John starts his gospel with some simple and yet mind blowing words
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testifyconcerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believedin his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 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.
Specifically, I'm interested in this final verse I've quoted. The idea that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us. I think it is a beautiful idea. It has resonated with me for years but this past christmas its resonance increased. Let me explain.
Eugene Peterson wrote a paraphrased version of the Bible called the message and he turns this idea into "God moving into the neighbourhood." That's an interesting idea. God moved out of the Heavens and moved into our neighbourhood. The poetic imagery of the closeness of God is wonderful here...but, as I said, this past Christmas this became even more alive.
2015 was a year we were confronted with the stories of refugees and of those fleeing wartorn regions. The imagery of Calais refugee camps and boats packed with desperate families has ruled our news bulletins. It is in this context that God dwelling among us has taken on a fresh meaning for me. The word that is translated as "dwelling" is the word "tabernacle." (Thanks to my friend Phil for highlight this to me last year. (A different friend called Phil from the previous blog.))
The idea of God "tabernacling" is rooted in the ancient Hebrew story of Moses leading his people out of the tyranny of Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea, and into their exodus in the desert. As they travelled through the sandy plains they set up camp every night. God told them to build a tent for Him. A place He could dwell among them. This would become like a portable temple. Where they travelled God went with them. They called this tent the tabernacle. Yes, the same word that John borrows at the start of His gospel.
We celebrated christmas in 2015 with stories where the imagery of exodus, refugees and tents were viscerally prominant. The idea of a God who would set his tent next to ours punched me hard. It reverberated deeper into my soul than it has in the past. The birth of the Christ is the moment where God chose to step into our humanity and set his tent amongst our camp, alongside our tents. He is close. He is here. He is with us.
This blog post was brought to you by....Oli Higham
Oli Higham is part of the leadership team at the Rock Community Church. He finds it hard to sum himself up in a few sentences. However he loves Jesus and is also rather fond of his family, films, coffee, rugby, Arsenal FC, poetry, spray paint, beards, cooking and laughing.