In the beginning . . .

The New Year is just around the corner. Once December arrives we’re on the home straight. The end of the year is in sight. Time for those New Year’s resolutions, time for a new beginning. But for those who follow the Christian church calendar, the new year begins with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ certainly marked the beginning of an era. We count the years of the current era from his birth.

When Yochanan bar Zivdi sat down to write his life of Christ he started at the very beginning of everything — the creation of the universe. His book (which we call the Gospel according to John) begins with the words “In the beginning” (John 1:1), the very same words the Bible begins with. Christ’s birth reminded him of creation. Was that the fanciful notion of an old man, for he was most likely in his nineties when he wrote? What led him to that idea? It was simply this, that Christ was none other than the Creator of this universe.

Photograph: Hubble Space Telescope of NGC 4710

Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Goudfrooij (STScI)
Further details about his image are available from Hubble Site.

Genesis begins “In the beginning God created . . .” (Gen. 1:1). When John writes “In the beginning was the Word” he’s saying the same thing, for he continues “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The one he calls the Word, Genesis calls God. They are one and the same person. And John continues, “All things came into being by him and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3) In other words, “In the beginning the Word created.”

You can’t help think how fitting the name the Word is because when God created this universe he did not manipulate elements or particles with forces or implements. He simply spoke. “Light, be!” are the first recorded words of God in the Bible (Gen. 1:3). All God had to do was speak and things came into being.

But what has this to do with Jesus Christ and Christmas? That’s where it all gets very interesting, for John continues, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In other words, John says when Jesus was born in Bethlehem 2000 or so years ago he was no ordinary child who grew up to be an ordinary man. He was the most extraordinary child this world has ever seen or known. He was God incarnate — God become a human being. The one who created this universe actually became one of his creatures.

Now that raises two questions in my mind. The first is how could that happen? The Bible doesn’t give much of an answer to that question. All we can say for certain is that God intervened in the normal human process so that Mary, Jesus’ mother, had a baby without a human father. Do you think that’s impossible? Think about it this way. If God could speak the universe into being, then creating a baby without a human father would be relatively straightforward, wouldn’t it?

However, I’m more curious about the other question. It’s much more interesting, and the Bible has a great deal to tell us about it. Why would God want to become a human being? He must have had a reason. But if you were God with all his knowledge and power and ability, why would you want to become mortal, limited, weak, and human?

That’s a great question, and the Bible gives us the answer in great detail. To find out more, why not read the Gospel according to John during this coming week? Just why would God want to become a human being?

The Gospel according to John is not a long book. It should only take around a hour an a half to read it at a single sitting. Or if you read it three chapters a day it would only take 10-15 minutes a day for the week. Read it online or listen to it read out loud at the ESV Bible site. You could also get a personal copy at a good bookshop or online retailer, a local Bible society office, or a nearby church.


This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 29 Nov 2009.

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