“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 anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men… 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.”
John 1:1-4, 14
There is quite a lot of theology contained in these five verses, so much that many gifted minds have expended hundreds of thousands of words in attempting to explain their meaning. I am not here to necessarily do that, for I do not believe I possess the capabilities to do so. However, I do want to explore what the grand idea contained in John Chapter One is: the divine logos and the incarnation. For here in these verses we are offered the foremost description of the birth of Christ and what it means for us. Some may wonder what I mean by this considering that only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, describe Christ’s birth. While Matthew and Luke provide us with the details of the birth of Christ, it is here in John where we are given a glimpse into the very meaning of Christ’s birth, and the answer of life’s mystery; for, reality itself was described when “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” So, what is the meaning of Christmas? What is the reason for the season? What is the purpose for celebration? These are the questions I want to answer here so that we head into Christmas with the correct vision and do not aimlessly partake in all the pomp and circumstance of the holidays.
To begin, the Greek translation of “word” is “logos.” It refers to something that is said, implicating a topic, purpose, or motive. In John, it is referencing the “divine expression” of God: namely, Jesus Christ. The very idea of “logos” is all around us in the world. Our world is suffused with patterns, meanings, purpose, and ends we pursue. We see it in our literature, art, music, religions, and so on. It is written into the fabric of reality and reflected in the ways in which we interact with the world. These patterns all seem to represent, paint a picture of, and point to something: Perhaps to some grand pattern, form, or truth - what Plato described as the ultimate form toward which all forms point: the Good.
In the Christian worldview, one will find many of these patterns. They can also be found elsewhere: in the wisdom of the Stoics, Kant, Aristotle, the Hindus, the Buddhists, and so on. One can even find one of the foremost patterns of reality – descent and ascent – in the stories of pagan religions where gods die for some worthy or just cause. This overlap is often used as a critique of Christianity. It will be said that the story of Christ is merely a repetition of these older stories because there are striking similarities between them. Therefore, just as those pagan stories, the story of Christ is merely a myth. Sadly, many Christians have let this become a valid critique. For C.S. Lewis, this argument was most certainly not a critique; in fact, Lewis claimed that it is just what we should suspect, and if we did not see these patterns, these “pagan Christs,” it would be a stumbling block for the Christian faith. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is not because the repetition found across religious stories serves as evidence of the divine logos and the incarnation.
In the aforementioned critique of the Christian worldview, there is one correct claim made (quite an important one at that): namely, that the story of Christ is a myth. Many modern Christians run from this truth, but we should run no more. The skeptic goes wrong in claiming it is merely a myth, though. As C.S. Lewis reasoned, Christ is a myth that became fact. The parallels of pagan myths with sacrificial gods point, just like all patterns of reality, to the logos, purpose, and reason for reality itself that has been with God since the beginning, which, as John Chapter One states, is God himself. These common symbols lead us to the very purpose of reality itself; the divine logos; and the very thing reality exists through and for (Colossians 1:16): Jesus Christ. This is why scripture describes Christ as the lamb foreordained and slain before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:1). Christ is the purpose, the reasoning, the divine expression of God himself, and the very thing that tethers heaven and earth. He is the theory of everything we so desperately search for. Christ is that toward which our patterns point and the very thing myth and moral intuitions shadow.
We cannot continue to ignore the myth and the mystical aura that infuses our theology. But, we also cannot forget that this myth did indeed become fact. Christianity is a story, a narrative, that we either accept or reject.
That must be the case, and one thing must be true: Christ himself is not one of the patterns of reality. He is not a moral teacher with some taste of the truth to offer us. Moral teachers tell us what the truth of the universe is and what direction we are supposed to go, but Christ claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only path to God, because he is the divine logos himself (John 14:6). He is not showing us the way to some truth: He is claiming to be the truth itself.
Thus, I pray that we are able to see what Christmas is truly about. I pray that we will begin to understand the absolute, mystical marvel that occurred on Christmas day. For on this day, over two thousand years ago, the divine logos of God was expressed; heaven did indeed meet earth; the symbolic and objective worlds touched; and “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Today Jesus Christ looks to us demanding not only our obedience and submission but also our awe and wonder. In What Are We To Make of Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis paraphrases Jesus’s message to us:
If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first, you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Rebirth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe.
I pray we all find consolation and reason for the utmost gratitude and celebration in who Christ is. Merry Christmas from all of us at The Liberty Jacket, and may God bless you all this holiday season! //
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