The First and Last Word

John begins his gospel with the well-known 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 all humankind” (John 1:1-4). Matthew begins his account in a more earthy way, “The birth of Jesus Christ occurred in this way. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came to live together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.19 Her husband Joseph was a just man and did not wish to expose her to the ordeal of public disgrace; therefore, he resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18-19).

In the first quote, the emphasis is upon the eternal word of God, that wisdom of God which was brought forth before the beginning of creation (Proverbs 8:22-23). In the second, the emphasis is on the incarnation, the coming of Immanuel, God with us. The Greek mindset, to which John was writing, and which is so common in the modern era, will always prefer the first description. At Christmas, however, we celebrate the earthy, Hebraic, physical description given by Matthew and Luke.

The God who created all things and which is in all things while being utterly different from them, was present in Jesus of Nazareth in a special way, a way we can only describe in physical terms. He was born as a human being and lived among us as a human being. He grew up as we grow up. He was tempted as we are tempted. He was victimized as we are victimized. He was betrayed as we are betrayed. He died as we die. There is but one difference: He experienced all this without sinning, that is without defacing his essential humanity.

In our power-mad society, where the search for wealth and power consumes many people, the earthy story is one we most need desperately to hear, believe and act upon. A society atomized by personal striving to the point of dissolution, seeking material things to the point of bankruptcy, in which the most basic things, like faith, hope, and love are ignored, needs to stop at least once each year and ponder a truer, healthier story. Our society needs to ponder the story that begins, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his One and Only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). [1]

It is Christmas Day and the first day of the last week of 2022. This week’s post reminds us that Jesus Christ is the first and last Word of God, he was with God in wisdom at the creation and incarnated in love for our salvation at the beginning of the end-times in which we live and have lived for more than twenty centuries. When they will end, we cannot know. What we do know is they will end with the victory cry of wisdom and love, first revealed in the cry of a helpless baby in a manger. Merry Christmas.

Copyright 2022, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] In Greek, it is monogenes, which is best translated, “only begotten.” This translation emphasizes the uniqueness of Christ as bearing the “genetics of God” that is the God of Light and Love is uniquely present in the life, deat,  and resurrection of Christ.

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