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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christ, Corvettes, and the Spirit of Christmas

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My two year old son, Tyler, loves anything with wheels. From John Deeres and Caterpillars to Ferraris and Porsches, if it has a motor, he wants to check it out. Even though he can’t say Lamborghini or Mercedes yet, he already knows how to identify them! It doesn’t hurt that one grandpa farms and the other has built parts for the automotive industry for over 35 years. The boy has something in his DNA for sure!

But a few months ago, he surprised me. While sitting on the couch reading one of his many car books, we came across a picture of a Corvette. When he saw the picture, he pointed at it and said, “Dah,” which is pretty much his generic word for anything he can’t pronounce. But then, he proceeded to push the book away from me, get down from my lap, and disappear into the other room. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. I had always taught him to like Chevys more than Fords, so for a second, I thought maybe this was his first act of rebellion. However, about a minute later he reappeared with a toy Corvette, just like the one in the picture, climbed back up on my lap, took the car and matched it with the picture of the Corvette on the book, and once again said, “Dah.” I was one proud daddy! You see, Tyler realized that the pictures in his books were images of real cars. The pictures weren’t the point in and of themselves. They were only meant to teach us about the real thing.

At that moment, it hit home to me that John wants us to get the same point when it comes to Jesus Christ. In John’s rather unusual introduction to his Gospel, he calls Jesus “the Word.” He talks about how “the Word” was the one who created all things, how he was with God in the beginning, and how he came to shine his light into the darkness. But then John goes on to say maybe the most profound statement in his entire Gospel: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV).

I had a spiritual awakening the day that Tyler matched the picture of the Corvette with his toy Corvette. This is what John has been trying to say, and so often I have failed to grasp it. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), God didn’t just want to reveal stories or laws. He wanted to reveal himself. He didn’t want people to merely see how they should live. He wanted people to see their Creator and emulate him. So when the time had fully come, God didn’t send another prophet or another king to tell people about God. He sent himself. God took on skin and bones and lived among us. He was born just like the rest of us. He walked our streets and got his feet dirty. He became susceptible to sickness, heartbreak, temptation, pain, and yes, even death. He experienced the fullness of humanity because he was fully human.


When John says that Jesus “dwelt among us,” the original hearers would have heard that to mean that he “tabernacle” among us. It is temple language. To the Jews, the concept of the tabernacle, or later, the temple, was extremely important. This was the dwelling place of God. This was the place where they came to worship and to offer their sacrifices. What John is saying is that God’s intention was not to merely reside in a building, but to walk our streets and to live with us. Through Jesus, there is a new tabernacle where God resides: the whole earth is his temple.

We often talk in our culture about “remembering the spirit of Christmas.” The only way that we can really remember the spirit of Christmas is to remember the flesh of Christmas. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He became God’s Word among us so that we could live out God’s word in this world. He gave his flesh for us so that we could be redeemed from lives of sin and instead live out grace and truth.

When it mattered most, God didn’t merely give us a book or a picture. He gave us himself. He gave us the greatest gift by taking on skin and bones and dwelling in our presence. As we gather around the manger this Christmas, may we reflect his example to his world by living lives full of both grace and truth.
[Pastor Dustin Fulton, Jefferson Street Church]


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