“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
᛭ INI ᛭
What sort of dwelling among is this? Maybe we recognize our need for it. Maybe we don’t. But when it comes to His dwelling among us, what are we in for? Do we really want Him showing up? Will He show up on our terms or His? Is it safe? Is He safe?
Nevertheless He comes. The Light comes. The Word comes. Even John comes! “Come” is the repeated word here. Where does He come? To whom does He come? Why does He come? He “comes to His own,” but who are they? Who does He claim as His own?
What can you and I expect from His coming? What will we get out of it? What will get out of Him? But that’s the wrong question, selfish one. We should rather expect what He promises to give at His coming. And the LORD comes exactly as He means to, and He comes for the expressed purposes that He lays out.
Jesus gives and comes exactly as He promises. Any let down we experience confesses a problem not with His promises or coming or dwelling, but rather with our sinful expectations. Our empty expectations make for an empty Christmas. But with ears attuned—faith-ed!—to the LORD’s promises, the LORD actually exceeds our expectations, and definitely so for our deepest needs.
((2. The LORD comes to the darkness.))
Now, John’s language seems a bit lofty, I’ve got to say. Dealing with who Jesus is from eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Seemingly big ideas, big words for a big God. (We like that sort of thing, I guess.) But John’s lofty language can pull us from the reality of the simplicity of Jesus’ coming.
John, as it were, is pulling back the curtain. He’s giving us a glimpse of what lies behind and in the Christ Child. Because “the Word becoming flesh” sounds impressive, and it is impressive, but it’s only so to faith. To the eyes it’s just “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Yes, the baby Jesus, infant Jesus, in His birth, after His birth, and even before His birth, is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of Very God.” But He doesn’t just stay “in the bosom of the Father,” He comes. He comes simply, and He comes exactly where He needs to be. Jesus, the Eternal Light, comes into the darkness. He doesn’t come to bring light to light, strength to the strong, peace to the peaceful. “The Light shines in the darkness.”
That’s where the LORD comes and goes—into the darkness. The darkness of our world. The darkness of your world. Who does the Lord claim as His own? He claims those who are in the darkness as His own. “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light; on those sitting in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned.”
“The Light shines in the darkness” for those in darkness. He comes to the weak, the lost, the sinner, the outcast, the drunk, the dying, the dead. He sleeps among the likes of cattle. As Luke puts it, “there was no room FOR THEM in the guest room.” He comes into that kind of darkness. The darkeness of sin, sadness, and separation, to those who know only of such things, just to them He comes.
The Lord comes. Don’t let the lofty language trick you because as lofty as it is the Lord comes to the lowly. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” means that “The Light shines in the darkness.” It means that the Lord comes into the darkness, to those in the darkness. He comes to dwell with us in our darkness. He comes to bring us “into His marvelous light.” Or to put it another way: The Lord comes to bring “grace upon grace.”
((1. The LORD comes to bring χάριν αντὶ χάριτος.))
The Lord coming into darkness means He comes to bring grace on top of grace, and the grace He comes to give is this: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That, dear friends, is a good summary for the life of Jesus. It didn’t matter how the darkness came: whether it was Herod’s rage in Bethlehem, the Scribes and Pharisees, Pontius Pilate, or whether it was your sins, our infirmities, or even death itself. Jesus was born, Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose. “The Light shines in the darkeness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
“And from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” The Light shines more and more, gives more and more and more. Grace upon grace. Favor upon favor. Or to put it a bit more concretely: gift on top of gift! That’s how the Lord does His coming. That’s how the Lord does His giving. It is His giving. He gives His way. He gives what He gives exactly the way He promises to give. It’s always gift on top of gift in the “light shining in the darkness” sort of way.
That’s we get from Him. His light shining in our darkness. That’s what we should expect from Him according to His promises. The Lord coming at Bethlehem is Gift. The Lord going to His cross and death is Gift on top of that Gift. The Lord rising from the dead is the Gift on top of that Gift.
So is His giving to you now—each a light in the midst of the darkness. Baptism. His Word. His Absolution. His Body and Blood. Gift on top of Gift on top of Gift. This is how the Light continues to shine in the darkness, this how the Word continues to dwell among, this is how we continue to see His glory shining in the darkness. The devil and our flesh would have us look for other Gifts—so much darkness there.
But you are born of God. You are His child. You are “born not of the blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man” but you have received “washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” You are an “heir having the hope of eternal life.” Nothing on this earth can change that. That is a Light than can never ever get used up. All the other lights get added. Just why the Lord comes to you: to bring you gift on top of gift. Never an end to His giving of His grace, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His adoption as sons.
Jesus gives and comes exactly as He promises. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He comes to the darkness, to dwell with those in darkness. He comes to be our Light in the darkness, to shine His Light into it, “and the darkness has not overcome it.”
He comes to give you “grace upon grace.” Gift on top of Gift. The gifts He gives out never run out. His Light never runs out. His eternal Light shines among us, today and always.
THE LORD COMES TO DWELL WITH YOU THIS CHRISTMAS AND ALWAYS.
That’s what Christmas is all about. That’s what His coming into the darkness, His giving Gift upon Gift is all about. That’s what His manger is all about. That’s what His cross and His empty tomb are all about. That’s what His Word, His Font, His Keys, His Sermons, His Supper are all about.