John begins his gospel not with narratives reporting the angelic visitations to Joseph and Mary but with a clear statement of the eternal deity of Jesus Christ – the Word who was both with God and God, who existed ‘in the beginning’, the Creator without whom ‘nothing was made that has been made’, the source and giver of both life and light.

But John quickly goes on to say that ‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him’.

In this way John alerts us to the incognito factor of Christmas.

God hidden in a human being.

The Creator disguised as a creature.

The eternal and infinite One locked into time and space.

The Almighty Lord this weak, dependent new-born.

The King of Glory covered with the mess of human birth.

God unrecognizable. God incognito.

And this incognito factor followed Jesus right through his life:

‘By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons’.

‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?’

‘... you, a mere man, claim to be God’.

‘Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him’.

No one looking that this new-born infant could have imagined for a moment that

The unseen, unknowable God has here become visible and knowable.

The unapproachable Holy One has here become accessible, even touchable.

Nor would anyone have understood that in this Christmas child the eternal, saving purpose of God has finally come to earth – that here in this baby is contained and revealed:

The wisdom of God that has been previously hidden.

The hope of eternal life promised before the beginning of time.

The grace of God given to us before time began.

The kingdom eternally prepared for those who believe in him.

Because this Son, this Lamb, is the one chosen and slain from creation of the world. In him God’s purpose is accomplished.

For those who know him, who have seen past the incognito factor, it seems that all the bells on earth should be ringing, that every choir in the world should be singing in exultant praise, that human beings everywhere should be overwhelmed with inexpressible, uncontainable joy. But that is not the way it happens – because this ‘incognito factor’ is still in operation. Just as the world did not recognize him at his birth so it does not recognize him at ‘Christmas’ now.

For those who do not believe in him he is still ‘incognito’ – still hidden in plain sight.

But for us who do see him, who do believe in his name he is incognito no longer. For us, ‘God ... has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’

Scriptures in order of occurrence: John 1:1-4, 10,11; Luke 11:15; Matthew 13:55; John 10:33; Matthew 27:42; John 1:18; 1John 1:1,2; 1Corinthians 2:7; Titus 1:2; 2Timothy 1:9; Matthew 25:34; 1Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 2Corinthians 1:20; 2Corinthians 4:6.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017