A Christmas meditation

Christmas has, for many, become so familiar that the old English adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ has proved true. Certainly our secular society tries very hard to push the original Christmas out of sight and out of mind. And it is all too easy, even for us who know the real meaning of Christmas, to be so caught up with all the things that have to be done for ‘Christmas’ that we do not give ourselves time to feel again the awe and wonder of what actually happened in Bethlehem, and in the nine months that culminated in the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

But the apostle John never ceased to be amazed and overwhelmed by this event, this incarnation.

When he wrote his first letter late in the first century he was still talking about it:

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard ...’ [1John 1:1-3].

Similarly, he began his Gospel with the words:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men’ [John 1:1-4].


‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ [John 1:14]

John, who spent three years living as a student of Jesus Christ, observing his life, hearing his teaching, witnessing his miraculous actions, was totally convinced that this person who was obviously a human being was also God. God in human flesh. The Creator part of his creation.

John knew that in Jesus Christ the unthinkable had happened: God had become a man.

‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’ [John 1:18].

‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ [1John 5:20].

But so immense, so mysterious a thing is this, that not everyone believed it. Not everyone was willing to consider even for a moment that it might actually be true. It is too extreme a concept. Too radical. And, for Jesus’ contemporaries, too blasphemous a thought.

John records the unbelief, the non-acceptance, of the majority:

‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...’ [John 1:5].

‘The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 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 is own did not receive him ...’ [John 1: 9-11].

‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil’ [John 3:19].

‘For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him ... he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ [John 5:19].

‘We are ... stoning you ... for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God’ [John 10:33].

Jesus’ contemporaries understood clearly that Jesus claimed that he was God. But they did not consider, even for a moment, that it was actually true. That this real human being, this poor carpenter from Galilee, actually is God.

But this is what we celebrate at Christmas, this amazing, unique incarnation: God, who is spirit, became flesh. God who is infinite and eternal took on the limitations of time and place.

The worldwide ignorance of God, the worldwide disagreement about who or what ‘God’ is, and the worldwide question of whether or not there actually is such a thing as ‘God’, are all here answered: God, in this Christ-child, has come to us and revealed himself to us. Here, in Jesus Christ, God confronts and challenges us: Here I am. This is who I am. Believe in me.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018