The Word Became Flesh: An Advent Meditation on John 1
By A Servant In Training
When it comes to the doctrine of the Incarnation, few texts in Holy Scripture compare to the inspired words of St. John. Since John was the longest living of the Apostles, he lived to see the degenerate forces of the Gnostics trying to undermine fundamental doctrines of Jesus, as well as apostates and heretics denying either His deity or His humanity. John witnessed what was being done to the Apostolic witness of his sainted brothers, and wrote his Gospel and his Epistles to reinforce the truth of Jesus. At the very beginning of this effort, John pens the first chapter of his Gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God. The same was in
the beginning with God. All things were made by
him; and without him was not any thing made that was
made. In him was life; and the life was the light of
men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the
darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was
John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of
the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every
man that cometh into the world. He was in the
world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew
him not. He came unto his own, and his own
received him not. But as many as received him, to
them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to
them that believe on his name: Which were born, not
of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,
but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and
dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of
the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
St. John makes several things clear. First, that Jesus is the same God through whom the universe was made—He is not a creature, but the Creator, one with the Father and the Spirit. Secondly, that Jesus is fully human, born of the Virgin Mary, full of grace and truth, and like us in every way except for sin. These two truths are the central confessions of the doctrine of the Incarnation, which John sums up perfectly as he says, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” In this very simple confession, the infinite mystery of Immanuel – God With Us—is brought forth in the person of Jesus Christ.
We might ask today, what the significance of such a confession is. Plenty of nuts today claim to be gods, and plenty of other nuts claim there is no god at all. The world keeps turning, day by day, century by century, while people either ignore or deny the Incarnation of Jesus. Even to Christians, what difference does it make whether John’s confession is true, or that we share it? Why does it matter that we affirm both the humanity and the deity of Christ, united in the one person of Jesus, who is Himself perfectly united to the other persons of the Holy Trinity?
The implications couldn’t be more serious, because they lay at the foundation of what the Church calls the Doctrine of Justification: that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, and specifically through Jesus’ Vicarious Atonement for the sins of the whole world. If Jesus was not fully human, He couldn’t suffer and die for human beings. If Jesus was not fully God, He could not pay an eternal debt on behalf of all mankind. Only if Jesus was fully human, receiving His full human nature from His mother Mary, and fully divine, receiving His full divine nature from God the Father, could Jesus accomplish the salvation of the world upon the Cross. Without His humanity, Jesus’ death is nothing but an irrelevant divine show; without His deity, Jesus’ death is just another human tragedy. But with full humanity and deity united in His one person, Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplish what no one else could do: salvation by grace to all who repent and believe.
We meditate upon the doctrine of the Incarnation this time of year, because it shows to us the loving heart of our saving God. There in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our God comes down from eternity and bursts into time, so that He may seek and save the lost. There, in the tabernacle of Mary’s body, the Lord of Glory comes to dwell among His people, so that He might take their sins upon Himself, and be the ransom for their redemption. There, in the humble handmaiden of the Lord who becomes the Second Eve by her assent to the divine will, the Lord our God becomes for us the Second Adam—and where death came through our first parents, life and forgiveness come to us through Jesus Christ. Here the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, preaching to us the Gospel of salvation, of God and man reconciled, giving unto all who will believe in Him the power to become the children of God. Here, God comes to save us all, so that we might be born not merely of flesh and blood, but by His Holy Spirit unto life everlasting.
Come, see, hear, and receive the Word made Flesh—He comes to save you. Amen.