This is one of my all-time favourite bits of the Bible. Especially at Christmastime when as we remember how Jesus came to live on earth, became fully human.
When I read this passage, I’m always struck by v14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. I’m told that a better translation of ‘dwelt’ is ‘pitched His tent’ or ‘tabernacled’
I’ve got a little note written in the margin of my Bible here – “be a tabernacle people, not a temple people. God who tabernacles with us wherever we set up camp”. We can get so fixated on church being a building, God’s house, that we forget that WE are the church, and wherever God’s people are, He is right there. Before the Israelites settled in the Promised land and built a temple, God’s dwelling was the tabernacle, a “tent of meeting” that they packed up, picked up and carried with them wherever they went. When they finished their day’s wanderings, they would reassemble the tent and set up camp around in. God dwelt in the middle of wherever His people were.
Looking back on the last year, and starting to think about the one to come, this is such a comforting message. Whatever this year throws at me, Jesus is right there with me through it all. He, Be came, became flesh and lived as a human. He knows emotions, He lived highs and lows and is right now with me to comfort or rejoice, to laugh, cry or encourage as needed. That gives me hope.
Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ into the world, but we can get so caught up in the Christmas traditions that we miss so much of the beauty in the story.
I’ve had several conversations this week with friends about a character in the nativity that is so often overlooked: Joseph. He didn’t have to take on the burden of Mary’s pregnancy, but he choose to still marry her and adopt her child, God’s child, as his own son. He protected the baby Jesus from danger, and then brought the boy up, teaching him and loving him. Joseph’s adoption of Jesus teaches us a profound truth, which is explained in verses 12 and 13 of this passage: “to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection gave us access to God, gave us the opportunity to become His sons.
I say sons because, much as I love to be inclusive of my own gender, children just does not get across the power of the image. Sons were the heirs, they had all the rights in Biblical times. Everyone who believes in Jesus gains all the rights of a son of God, all the inheritance He has in store for us (women included).
Jesus came. He was born, He lived, He died, He has been through all of human existence and can comfort us and encourage us, He is with us now, Emmanuel, and He welcomes us into God’s family.