Essay / Theology

God’s Substantial Word (Lesson 9: John 1)

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We’ve said a lot of things tonight. We’ve spoken so many clumsy words, and we’ve sung so many beautiful ones, but now they’re all gone. They echoed around for a while but then they faded out. Everything we’ve said and everything we’ve sung, all the lessons and all the carols, bounced around inside these walls and then vanished.

When God speaks a word, it’s not like that. The psalm says, “Once God has spoken, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to the Lord.” When God says “do not harden your hearts,” the psalm says “Today if you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts,” and Hebrews repeats, “today if you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts,” and we could say the same today, and on the next today. When God says something, it stays said. Our words are insubstantial, but God’s word is substantial, even consubstantial. You and I can send a word out without meaning much by it, or without being really committed to it. But when God speaks, he puts himself into it. When the Father spoke the biggest thing he ever said, what he said was “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And what the Son said back was “Abba, Father, you can do anything.”

And when the Father and the Son talked to each other about us in the Spirit, they said something that would be our salvation. They said God with us, to save his people from their sins, peace on earth, here in our own place and in the fullness of God’s good time. In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the curse of the law. And he sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba, Father.”

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The journey of the word of God to live among us was not an easy trip. It was the Son of God making his way into the far country, bringing the life of God down here among us so we could catch it from the Son of God like some kind of saving virus. His own received him not, and he moved from a manger to a life with nowhere to lay his head as he made our world his home. He put on a garment of skin, and God became like us.

And it wasn’t cheap. The salvation that Christ brought was going to cost him dearly, just as it cost his Father in heaven a price none of us could afford. But on Christmas, it’s rude to talk too much about what the present cost. It’s the time to rejoice in the gift: God the Father so loved the world that he gave us the presence of his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.


For my church‘s 2014 Christmas concert service, I wrote a set of 9 readings to accompany the night of songs: a Lessons and Carols service. I’m posting the lessons here at Scriptorium Daily from now until Christmas day. Banner design by Josh Kenfield

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