The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
I’m not sure that we would have much of a philosophy of the incarnation were it not for the first chapter of John. This idea of God revealing himself through a human vessel is really quite radical. Our inclination is often to view God as distant; far removed from the intricate details of his creation. The reality of the incarnation as it is expressed through John speaks a much better word.
Saint Athanasius must have had the words of John resonating within his mind when he wrote his classic work On the Incarnation of the Word. In my view, Athanasius gives the most profound and concise explanation of the incarnation when he says, “God became what we are, so that we might become what he is.” This is a simple explication of the Orthodox notion of theosis, which is the process by which we become like God by way of union with him. We can be made like God in character. Through the experience of union with him, we can come to love what he loves. His values become our values and his opinions become our opinions. Jesus shows what it looks like for a human to be perfectly united with the Source—living with God in an unbroken bond of intimacy that cannot help but produce a lifestyle of radical obedience. Shockingly, Jesus invites us into this same reality. He invites us into union. When we surrender to Jesus and become possessed by his Spirit, we too become incarnations. I believe this is what is implied in 2 Peter 1:4, where we are encouraged to “participate in the divine nature.” He became what we are, that we might become what he is. I would add . . . if we never get around to becoming what he is, then there was really no point in him becoming what we are.
Creator and Sustainer of all that is, thank you for shining your light so brightly through Jesus. May his intimacy with you become our intimacy with you. May your thoughts become our thoughts, and may your ways become our ways.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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