According to the website, Bethelemtravel.com, it is hard to predict how many tourists will visit Bethlehem during Christmas, this year, since this number is always influenced by the tension and events in the region. The number of visitors during Christmas in 2011 was the highest in a decade, mounting to 100,000 tourists. It seems the little town of Bethlehem is always humming with travelers from afar. Not much has changed in 2,000 years…
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the Scripture says the city of David was jam-packed with people. Of course, they were not tourists seeking the once in a lifetime experience of celebrating Christmas in the city of Jesus’s birth, or there to purchase a nativity scene carved out of its native olive tree wood. They were there for a different reason.
Luke’s Gospel tells us they were there because Caesar Augustus had ordered for a census to be taken. Since everyone was required to go to “his own city,” Joseph and Mary were required to register in Bethlehem, the city of their ancestor David (Luke 2:1-5). The Bible says there were so many visitors when Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, the hotels were all booked. When Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, “she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Just as it was at the time of Jesus’s birth, most people will not grasp the magnitude of the event. Though as many as 100,000 people may celebrate this year’s Christmas in Bethlehem, one wonders how many of them will really understand the true significance of the incarnation. For many people, Christmas is not the most joyous time of year. Neither is it supremely about God. The ME-centeredness of the season and the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations robs many people of the joy of reflecting on God’s generosity in the giving of His Son.
For this reason, we must continually have our minds renewed by God’s perspective. Therefore, on each Tuesday of the month of December, I will share some thoughts on the significance of the incarnation, drawing from John 1:14.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
It is never wise to place one Scripture above another, for all is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). But, in my opinion, John 1:14 ranks among the greatest Christmas verses of all. What John reveals to us is distinct in its focus. In the Gospel of Mark, the life of Christ begins when he arrives at the banks of the Jordan to be baptized by John. In Matthew, we are taken back from Jesus to Abraham. And in Luke, the earthly genealogy of Christ goes back to Adam. But John goes farther back—back as far as one can go—to eternity past, where there is no beginning.
Who or what is this Word that became flesh? John informs us that the Word is God, and in 1:1-2 he reveals four characteristics of his identity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. In these two verses, John reveals three attributes of the Word which expose His divinity.
He is eternal
John says the Word was in the beginning. Here is the eternality of God, of the Christ, as is revealed in other Scriptures. For example, Revelation 1:8 records the words of Jesus, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The Old Testament prophet revealed the eternality of the Messiah, But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2). The Word that became flesh is the eternal God.
He is revelational
The Word is the divine logos, the speech of God. Logos is derived from the verb lego, which means to speak. It refers to the manifestation of the one who is speaking. The Word is the speech of God; He is the divine Communicator. He is the fullest manifestation of God. The logos is the supreme revelation of God. Later in the same chapter, John says Jesus has made the invisible God visible (John 1:18). Hebrews 1:1-2 testifies to this truth as well: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. The eternal Word became flesh in order to reveal God to man.
He is relational
The Word was “in the beginning with God.” The eternal Christ enjoyed intimate fellowship with His Father and the Spirit from all of eternity. In the beginning, He was with God. Literally, face to face with God. Illustration: In his commentary, Herschel Hobbs tells us that,
In ancient times if one entertained two guests of equal rank they must be seated on an equal basis. If one were tall and the other short, the latter was seated on pillows so that when he looked at the former their eyes met on an even line. Neither must look down upon or up to the other. They saw eye to eye. They were pros, face to face, with each other. They were equal.
The word was with God—in equality and intimate relationship. In what is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in John 17, He prayed, And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (John 17:5). A little later, He continued, Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).
True Christians believe God is One, eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons eternally co-exist in relationship to one another. The Father loves the Son and has authority over Him. The Son loves and obeys the Father. The Spirit is sent forth from both the Father and the Son, and has a main purpose of glorifying the Son of God. All three live eternally in perfect unity—they always have.
What a marvel it is then that one member—the Son—willingly obeyed the Father’s will, and the Trinity’s plan of redemption, in order to become fully human. Eternal God became human flesh. The eternal Christ became what He had never been before. He became flesh—and He did so in order to become the sin offering that you and I needed (Read Hebrews 10:5-7).
The wonder of Christmas is that God became man. The eternal Son of God became fully human in the person of Jesus Christ. In His earthly body, He revealed God. He demonstrated His deity in numerous ways, lived a sinless life, and then presented Himself to God as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. After experiencing death on the cross, He was buried. Three days later, He rose from the grave as evidence of His deity. Today, He sits at the right hand of God interceding for those who repent and believe in His name.