I have recently been re-reading the Gospels and have been struck at how vastly different John’s Gospel is to the others, and particularly in telling the Christmas story. While Matthew, Mark and Luke glean what information they could to write their best factual accounts of Jesus’ birth, John jumps straight into a theological melee that includes creation, law and grace, the trinity, and our place as a child of God.
Whilst the other Gospels mark Jesus’ birth as the moment He entered the world, John gives us much more context to the story of Jesus’ birth, recounting how He has been involved in the world from its beginning; indeed, the world was wholly created through Him. He has been present and involved all along … and then a very special day came.
The One who stood at the beginning of time, through whom all things were created, became flesh. He took on the nature of mankind, was born as a helpless baby, was given a human name and made His dwelling among us.
In all honesty, this is where my head struggles with the mental and spiritual gymnastics required to make sense of what this actually means, and more importantly, how does that work? I quickly hit my limit of human understanding and, just like the other Gospel writers, I can easily default to a more manageable (yet still mind-boggling) account of a virgin birth of a human child.
I guess John had the same battle, and there is a part of me that would like to think that these verses are a result of a personal conversation with Jesus about His birth. It certainly sounds like an explanation Jesus would give, rather than human thoughts or understanding. Of course, we cannot know how John came to understand and articulate these incredible truths, but they are there for us to receive in our spirits through faith, even if we can’t fully grasp them in our minds.
As we consider the nativity scenes around us, the songs we sing and the readings we read, we can easily focus on the baby and miss the deeper truth and context that John has provided for us. Maybe we can ponder today’s verse with expectant hearts and fully grasp that the One who made all things continues to dwell with us: Jesus, our Emmanuel.
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