The Word Made Flesh – And Why It Matters

[I wrote this for our newsletter in 2015. It is, however, important enough that I hope you will read it again. Slowly. Thoughtfully.]
The phrase about the Word becoming flesh is familiar enough to us, particularly at this time of year. We present it as the meaning behind the even more familiar story of the birth of Jesus. We think we know that it tells us some important things about Jesus, and that is certainly true. But the Word becoming flesh also tells us some important things about God, about being human and about God’s creation of which humans are a part.

Christianity has been perceived as having a fairly negative attitude towards creation. It’s not so much that we were supposed to have regarded created matter as being evil, rather we treated creation as without a future and without hope; cursed by God because of Adam’s sin. But the Word became flesh, so can a holy God inhabit a cursed matter? So maybe the earth was not cursed by God but by us, maybe the curse pronounced in Genesis was not a malediction but an observation. When the Word becomes flesh it is not only our redemption from sin and death that is undertaken, it is the redemption of matter itself that is taken up. When we look at the birth of Jesus from that perspective it gives profound meaning and power to St. Paul’s statement on creation in his letter to the Roman Christians:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19-23)

It would appear that the triumphant cry of “Good!” that is God’s verdict on his creation has never been revoked. But God’s verdict of Good does not deny the presence of evil in the world. God’s response to our evil is “the Word became flesh.” That’s important to remember when we think of Jesus on the cross. Our culture often portrays Jesus as a victim of circumstances, a gentle rabbi with a passion for the lowly and despised that ran afoul of the power structures of his day. But because it was the Word Who became flesh, that interpretation will not do.

The Word through whom all matter came into being was on that cross and in the ultimate paradox the author of life died. But even in dying His final words open an ultimate mystery: “It is accomplished.” Some great divine plan came to a dividing moment in which the chains of futility that bound creation were unlocked. The Resurrection then brought something new, a divinely anticipated new creation that incorporated the old. It is worth noting that when Jesus is raised from death, when the new creation appears, Jesus does not go to the power centers of the ancient world to proclaim the arrival of God’s Kingdom. Instead he meets his shocked disciples in the ordinary places of their lives. In Galilee. By a lake. Having breakfast.

Because the Word became flesh there is now no circumstance of our lives that is too ordinary a place to meet God. Because the Word became flesh there is no activity so mundane where the glory of God cannot appear and bless. All of our lives lived outside of our worship gathering have the potential to be “God-infused.”

I invite you all to join us at Christmas where we tell the extraordinarily ordinary story of the Word becoming flesh. But remember, Christmas is but a day, and when that day ends there follows many more ordinary days in which nothing of what we say or do cannot bear God’s presence for the healing of the world.
In the glory of the Word made Flesh,

The Rev’d Jack Stapleton, Rector

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