This is the last post in my Advent and Christmas series. Today’s post will move from Matthew’s Gospel to John’s Gospel. John has his grip around an idea that Matthew just mentions: Matthew tells us that they are to name the baby “Yeshua” (or, Jesus) because he will save his people. But, then Matthew says this whole big event occurs to fulfill Isaiah 7:14 — the virginal conception leads to the great line: call him “Immanuel” because Jesus is “God with us.” John takes this idea and turns it into magnificent theology, and it is the theology that has shaped the Church ever since.
John’s words are breath-taking. They deserve to be quoted and read slowly:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
From the beginning to the end, the point is this: the Word of God entered into time, history and body and became the Son of God, Jesus, God Incarnate, the Word become flesh. From now on “theology” will be shaped by “christology.” To know God is to know Jesus, God Incarnate.
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the birth of Jesus is about the revelation of Who God Is and What God Is Like. Word, Light, Glory, Grace, Truth — no one, John says, has ever seen God, but he who has seen Jesus has seen God.
God with us means lots of things, including that we see God in the face of Jesus.