“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
And the Word became flesh. It is this statement right here for which we celebrate Christmas. But what does it mean? What is the Word? The Word was in the beginning with God. This means that the Word has no beginning and no end. The Word has a special relationship with the Father that nothing else has; neither angel nor human being. Not only has the Word always been with God, but the Word is God.
Here John is teaching us about the Holy Trinity. There is only one God, yet, there are three Person’s in the Godhead. The Word is the second Person in the Trinity. He is also called the only begotten Son of the Father. He was begotten by the Father before all worlds, that is, outside of time. There never was a time when the Word was not. He has always been with God and he has always been God.
All things were made through the Word and without the Word nothing was made that was made. This again proves to us that the Word is uncreated. This is why we say in the Creed, “Begotten, not made.” God created all things through his Word. The title Word is a descriptive name. Word has a double meaning. Sometimes when we say the word of God, we are referring to something that God has said, for example, the Holy Scriptures. Yet, other times when we speak of the Word of God, we are speaking of the Person in the Holy Trinity, also known as the Son of God. This is because it is the Son who speaks. The Father does not create anything or accomplish anything apart from his Son. So, when the Father speaks, his Son speaks. This is how closely their relationship is. Psalm 33 captures this well, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth their hosts.” Is the Psalmist speaking of the Word, which is the Person, or the word, which is his speech? Both. God speaks through his Son.
John also calls the Word the light. This again is a descriptive name. Light means that he illumines the minds of people. The Psalmist again says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And so, we see that the Word of God has been active throughout the history of mankind. From creation, the Word has continued to speak and enlighten mankind. And the light of the Word of God has shone through the preaching of the prophets and the writing of sacred Scripture.
And so, with so many words we just briefly summed up what is meant by the Word. The Word is our God. He is God’s Son. Through him all things were created and continue to hold together. By him the angels and prophets spoke and the Scriptures were written. He is eternal, all powerful. He completely transcends the created world, whether we speak of the physical universe or the invisible spirits. And this Word became flesh!
What does it mean that the Word became flesh? Well, it means that this eternal God has taken on a human body. And not just a human body, but a human soul and will. This Word become flesh is Jesus Christ himself; that little baby lying in a manger, wetting his diaper and craving milk from his mother. He is powerful enough that the mountains and oceans were formed by him and all orbs of the heavens run their course by his will, yet, he now lies bound by swaddling cloths; too weak even to control his arms. You see a simple baby; indiscernible from any other infant. Yet, you behold God in the flesh!
When John says that the Word became flesh, he is not saying that the Word of God simply possessed the body of a man. Rather, God became man in every way that man is. A human being is made up of three components, without any it is not a human being: A body, a soul, and a will. Jesus clearly has a body. He was a baby in a manger. He walked, spoke, ate, drank, got tired, cried, was beaten and killed, after his resurrection he again showed his body to his disciples, let them touch him, and he ate in front of them. Jesus also has a human soul. Without a soul, a body cannot live. And Jesus himself said on the night of his betrayal, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (Matthew 26:38) And Isaiah prophesied of Jesus saying, “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;” and “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” (Isaiah 53:10, 11). And Jesus certainly has a human will, which is distinct from, yet in full conformity with God’s will, as he spoke to his Heavenly Father in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
It is important for you to understand that when Scripture says, “The Word became flesh” that flesh includes a human body, soul, and will, because everything the Word became, he became in order to save it. You have a human body, which is dying. The Word took on a human body in order to give your body eternal life. You have a human soul, which deserves to be cast into hell forever on account of your sins. The Word took on a human soul in order to save your soul. You have a human will, which has rebelled against God’s will and made you guilty before him. The Word took on a human will, so that he could perfectly obey God in your place and fulfill the will of God for you. This means that when we say, The Word became flesh, what we are saying is that God became all that is necessary to save you from sin, death, and hell.
Yet, why does he use the word flesh? Why didn’t he say that the Word became a human being, as in other places of Scripture it calls him a man? This is to point to his work here on earth. Flesh is what you sacrifice on an altar. The Word became flesh in order to prepare himself to be sacrificed for your sins. He took on your human blood, so that he would bleed that blood for you. He took on your flesh, so that his flesh would be pierced for your transgressions. His soul itself is a holy offering to God. And because he does all this while remaining the Author of Life (Acts 3:15), this sacrifice makes your salvation certain.
And dwelt among us. These are important words that we should not quickly overlook. Jesus Christ, true God and man, dwelt among human beings. Real eye witnesses saw him. They touched him. They spoke to him and listened to what he said. There are lots of myths in pagan religions about gods coming down to earth and taking on human form. This is not a myth we are talking about. We are talking about the real, historical event when God became man and dwelt among us. God himself lied in that manger. God himself hung on that cross. God himself lied in that tomb. God himself, permanently untied to our human flesh now dwells in heaven, interceding for us.
The word for dwell is related to the word tabernacle, which causes some people to turn the word tabernacle into verb. The point is that the tabernacle in the Old Testament, where God dwelt in the Most Holy Place, was a prophecy about Jesus. As God dwelt with his people in the tabernacle, so God dwells with his people in the body of Jesus Christ.
And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. These witnesses of Christ Jesus witnessed the only begotten Son of the Father. When they saw Jesus, they saw their God! This is why wisemen worshipped him along with all his disciples. When they witnessed Jesus, they witnessed their salvation. They saw him die and rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. This means that a man dwells in heaven, at God’s right hand, who has been with God from the beginning and indeed is God. Our human flesh sits on God’s throne! That is the certainty we have in our salvation!
The Word became flesh in order for you to receive grace from God. Christ came to save you. And he continues to shower you with his grace; even to dwell with you through his Word; to come to you in his very body and blood in the Sacrament! When we believe the Gospel and receive the Sacrament, we believe that this is from the Godman himself, who has won for us salvation.
This is most certainly true. Jesus Christ is truth. The Word really did become flesh. Christ Jesus truly did die for our sins and rise for our salvation. And he truly sits in heaven interceding for our salvation. Jesus Christ is truth. We truly eat his very body and blood for our forgiveness and salvation. If the eternal Word could become flesh, it is a small thing for him to give us his flesh and blood in bread and wine. This is truth. Our God does the impossible to save us. Our God has become man for us. Our God has won salvation for us. This is what is meant by, “And the Word became flesh.” Merry Christmas, Children of God. And happy New Year. Amen.