The God Who Became Man.
It is remarkable that God did not surprise humanity with His sudden physical appearance, but He looked forward to it with amazing indefatigable anticipation, repetitively addressing His exciting intent with deplorable man, through His Prophets. His persistent visitations with men like Abraham on his pilgrimage, Moses in his judgments, and David in his governance, and others throughout Old Testament human history, intimated that He would come. Isaiah captured the grand themes of this anticipated arrival so aptly when he described Him as the Mighty God, Eternal Father, with the government resting on His shoulders (Is 9:6-7). To appreciate this incredulous plan of Yahweh, one has to put on the cap of a heathen; where In hindsight, this historically bizarre news ought to elicit from deep within our hearts a disbelief, yet profound worshipful gratitude in any believer, where Immanuel, God with us, was and still is, the Christmas refrain to this day (Matt 1:23).
The first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels, each brought us a particular perspective on the birth of Jesus. Again, God continued to highlight His advent to the priest Zacharias in the Gospel of Luke. The latter delineated the only detailed account of the angelic visitation to Mary, and the accompanying events leading to her miraculous conception, with the command to name this august baby, the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Son of Yahweh? I cannot imagine how Mary might have felt, as any Jewish person would, with this abhorrent announcement by the angel Gabriel. Although the Scriptures depicted Mary’s compliance acceptingly, perhaps recurrent insomnia may not be an unexpected human outcome! In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph gets to tell his side of the story, as he struggled to come to terms with a potential stoning judgment on Mary, if news got out about her pregnancy before they were officially man and wife. He dreamt that an angel informed him to take Mary as his wife, and the baby should be named, Joshua; for He will save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21; Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, meaning Yahweh saves). The ‘I AM WHO I AM’ to be born and to save! It boggled the mind, and probably entailing a few more sleepless nights. Throughout Matthew’s report, he recounted Jesus saving His people from their sins through His healing and forgiveness, time and again. Well, only God can forgive sins –every Jew knew that! It was blasphemous to consider that a normal person can truly forgive another’s sin. God walking among men – who could believe it!
John was more theologically courageous in his Gospel, expositing on the outrageous origin of the coming God-Man: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it….. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5; John 1:14). How does one begin to clarify such confounding implications? The human mind is incapable of grasping the magnitude of God’s self-expression here: where ‘light’ isn’t about brightness, but focused on the revelation of moral truth (John 8:12); where salvation from sins isn’t about conversion to a religion, but is a new birth directly initiated by God Himself (John 1:10-13); where the Word became flesh not just lived among us, but became the convergence of man and God in Himself (i.e., He tabernacled among us; John 1:14), and the source of protection and communion with God to us. John glimpsed His glory, and that revelation was extraordinarily singular, as few noticed it since He was just a man with no stately form or majesty (Isa 53:1-3). But that glory is identical with God’s heavenly glory that smothered Isaiah (Is 6:1-5). What did John see when others did not, that completely transformed his view of the Messiah, because no one is able to see God and live? (Ex 53:20). Perhaps it was Jesus’ exemplary and sacrificial journey of grace and truth which culminated at the cross, that spoke of His glory – in death and in resurrection – the process rather than the events. The Lord said to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me?” (John 14:9). Many had seen Him when He walked this Earth, but they did not look closely nor paid any attention to His actions, words and manner of life. They had eyes but could not see. But it could have been any of us, who heard and knew much about Him, and yet do not know Him! We can even be presumptuous with what we are familiar with concerning God’s advent, but what does the Word became flesh mean to each of us? After all, a relationship with Yahweh cannot be at arm’s length, as at its crux, it is a heart-to-heart engagement – being tabernacled with Him.