The Gospel of John concentrates on Jesus’ divine identity. John says nothing specific about Jesus’ birth. His interest is to show the true identity and eternal nature of the One who became the human being, Jesus. John begins his Gospel before time began, we might say, in order to inform us about Jesus’ existence. He says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”1
John next tells us that the divine Word underwent an absolutely radical and unique change. John describes this historical creative act tersely in a single sentence in verse 14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
The divine Word (the Son of God or Jesus Christ) became a fertilized egg in Mary’s womb. That cell divided again and again, becoming in time tens of millions of cells, developing into an embryo and then a fetus, and finally resulting in the birth of the infant Jesus, after Mary’s normal, nine-month pregnancy.
Words cannot adequately describe the astonishingly infinite creativity and freedom of God to reach down to us by becoming one of us, bringing us the joyous good news of who he is for us and who he has made us to be in Jesus Christ.
From infinite power to human cell
When we turn to the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we find a further explanation of this profound occurrence — the Incarnation — the “infleshing” of the divine Son of God as the man Jesus.
Paul writes, speaking of Jesus Christ: “Being in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Why would the eternal, all-powerful Son of God put himself through such a profound change, taking on our fallen human nature and mortal body? Paul explains why by telling us that this act of pure love was necessary for our salvation. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich [in very nature God], yet for your sakes he became poor [human flesh], so that you through his poverty might become rich [receive eternal life]” (2 Corinthians 8:9, italics mine).
What God accomplished in Jesus
There in a nutshell is the greatest story ever told. In this miraculous act of the Word become human flesh, Jesus took on our fallen human nature and recreated it within himself, transforming it into his perfect and righteous human nature. In Jesus’ death on the cross, God wiped away our spiritual fallenness and freed us from the sinfulness that enslaves us. In his bodily resurrection, Jesus was the forerunner of our salvation, drawing us into the new life of his resurrection. And, finally, at his coming in power and glory, Jesus will end the stranglehold of human death by redeeming our mortal bodies with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
All this stems from God’s eternal and inexhaustible love for us. Is it any wonder that Christmas celebration is filled with wonder and awe, as we contemplate the Incarnation of Jesus, our Savior and Lord?
Christian believers do not put their faith in a group of doctrines or a set of logical proofs. They have no faith in fake, ersatz “gods.” They place no false hopes in themselves and do not rest on any “good works” that they perform.
Believers believe in a living person — Jesus Christ, who is true God of true God, sent by the Father, and who, with the Father, “lives in” them by the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21). Each Christian believer says with the apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed”—Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:12).
That is the story of Christmas — the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
1 Here we are given a truth about the Being of God that stretches our imagination to the utmost. It was not contemplated by human beings before God acted to reveal himself in Jesus. As it turns out, the one divine Being who is God has existed from eternity in three eternal and distinct persons who are of the same essence — Father, Son (the Word who was born as Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.