“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17 ESV)
While our most familiar Christmas accounts are found in the pages of Matthew and Luke, in recent years I have been drawn more to John’s account. As I mentioned in my last post, my annual Bible reading plan brings me to John’s Gospel each December. John’s presentation of the Christmas story is very unique from the other synoptic gospels because John’s purpose was uniquely different. Those other gospels focused heavily on presenting the detailed events of Jesus’ life. John’s purpose was to capture the person of Jesus Christ.
John’s account of Jesus’ birth was very plainly spoken. Only nine words in length, it can be easily memorized. But while short on words, it speaks volumes theologically. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14 ESV) We sometimes miss the awesome impact of that simple truth in our own Christmas traditions. We are thrilled each year by the thought of the spectacle of that night. We imagine the majesty of the angel and the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds; the simple, yet touching manger scene with the precious little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
I love what Luke says concerning Mary’s reaction to all the events of that night. While the shepherds gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacle and all who heard their story “were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”, Luke says Mary “treasured” them up and “pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV) At Christmas, we could all use a little less hustling and bustling and a lot more treasuring and pondering … treasuring and pondering the person of Jesus Christ – who He is and why He came. And nobody answers those questions better than John in the pages of his gospel.
My wife and I have a grandson who has Asperger’s Syndrome. After his initial diagnosis, I sought to learn more about his particular form of autism spectrum disorder which, while often highly functioning, is still characterized by difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. One of the more interesting books I read was The Journal Of Best Practices by David Finch. What made that book unique is that Finch actually has Asperger’s. He recorded this journal to help him remember basic rules for social interactions that most of us learned early in life through everyday experiences.
As I read his account, I was struck by how well the author describes his thought processes as he deals with situations most of us never even think about. Prior to being diagnosed, Finch and his wife suffered more than the usual marital conflicts. After his diagnosis, many of those conflicts began to resolve themselves as his wife learned more about Asperger’s. She began to understand why he responds differently to things than she does and he began to understand why the things that seemed perfectly normal to him were so upsetting to her. He started keeping the journal to train himself to act more in line with her expectations.
Finch was able to articulate his thought processes in a way my grandson cannot. When I read books about autism and Asperger’s, I know more about my grandson. But there’s a big difference between knowing about someone and truly knowing someone. After reading this very personal account from someone who actually has Asperger’s, I feel as though I truly know my grandson more intimately and personally.
From his unique perspective as the self-described “disciple whom Jesus loved“, (John 13:23) John offers us the most comprehensive and insightful look into the heart of God found in all of Scripture. He understood better than anyone that Jesus came to show us the Father; that he spoke to us the very words of God so that we can better know the Father more intimately and personally ourselves.
Only through John do we hear Jesus tell Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10-11 NIV)
That is the unparalleled message of Christmas – that Jesus came to show us our Heavenly Father – a message so uniquely and profoundly articulated by John with those memorable words, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
I pray that this Christmas you will ponder those words, treasure them in your heart, and reflect upon their implication for your life. El Shaddai, The Almighty God, is also Immanuel, God with us. May you experience the reality and the power of His presence this Christmas as never before. And the Gospel of John would be an excellent place to start!
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)
(Note: First published Dec. 17, 2015; edited and redistributed 12/23/2016)