europe all the way to China and Japan. God’s love stretches from Egypt to West Africa and right down to the tip of South Africa. God’s love includes all the people in the middle East through Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and right through the sub-continent to Sri Lanka. And of course, the Islands below Asia including Australia, NZ and the many pacific Islands.
If God’s love is global then humanity as a whole is loved. If we see with God’s loving gaze, we will see our sisters and brothers everywhere we turn. So, when you hear world news this year, 2021, hear it as news of your family. If there is war pray for your brothers and sisters caught up in war. Where you hear of whole caravans of people fleeing their counties pray for your brothers and sisters marching to freedom. When you hear of earthquake or flood prayer for your brothers and sisters. Our prayer life is truly enriched when we remember the word became flesh, truly human.
As we celebrate this second week of Christmas delight in the good News, God dwells with us. Let’s welcome Jesus into our hearts, know that we are children of God. And let’s see others through the eyes of our loving God, our sisters and brothers.