"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." I don't know if there have ever been more beautiful words penned than these John wrote in his gospel (John 1:1, 14). The eternal God who was and is and ever more shall be, parted the curtain of eternity and stepped down into the temporary world, wrapping himself in protons and neutrons and sinews and marrow, and made his home among us as one of us. What a wonder.
This wonder has captured my heart in this season of Advent. In the quiet meditation of prayer, I am drawn to the mystery: God became flesh and dwelt among us.
As an embryo cocooned in his mother's womb - God became flesh and dwelt among us.
As a newborn breathing his first breath of un-eternal air - God became flesh and dwelt among us.
As a baby held in human arms he himself helped create - God became flesh and dwelt among us.
What a wonder.
The bible tells us that this was God's plan from the foundations of the earth: that He would take on human form; that God, himself, would have a body ( Matt. 1:23;1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 13:8). Hebrews 10:5 says it this way: Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, "Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me." Up until the time of the cross, sacrifice and offering were required daily in the temple. Hebrews 9:22 clearly states that the requirement was present for the covering of sins and for the confirming of the covenant. And yet, we see clearly in this scripture (echoed from Psalm 40:6), that although God required sacrifices for sins, His desire was something different. His desire was a body.
So, the Lord wrapped Himself in flesh and took upon the name Jesus that day in Bethlehem. His desire was now met, but the requirement was still the same: sacrifice and offering. And yet, this was also his plan from the beginning - that the marriage of his requirement and desire would take place in the God-man, Christ Jesus. For the writer of Hebrews was correct in his proclamation - sacrifice and offerings God did not desire, meaning the blood of bulls and goats for sins was not what God had planned: it's simply what he used as a teaching tool to point us towards the true desire of His heart - the Ultimate Sacrifice of the Body prepared from the foundations of the world. The sacrifice that God desired would be the sacrifice that would take away sin once and for all (Hebrews 9:24-28). So, he prepared a body for sacrifice and offering. He wrapped himself in flesh and blood so that Mary could wrap him in swaddling clothes and call his name, Savior: for He would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). This was His desire - a body prepared for sacrifice. Bethlehem's baby was born for Calvary's cross.
But the story doesn't end there; for within God's desire to have a body is another layer of truth. Once again, Hebrews 10:5 says, "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, "Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me." His desire wasn't simply to have a body to sacrifice and the point of the sacrifice, even, wasn't to simply cleanse hearts from sin. The ultimate point of the body of Jesus being sacrificed and our hearts being cleansed from sin was to prepare a body of believers in whom the Lord could dwell. God was in essence saying, "Son, if you become the sacrifice and offering to cleanse humanity, I will give them to you eternally as a body - as a family to dwell in and among." Sacrifice and offering wasn't his desire because it wasn't the ultimate goal - we were his ultimate goal (Heb. 12:1). What a wonder.
The beautiful truth that we are the body God desired, has layers as well. Firstly, as individual hearts, we each become the dwelling place for God's Spirit. Romans 12:1 says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." God doesn't want me to be a servant who comes under obligation in bringing sacrifices and offerings to appease him: his desire is for me to present my body as His dwelling place, as the place where we commune in loving relationship. Every day, I can awake with this truth ringing from my lips: "God, you don't desire sacrifice and offering from me today. No - you don't expect me to meet a list of rules and demands to impress you. The blood of Jesus has met every demand and made me new. You are simply looking to move within that new heart of mine from the inside out." What a wonder!
The next layer of truth comes when I take that individual response into the greater corporate gathering. For God wasn't simply looking for one body - he was looking to create The One out of the many. Sacrifice and offering wasn't his desire - but the ultimate goal was a body of people in whom He could dwell (1 Cor. 12). Every time I gather with a fellow believer - whether one on one for coffee or in the thousands for a church service - we are meeting the desire of God's heart to have a body...to have a family.
And this is one of the wonders of Advent: that Christ has come in bodily from, that He comes daily in my personal body, and that He comes corporately as we gather together in His name. Each of these aspects meets a desire in our Father's heart. Let us in the season of Christmas ponder this beautiful truth individually and together around our tables - that God became flesh and dwells among us - in Jesus, in ourselves, and in each other. What a wonder, indeed.