traditionally advent is seen as the season of preparation for the birth of Christ (or to use more theological language the Incarnation – that is God who incarnates, becomes flesh in order to live in the world and dwell with us as one of us). in days gone by the preparation was marked by prayer and self-examination; today we prepare by shopping and eating and parties. the reason for the old way is because of the connection between the season of advent and the season of lent, and the understanding that the Cradle and the Cross are one.
in the gospel of John, (which more than any of the other gospels gives us the deeper theological understanding of this great event called the Incarnation), we are told in 3:17 “indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” there can be no cross of salvation (or healing, as salvation comes from the latin “salvo” to heal) or resurrection to new and everlasting life for humanity, or the whole of creation, without the first great event – the Incarnation of the Living Word of God in form and likeness of humankind. the miracle of Christmas is the miracle of the Word become flesh as expressed in the first chapter of john’s gospel. it’s a good idea to meditate on John 1:1-34 during the season of advent. certain key facts about the importance and centrality of the Incarnation are revealed in john that are missing or not fully expressed in the other gospel narratives of the birth of Christ (note that in the gospel of mark there is no mention of Jesus’ birth, and in matthew and luke's narratives the focus is more centered on the fulfillment of hebrew prophecy, or the universality of God’s saving action in Christ, without the fuller deeper exploration of this revelation as found in John}.
in a nutshell the hallmarks of John’s narrative are: 1, the Word (that is Christ or God the Son) is one with God from all eternity; 2, the Word in being one with God is also the source of all life; 3, through the historical event of the Word becoming flesh the full out pouring of God’s grace (gifts) is made manifest for us, and is the means of our reconciliation with God and one another. it is here that the great revelation of Christianity to the world is begun to be made known – that God is Trinity, One God in community of being, and through the Word made flesh humanity is invited back into the life of the One Living Triune God, as was and is God’s intention for humanity.
when we focus on Christmas as being Jesus’s birthday (as in “happy birthday Jesus” let’s blow out the candles and open the gifts), instead of as the moment, in the course of the year, that we as the community of Christ remember and reflect on the great mystery of God’s coming to be with us by being one of us, we lose the true meaning of Christmas and the real sense of joy and hope that this most holy revelation gives to us in the here and now, and in the time to come.
you may wonder, and wish to ponder on, why john refers to God the Son (the second person in the Holy Trinity) as “the Word”? our modern English understanding of the term “word” does not fully express the meaning of the Greek word “logos” which we translate as “word”. likewise our normal usage of the term “word” lacks the deep theological significances of the term as understood in the early church. though some of our adages hint at the deeper meaning, for instance, we may say “she is known by her word”. when we say that we don’t mean people are known by what they actually say with their mouths but by how much their lives reflect what they say, and so we come to know the truth of someone’s word by their actions. “Logos” – “Word” means just that – the action or power behind and manifested through the “Word”. so in a real way to speak is to do(at least in terms of God), which brings us to the very opening lines of the bible as found the first chapter of Genesis – God speaks and creation thus unfolds. the power to create is found in God’s Word, we come to know God as creator because God’s Word (Jesus Christ) is active and true. and not just true but Truth itself, so john writes (1:17) “the law indeed was given through moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” so it is that through the Word we receive God’s grace/gift and in the Word we enter the Truth - which is the very life of the Triune God.
©2010 halley low