"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." The Gospel According to John, chapter 1, verse 14.
These are among the most awesome words ever written.
is Jesus, but what does it mean to say that he is the Word? It means that he is the creative power and authority of God, as in 'And God said, "Let there be light!" and there was light.' (Genesis 1:3)
"...became flesh..." The power and authority that created the world can reside in human biology; it did in Jesus, and that's only the beginning...
"and made his dwelling among us." Literally, 'tabernacled' or, made a tabernacle - the tent where God's glory rested when he met with his people in ancient times, and the model for the temple that would be built by king David. Jesus' physical body is described as tabernacle; elsewhere, the New Testament describes the physical bodies of those who follow him as the temple. In other words, the power and authority that resided in Jesus in order to display God's glory is intended to reside in his followers, for the same purpose.
"We have seen his glory..." Literally, 'beheld his glory'. The apostle Paul wrote that, "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord..." (2 Corinthians 3:18). That is, as we gaze on Jesus in wonder, like the angles, shepherds and wise-men long ago, we reflect his glory - not as a mirror reflects light but is not itself changed, but as the moon reflects the light of the sun and is transformed from grey to mesmerising silver, blue, blood red...
Jesus comes to us today, to live in us, transform us, transform the lives of those around us. That is the message and the hope of Christmas.
Around 3% of the people of Sheffield will go to church this Christmas. For the rest, the greatest adventure in the world will pass them by. Not dissimilar to how it all started, really. A few shepherds, living on the margin of their society, shunned by most - but with a story of what they had seen that they just couldn't keep to themselves.