I think we can all agree that this is going to be a different kind of Christmas. Perhaps, the struggles of 2020 have made us more aware of our need for a new perspective. For years, I have tried to help people get that new perspective by making Christmas a priority. Yet, I have found that some still miss the important ways that the Bible reveals God breaking through to do something new.
Maybe, like me, you know how easily we are prone to lose our way. Pressure to focus on many other things lead to catching a few verses from the Bible sprinkled onto cultural festivities; a manger scene, a little baby Jesus, a few magi with gifts and a traditional song or two. If this is your experience it is likely that you have ignored or missed a title for Jesus that is meant to shock, disrupt and invite us into a new kind of hope.
Even Christians often skim over and confuse the way the biblical writers depict that first ‘Christmas’ as unthinkable declarations are made about this new baby to be named Jesus.
THE NAMES YOU MIGHT KNOW
When names are used in the Bible they are meant to stretch our thinking and engage us to learn with a fresh perspective. For most people, these are some of the common names, often used as titles for Jesus, that come up at Christmas.
Do you recognize any of these ?
Emmanuel; God with Us
Prince of Peace
Light of the World
While all are important, this year seems like the best time to rediscover a name for Jesus that doesn’t get enough attention.
In a year filled with lies and misinformation, Jesus’ arrival and this particular name for him, reveals a vision of accountability we desperately need.
CHRISTMAS ACCORDING TO JOHN
You have likely never seen it on a card. You’ll rarely hear it in a song, and most preachers struggle to focus on it for their short Christmas sermon. Yet, John, close friend and earliest follower of Jesus, begins his Good News story with it.
That new born baby, laying in the manger, has a beginning you might not have considered. He writes,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
Nope, not Emmanuel. Nope, not Prince of Peace. Nope, not Wonderful counselor. Jesus is THE WORD. It would have landed like a bomb to his earliest audience.
For years, I have tried to encourage people to understand that before we get to the written word, the Bible, we get Jesus, THE ETERNAL WORD.
John’s title to describe the mystery of Jesus’ coming is meant to anchor our hearts to an essential aspect of the Christian faith. The joy-filled, life giving peace we so desperately need is a person; Jesus, the Word.
To associate Jesus with this idea was a radical idea. It is easy to miss this, but John, lead by the Spirit, uses the Greek word Logos that we translate as THE WORD in English. Borrowing from the Greek world of his primary audience, John’s title for Jesus is meant to accentuate that the truth that came through Jesus was available to all nations, all people, all languages.
Can you imagine?
An unusual Hebrew boy, who gives meaning to Greek thinking, soon to transform a Latin world; this is Good News.
Just like us, the people who heard John’s good news had many religious options. The first century was a type of buffet of religion. Yet, Jesus, THE WORD was meant to bring to the surface what made Christmas, according to the earliest Christians, a different kind of celebration. Consider these three insights to help you gain a deeper appreciation for how special Christmas can really be.
I. JESUS, THE WORD, AT THE BEGINNING BEFORE OUR BEGINNING
At Christmas, God the Son, THE WORD, is worshiped as the one whose love, in celestial time, was at work before the beginning of our terrestrial time. Read that again slowly. Jesus, The WORD, was already with God, at the beginning before time existed. It is this loving unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit that overflows and ushers in our human beginning.
John’s title for Jesus gives Christmas cosmic emphasis. In fact, it is John’s way of turning our gaze up and beyond the constant stories of despair connected to human brokenness.
Don’t we need that more than ever at the close of 2020?
Our fears and failures, our sins and sadness, do not get the final word, since they didn’t get the first word. God’s love, overflowing generosity was there first.
Because we are not the beginning of the story, we are drawn into the mystery that God’s love for us is at work even before our beginning takes place as expounded in Genesis. When we truly rediscover the joy of this season, we celebrate that there is a love, before this beginning of time, one called THE WORD, moving with us in mind.
II. JESUS, THE WORD, A WAY FOR THE LOST IN A DISORDERED WORLD
For years, I have seen people assume that John 1:1 is referring to The Bible when he says THE WORD. This is a dangerous theological error that leads to endless problems. Further, it fails to appreciate the rich theological truth of Christmas that can address the endless disorder and confusion of our time.
Remember, John’s use of the ‘secular’ Greek word logos, had a special meaning when John was putting together his Gospel, Good New story.
Logos was a popular Greek concept that people used to explain cosmic energy and ‘rational’ truth and cosmic order. Further, it had symbolic strength that’s why John wisely uses it. This is a reminder that sometimes you have to reach beyond your own story to tell a new story that others will understand.
Rediscovering the deeper meaning of Jesus, THE WORD, is one of the most important ways to reaffirm that a good God, as seen in creation, knows how to put things together for real healing. Just like a great doctor who know how to adjust a broken bone, Jesus, THE WORD, is now at work among us restoring and reordering relationships that require hearing the truth to heal.
Jesus, my beloved friend and LORD is THE WORD, the true Logos, who was re-ordering all things that had lost their way.
III. JESUS, THE WORD , A MODEL OF TRUTH & ACCOUNTABILITY
When we truly understand rich meaning of this name for Jesus we brought back to the creative thrust of the Christmas story. God speaks, and through the WORD, new life emerges. A common refrain throughout the Bible is that those who have ears should be quick to listen.
This is one of many reasons Mary is so special as part of this season. Before we get to say a word, THE WORD, and his messengers speak and we must surrender and listen. It should not surprise us that John will tell us that Jesus himself, in his humanness, models this way of life for us. He writes,
For I [Jesus] did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49
Jesus, THE WORD, is the obedient servant inviting us to follow his lead. Further, there is a subtle reminder that words, if they can be trusted, are grounded in accountability and responsibility.
Soon after Christmas, Jesus, THE WORD, will show us what it looks like when people follow his instruction. Only then will salvation truly make sense. Those who embrace the meaning of Christmas will model a posture of listening and obedience.
In an age of continuous lies and self-serving story tellers, John’s good news is about how injustice fueled by lies have met her match. THE WORD, who gives light to all, has come among you.
While many will unfortunately look back on 2020 as a year of deep lose, maybe we can walk alongside them ready to whisper some good news. When others use words to gain power, selfish advantage and irresponsible influence we can offer a word about love, meaning, accountability and obedience.
Might we have the courage to reclaim a name filled with truth and hope. May we never forget that in a humble room, along a feed box for animals, lay the only correction for how God’s love story corrects our lust stories.
There has never been a better time to reaffirm that Jesus, THE WORD, is the way through our present chaos and that’s Good News.