By Pastor Vince Gerhardy
How do you feel when someone says to you, “I’d like a word with you?” I suppose a lot depends on the tone of voice that the person uses but still it makes you wonder why that person wants to talk to you. You make a time to meet for the following day and for 24 hours you sweat it out, thinking what on earth he will have to say.
Does he have good news or bad?
Will he find fault with something you’ve done?
Will he ask you for a favour that is going to cost you money and effort?
Maybe he wants to give you something – a gift, an invitation to dinner.
If this is happening at work may be he wants to talk about a promotion or tell you that you had better find alternative employment.
You have to wait until the appointed time to find out.
Today, on the day when we are all excited about Christmas presents, visiting relatives and friends, the Christmas dinner and everything else that goes with making Christmas Day an enjoyable and festive occasion, God says to us: I want to have a Word with you.
What on earth does God want to speak to us about? The Word that God wants to have with us is quite different to what the boss might mean he says, “I want to have a word with you”.
The Word that God has for you is not the kind of word that you find in the dictionary;
not the word that can be translated from one language to another; it is a unique Word, and God is offering it to you now.
I refer to Jesus Christ, Son of God from eternity. The Gospel writer calls Jesus “The Word”. Listen to John’s Gospel, “The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). This summarizes what Christmas is all about. It tells us that the Word, Jesus, has chosen to become human.
Let’s grasp the immensity of that for a moment. This may sound ridiculous but it gives us an idea of what it means when we say God became human and made his dwelling among us. Imagine the most powerful and prestigious person in the world, let’s say the president of the United States, of his own free-will becomes a mouse – small, furry, insignificant, and extremely helpless and vulnerable. He chooses to become a mouse because he wants to live among all other mice. He leaves the White House, and the prestige and honour that go with his office. He becomes a mouse in order to help all other mice.
You see, there are mousetraps in kitchens all around the world. The people who own these kitchens are determined to kill every last mouse. And one after another the mice are killed. The President shouts at the mice until he is hoarse to warn them of the danger and shoos them away but the smelly cheese on the deadly mousetraps is just too inviting. And so the most powerful man in the world happily becomes a mouse because he loves all mice and wants to do something to save them.
In a similar way and in a more radical way the all-powerful and eternal God has chosen to plunge himself into the arena of human life as you and I live it, and take on the flesh and bones of our humanity.
Or to put it another way. The Creator of the universe with its countless stars and planets is born in a stable in Bethlehem. As John himself said: From the very beginning the Word (that is, Son of God) was with God. Through him God made all things; … The Word (the Son of God) became a human being and … lived among us.
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This is the special time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem. We enjoy the story about Mary and Joseph, their trip to Bethlehem, the birth in a stable, the visit of the shepherds and wisemen; we enjoy seeing the children present the nativity play and delight in their very simple understanding of the events of Christmas. However, too often we don’t go any further than the simple story. We miss out on the real significance of these events. Christmas is the celebration of God becoming one of us, a fact that we can never fully grasp, and living on this earth with all the pain, the suffering, the human tragedies, the sin and dying. Jesus came into the thick of everything.
The point of this verse, The Word became a human being is that in the midst of our agonies in this life we are not alone.
• In Jesus, God is with us when we are depressed and hurting and sick.
• In Jesus, God is with us when we are hit with bad news.
• In Jesus, God is with us when we feel guilty and ashamed.
• In Jesus, God is with us when we are worried about someone we love.
• In Jesus, God is with us when we are caught up in a chain of events that we are powerless to prevent.
The good news of Christmas is that God hasn’t kept to himself separate from all of troubles and pain but he has come right here into the middle of all of it. He truly is Immanuel – God is with us.
The story about John Rosen is a good illustration of what it means for God “to live among us”. John Rosen was a doctor in a psychiatric hospital. Unlike all the other doctors who were aloof and separate from their patients, he moved into the ward with them. He placed his bed among their beds. He lived the life they must live. Day to day he shared it. He loved them. If they didn’t talk, he didn’t talk either. It’s as if he understood what was happening. He was just there, and that communicated something to the patients that they hadn’t heard in years – somebody understood them. But then he did something else. He put his arms around them and hugged them. This doctor with a string of letters after his name, this highly skilled, highly paid physician, who was like God to the patient, who had control over the lives of his patients, held those unattractive, unlovable, sometimes incontinent persons, and loved them back into life. Often, when patients who had been unable to speak said their first words, they were “thank you”.
In plain and simple language, isn’t that what God did through Jesus at Christmas? Jesus has come and lived in our world; he has become part of our life of confused priorities, of aching bodies, torn and bleeding spirits, of heartbreak and loneliness. Christmas tells us God is not aloof and separate from our world. He is in the world with us. He has come to hug us and hold us tight even though sin makes us unattractive and unlovable.
The cross overshadows the whole Christmas event. Jesus was born to show us the heart of God. It is a heart that throbs with love for every one of us. Jesus doesn’t come with vague, abstract descriptions of love. Jesus is love.
Some years ago at a wedding I was introduced to a young man who had been to Thailand and was “ordained” as a Buddhist monk. He told me how he meditated day after day in order to discover inner peace.
• I felt sorry for him. Jesus is love and peace.
• He is truly God.
• He gives himself to us and for us freely – “full of grace and truth” (1:14).
• He is the only way to God the Father and eternal life.
• Jesus is the only source of “inner peace”.
• In this baby of Bethlehem, born to Mary and Joseph, we shall see as much of God as we shall ever hope to see in our earthly life. This baby is God in the flesh.
God does have a special Word for you. This Word is Jesus who came to give his life for us in the shame of the cross, his suffering and dying for the sins of all people. It was for this reason that we have Christmas and continue to celebrate it to this day. The angel made it quite clear to Joseph, “…You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
What difference will this Christmas celebration make in your life? Is it just another Christmas here today and gone tomorrow, that is, gone except for the pain of the credit card? I can’t do much about your credit card but I can tell you this – Jesus can make a huge difference to your life.
• Christmas invites you to trust Jesus.
• Christmas challenges you to take Jesus seriously not just today but every day.
• Christmas reminds you that you have a heavenly Father who loves you so much that he will “become a mouse” – become one of us – so that he can help you in whatever way you need help all the year through.
• Christmas reminds you that just as the baby Jesus was given life in that grubby stable, Jesus wants to make your life new, and refresh your daily existence in the dirtiness of life in this world.
God has a word for you today. God has become a human being because of you and just for you.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2004, Vince Gerhardy. Used by permission.