Monday 5 October 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (27/50) – His Unique Birth: The Word Became Flesh

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the twenty-seventh of the fifty emails, this one written by Margaret Killingray

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world… So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:1-7

It’s such an ordinary story – government orders, people on the move, a baby born in a mucky corner of a third world city to a not yet married mother. We know the story, ‘celebrated’ in tinsel and reindeer from Tokyo to Timbuctu, from San Francisco to Seoul. And this one ordinary baby certainly has had influence beyond anyone else born before or since – millions counting their years and their history from his birth, millions knowing his name, one way or another.

Matthew ties his birth into the Old Testament – ‘fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah’ (1:17). John goes further back – ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through him all things were made… the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us’ (1:1, 3, 14).

The Word became flesh. This pivotal point in all history – the history of our world, the history of creation, the history of the universe, the history of humans from being made in the image of the Word, their creator, through the Fall to the end of time – begins with the birth of one small, vulnerable, helpless human being, whose significance and uniqueness has unimaginable implications for you and for me.

As we read through the four gospels, we experience again this contrast between following the life story of a man, and slowly beginning to understand who he is and what he is doing. And as we rejoice with gladness of heart in all the promises of salvation, forgiveness, mercy and grace won for us on the cross, we rejoice, also, that this man, our Lord and Saviour, who understands what it means to be human, vulnerable and subject to thirst and weariness, pain and death, rose from the dead, and promises that too.

Margaret Killingray

For further reflection and action:

1. Reflect on the cultural traditions of Christmas as practised in your household and your part of the world. How far should Christians challenge or affirm aspects of popular patterns of this ‘celebration’?

2. Reflect on the ideas behind the use of the word ‘Word’ in John’s first chapter. Look at Genesis 1:3 where God speaks, and it happens, and at Revelation 22:20 where he speaks again, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’. In what ways has God spoken to you in the past week?

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